Old smartphones may be the future of the Internet of Things


If current technology trends are anything to go by, it’s only a matter of time before everything you one becomes “smart,” as well as many thing you don’t own but still make use of. We refer to this as the Internet of Things and, as cool as it sounds, it’s going to be pretty damn expensive considering how all of these smart products are going to need a chip to make them so. However, a team from Carnegie Mellon has a solution, one which would see the Internet of Things powered by old, re-purposed Android smartphones. 

Conventional digital prophet wisdom says that in the near future, everything you own — and a bunch of stuff you don’t — will have a chip, rendering it smart. But this paper proposes an alternate version of the Internet of Things — one where stuff is dumb, and repurposed Android phones (and a bunch of clever code) make your home smart. In an academic paper, a team from Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute put forward the idea of what they call Zensors: internet-connected cameras that monitor their surroundings, analyse the goings-on, and send you data and alerts based on pre-set questions. For example: a camera monitoring a restaurant can be programmed to monitor the number of empty drinks at the bar, and send an alert if that number gets too high. Simultaneously, it will keep an eye on checks sitting on the table, bread baskets needing refills — basically, anything the camera can physically see. All the user has to do is circle an area to be monitored — the bar — and ask a natural-language question, like “how many empty drinks are there”.

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