It seems that lately the internet of things (IoT) is everywhere. Every other day I seem to hear about a new IoT product or Kickstarter project that is going to help our lives - usually in the form of a smart home application.  

I like the internet of things, don’t get me wrong. But I also think we all want very different things from it. There will be common problems that need to be solved (e.g. Nest solving the temperature control problem) but I think other problems will require bespoke solutions.

Not everyone is going to feel comfortable buying an Arduino, hooking it up with some shields, and building a web interface to create an IoT device for themselves. But littleBits is changing that with their newly launched device cloudBit. Their tagline “Snap the internet to anything” is extremely appropriate. 

Not only has littleBits made it easy to make an internet of things device, it’s making it possible to turn dumb devices into smart devices. This means that you don’t have to purchase a new device to replace your fully functioning existing device (e.g. air conditioner, coffee maker, etc…) Granted, littleBits still has some work to do to facilitate this use case across many devices - but I’m sure in time they’ll get there. 

Providing access to technology is great, but making that technology accessible is even better, and that’s what littleBits is doing. They’ve made building electronics as easy as building a Lego set, and now they’re making it easy for us to build devices that can be connected to the internet. 

I only have a few pages left in The Circle. It’s not a literary masterpiece but it’s entertaining and thought provoking. One topic specifically that it has me thinking about is transparency. 

Technology has made it easier for us to lead transparent lives. We can see snippets of each of our lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and so on. And if you want to remember your past you can use Timehop to aggregate all those services and re-live your past. 

The argument that’s made in The Circle is that when you’re being watched and you know it you become a better person. 

But how does this transparency affect how we think or what we do? Does it eventually change who we are? Maybe that’s why anonymous apps have gained so much traction. Because in a world of transparency you can’t actually be yourself.

Maybe transparency is about becoming so much like the norm that no one is different. We’re transparent because in the end, there’s really not much to look at. 

I started talking about The Circle today in our product chat room at Shapeways. This got us talking about different books and Jay (a PM at Shapeways) was interested in one of the books that was mentioned. He casually mentioned that he’d pick it up at the library. 

It’s been a long while since I’ve been to the library. But I do remember going to the library during middle school and part of high school with my mom to pick out new books to read. Yes, I was that cool. 

I would get through a book every two weeks, often even a book every week. There wasn’t an endless supply of best sellers. There were only a few copies of each, and if you didn’t get to them soon you’d be waiting a while to read them. The physical aspect of the books and the constraints that were put in place because of their physical presence made me read more.

Today all of the books I read are digital. I read them on my iPhone, purchase them on my iPhone, and haven’t visited a library in a very long time. I also don’t read a book every week, two weeks, or every month. Sure, my life now is very different than my life as an adolescent. But I can’t help to think that there’s something to be said about the limitations and benefits of old tech. 

Yesterday Brittany tweeted a link to a Keen IO blog post. It’s a great DIY IoT (internet of things) tutorial that takes you through the steps of setting up an Electric Imp, Keen IO, and a motion sensor to graph motion data. You can take a look at it here

What’s so great about this post is by the end of it you have a pretty great foundation that you can extend upon. It also showcases how access to both software and hardware has completely changed what we can make ourselves. 

It’s getting easier and easier to innovate and make devices on our own. There are still a few key pieces left but we’re getting closer and closer to the commoditization of production. Pretty soon you won’t have to wait for the new product you want. You’ll just make that new product yourself. 

I started reading The Circle last week. I’m not quite done yet but I get the idea. Tonight I watched Transcendence. Both deal with the benefits and also perils that we might face in the future with technology. 

I used to think that controversial technology or technology that would fundamentally change the way we behave wouldn’t happen in my lifetime, but I’m wrong about that. Technology is changing the way we live today and it’s going to make us question the role it plays in our lives much sooner than we expect. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about local services lately. One thing that has come to mind is that attrition - and consequently retention - is far more important for local services. 

Unlike national or global services, local services don’t have an unlimited user base. If a local service can’t retain customers in a specific area after a certain amount of time they will have exhausted their customer base. And getting a “lost” customer to come back is much more difficult to acquire new customers so you probably have to spend more (in time or money) to re-acquire those lost customers. 

Local services and local business are very similar. If you visit a local business and have a disappointing experience you’re not going to go back and you’re definitely not going to recommend it your friends. If other people go and have a disappointing experience also eventually the business will close. The same goes for a local service.

