The Internet of Things – As Easy as Child’s Play
Google, Apple, Samsung and Amazon – the leading tech companies of the world would have you believe that designing devices and software for the internet of things is technically challenging, expensive, and requires great expertise. How else could they justify charging some of the sky-high prices for their latest products?
A twenty three year old is now challenging that notion with ‘SAM’ – dubbed as being the ‘lego of the internet’. Its aim is to offer an electronics kit made up of wireless, rechargeable, Bluetooth-connected modules that enable kids – along with anyone else without coding knowledge – to build everything from smart doorbells to intelligent home appliances.
Its developer – an entrepreneur called Joachim Horn – hopes to encourage budding engineers and inventors to create games, products and apps for the ‘Internet of Things’, where everyday objects can send and receive data through the web. “I was always scared of the dark magic of electrical engineering,” he said. “Stuff never works, there’s always a bug, and you can’t duct tape it into correctness… I wanted to find a way to make it fun for people to learn circuitry and coding. [I wanted to build a] human-centred model that would be easy to use and that taught you while you worked with it”.
By using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Horn has easily smashed his £50,000 target, eventually closing with 817 backers and £125,546 when the investment window closed. He plans to use the raised capital to make SAM networks accessible from smartphone, and design more aesthetically pleasing casings for the components. Ultimately he hopes to add another round of funding that will be in the region of £1 million – thus allowing him to develop more advanced components such as accelerometers, LCD screens, and camera modules.
Currently SAM is only three months old, and while Horn thinks it will help “level the playing field” to allow more people and start-ups to enter the sector with low levels of investment, easy prototypes, and increased autonomy, it has already seen some impressive products developed by enthusiasts and early adopters.
An eight-year-old used the SAM app, two motors, and three proximity sensors to build a self-driven car that moves round his room and dodges obstacles, a British man in a long distance relationship with a woman in Rome made a mailbox flag that is raised whenever he gets an email from her, and SAMs were used to create glasses that tell a blind person where to walk to depending on their surroundings.
Given how much can be designed and stylised with Lego, the possibilities for SAM appear endless at this stage. What do you think? What would you design if you had a SAM kit? Let us know in the comments below.
By Daniel Price