The Age of the Cheap Sensor and Machine to Machine Chatter

Last post we talked about home medical sensors, and how they could easily become available for use with apps tied to a PC, IPOD, or other computing device in your home. I mentioned disposable pulse oximetry leads, thermometers, and BP cuffs, but those are not the only sensors that have become inexpensive.

Sensors are becoming easier to embed on a single chip through nanotechnology and the outcome is smaller and cheaper sensors everywhere. My camera uses an imaging sensor that’s more capable than the first one that went up in Hubble — it costs less than a thousand dollars for the sensor, camera body and application and two lenses. You can now get webcams for your PC that are cheaper than fifty dollars yet they are much more capable than studio television cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars from a few decades ago.

Bundle the ability to package an application and a sensor on small chip with the ability to wirelessly network it and you can see where this is going for home networks and the potential to have your devices constantly talking to each other. One example of this is the “Eyefi” SDHC chip for cameras. Right now these cost under $50.00 and you can expect that price to drop further over the next five years.

Now, what about a refrigerator that can talk to your computer or your phone wirelessly? What if it could also read every RFID strip on every container in your kitchen to give you an inventory while you are looking up that recipe? Why doesn’t your thermostat, water heater, furnace, and oven talk to your home computer? What could you do if they did? How about a rooftop wireless weather station? Why shouldn’t your home computer be able to interrogate your car’s computer for tire pressure or stream tunes, maps, or directions into it’s memory?

Wouldn’t you like an infrared and motion sensor array around your home that could stop motion record what’s going on through inexpensive cameras when things are detected, further shouldn’t your home security array recognize your face, and voice, and retina? Shouldn’t your outdoor camera recognize you and your car and open your garage door when you drive up? Shouldn’t there be a Kinect type sensor array in every room so you can issue gestural commands anywhere?

The possibilities are nearly endless, and we are soon crossing the horizon where much of this becomes cheap and easy to do. It’s a matter now of setting some standards and making your personal computer into a home server (since your phone by now is becoming your personal computer) and turning your wireless router into a plug and play wireless communications hub. Yes, I know that home wireless routers are supposed to be that now, but they are too difficult and insecure for the average user. When my 70 year old dad can easily connect any wireless device, from phone, to IPOD, to camera then we will be there, machines will recognize you, your gestures, and will be able to chatter with each other about you.