Another challenge is that most local services have a physical component. Meaning that there’s an inherent cost to spin up a new market. When you exhaust your customer base in one area you can’t fix the problems and bring on a new market organically or through a similar ad spend. You have to recreate the same local infrastructure you already created. 

If you’re local, you have to have your shit together. In fact, I think you have to be damn near perfect. 

There’s always that idea. The idea that seems too big, impossible to achieve. So you move on and soon enough you forget that you even had the idea. 

Realistically it’s hard to execute big ideas. That’s because most big ideas require fundamental changes in how you present the idea and how people perceive the idea. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever build or execute on big ideas. It just means that you need to think about how you’re going to get there. 

Think about the big idea, set the grand vision, give yourself and your team what you’re working towards to - better yet what you’re working for. But then think about the incremental steps that you need to take to get there. 

The first NASA mission wasn’t tasked with going to the moon. We had to make incremental steps with the goal of getting to the moon. If you have a big idea don’t shy away. Think about how you can get there. Build backwards from the product you want to eventually get to. This will help you figure out what you should build today. 

I was talking to a friend of mine today who mentioned the potential of providing video rendering through the cloud. I thought this was pretty interesting - it’s also reminded me of OnLive. 

I don’t know much about how to virtualize the GPU. I’m sure it can be done though. Much like we’ve completely virtualized the hard drive, in a few years from now it wouldn’t surprise me that video rendering was all cloud based. 

Effectively most of the hardware we have integrated in our devices today will cease to exist. All of our hardware will become dumb devices, only useful when connected to the internet. This could mean that our devices can be smaller, lighter, and use less power.

But it also means that hardware will be dumb unless it’s connected to software. So while we might be experiencing a “hardware is the new software” phase, we’ll shortly be saying once again that software is the new hardware. 

My friend Josh Tsui (long-time veteran of the game industry) tweeted this blog post “Stop Using The Cup of Coffee vs. $0.99 App Analogy”. Reading through it this line got me. 

Fact: Starbucks Coffee is a Trustable Experience

Regardless of my preference of coffee I think that’s true and it got me thinking (again) about digital entertainment. So I tweeted about it with Josh. 

I’m not fond of most publishing partnerships. They take full advantage of the rising costs per install (specifically for mobile devices) and leverage that to take a 30% cut and exclusivity rights. In cases where a cut is already going to the original platform (like most app marketplaces) this could mean a significant loss for the creator. They end up getting 70% of their original 70%. Which means they’re really getting 49% of the profits. This is historically better than archaic publishing deals but they’re still not ideal. 

I think a far better approach would be for creators to leverage their own networks and help each other become successful. When I was in the game industry I saw this a lot with indie games. Successful indie developers would promote other indie developers who they liked which helped them gain traction. It’s like an indie game posse. 

Like I mentioned in my tweets above I feel like the closest platform to execute on something like this is vhxtv with their concept of collections. And this past weekend they even further reinforced my thoughts when the Creativity Bundle was launched. 

Andy of USV (they’re invested in VHX) wrote about VHX and collections in his post today. Here’s a great description of what the Creativity Bundle is from his post: 

Yesterday, a bunch of disparate filmmakers who have used VHX before joined together to sell their films collectively, as a bundle. These artists don’t necessarily have to have any relationship with each other - VHX allows these bundles to occur on the fly if they desire.

The entertainment business is hard, and how its business is structure today doesn’t make it any easier. But giving complete control to creators through platforms like VHX is not only changing the discovery and distribution of entertainment. It will fundamentally change who the successful creators are.

For a good part of today I wasn’t feeling well. I had a stomach ache and a headache. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. I tried drinking some tea hoping that it would help, but it didn’t do much. 

Throughout the day I couldn’t help but thinking what not feeling well could be like in 20 or 30 years from now. Advances in technology are allowing us to get information about our quantified self unlike ever before. 

Coincidently my buddy Neal must have been on the same wavelength. Today he wrote about Quantified Self and Personal Narratives (you should read it).

In Neal’s post he points to designer Anand Sharma’s personal site, where he displays his quantified self data. His “sport" section - probably better named health - featured a few vitals and a nutrition and vitamin section. As I looked over this section I could see some warning signs that said "high" and "low".  

I couldn’t help but thinking that in 20 or 30 years from now iOS28 or Google Fit could provide this data to me instantly. I would see what chemicals, nutrients, or vitamins are not balanced, click a link on the ones that needed to be regulated and instantly know what I could do to make myself feel better. In a few hours, maybe even minutes I’d feel right as rain. But for now, all I can do is sleep off feeling like crap, so that’s what I’m going to do.