Internet of Things Waterloo–first meet up

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This is not a bomb, though considering it is embedded in a piece of hardshell luggage, you’d be hard pressed to find a TSA agent who would not freak out a bit upon seeing it.  This is, in fact, a prototype of “smart luggage” from the guys at as presented by Kal Sobel and Stephen Kraemer.  They gave the first of two talks at the first ever Internet of Things Waterloo meetup on Wednesday night, organized by my friend Ian Pilon.

Click through for more pics and musings

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My pal Tony Reinhart shot me a link to this event just yesterday and seeing that…

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Ian Pilon was standing this gig up, I signed up and happily graduated from the waitlist to get a seat.  I’ve known Ian since crossing paths back in the kwartzlab days and he’s been active in the User Experience (UX) community locally for a while now.  He’s a good guy getting something going here, so I can get behind that.  I also dig networked-sensor-type-stuff, especially in the raw prototype form and reckoned that gear would be on hand.

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Was also kind of curious about the venue, The Ren @ 41, having only been in for a quick beer once.  In short, great meeting space upstairs and everybody seemed to be getting drinks, so double-win.

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Fortune (as in better pics) favours the better-seated, so I showed up early to get a decent vantage point.  Lucky I did, too, because later the place was jammed.

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And tea lights.  Everywhere I go… tea lights.

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This very cool space…

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got me wondering if we could have a future 3rd Thurs photo review meet up here if we bought enough beer.  Have to check into that.

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Well, if it isn’t Mr. Greg Bentz (right) of BlackBerry Dev fame.

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Talking to Harry Major (right), former captain of BlackBerry Handheld Dev when I was in that growing gang, and now with Terepac, one of the event sponsors.

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I was making double-sure to not drop my sledgehammer of a camera on diners below, when Tom Nunn introduced himself and mentioned he was helping Terepac tell the story of this gig.  Nice to meet you, Tom.

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There’s Terepac co-founder Ric Asselstine at the door checking things out.

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Ian kicked things off.  I had a chance to chat with him briefly to ask about his motivation for pulling this gathering together.  Quite simply, he said he just didn’t want to drive to Toronto for the Internet of Things meet up over there, and yet still wanted to meet and talk on this subject.  I know it can be a bit organizationally hairy pulling any event together, and I know Ian ran into some last-minute agenda shuffles and some unexpected popularity of the event.  I think we can chalk this up as a success based on the response to Ian’s two wrap-up questions later: Did you learn something? Did you meet somebody new?

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Now back to that smart luggage.

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CaseSensitive has built in pressure sensors on the bottom half of the bag so that as you pack it weighs your luggage for you and will flag you if you’re exceeding airline weight restrictions and also tell you how much that will cost.

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Kal Sobel, gesturing.  These guys are in the midst of talking with patent lawyers to stake their claim in this domain.  Kal described his sub-optimal experience with airlines losing or damaging his luggage.  This bag which detects plane take-off will notify you if your bag isn’t on the same plane as you.  It also records telemetry data and logs if the bag is opened.

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Stephen Kraemer talked about some of the hardware involved.

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I like these pressure sensor housings fabbed out of acrylic.

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They would be a great conversation starter in the airport lounge.

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Here is one of the six accelerometers embedded in the bag.  Great story about the chip vendor generously sending them free samples, and then they discovered the shipped leadless chip package would require super-human microscopic soldering skills to actually use. Luckily, the vendor agreed to subsequently hook them up with eval boards for easier interfacing.

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This rig communicates with your smartphone over 2G networks and responses to audience questions told us that it works around the world except for Japan and Korea.  It reminds me of gear that my friend, Dan Liebster of Timber Raft, designs and builds for remote monitoring and collection of environmental data.  If this CaseSensitive rig is classified as machine-to-machine comms, then I understand there are challenges to certification of your device for use on carrier networks.

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Brock Morley, co-founder of dot3, our next speaker, struck a good Max Schreck Nosferatu pose for me.

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All Ian’s large and small, introduced the next talk on beacons.

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Mirror beer.

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Doug Thompson, co-founder of dot3, holding up a Bluetooth LE “beacon” and describing various use-cases for them.

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His colleague, Brock Morley, looked on.

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LE or low energy Bluetooth opens up many of the promises of NFC, but with a longer range and more battery-friendly approach.  Interesting to hear about some of the land grabs that we saw in the NFC domain replicated in the BT LE or beacon domain.  Maybe this time the players can cooperate and all get rich.  Doug described beacons used for proximity couponing in stores where wandering into a beacon’s range would trigger a pre-loaded app on your phone to load a coupon.  Also uses for art galleries where approaching a beacon could load background info on a piece of art.

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Got a peek at a variety of BT LE beacons from various vendors.  Beacons + smartphone apps + back-ends in the cloud leave me with some nagging privacy concerns.  For myself, I’ll have to think if those concerns are outweighed by the utility of beacons.

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And that was a wrap for me, as an early return home means an earlier start to photo post-pro and this blog entry.  Thanks for putting this together Ian, and thanks to the sponsors Terepac and…

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The Ren @ 41.  I was delighted to emerge on to King St at 9:30pm and find it was a balmy 5°C.  This, my friends, is a sure sign of spring.


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