Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trucks Tweet, Too

Yup, birds do it. Trucks do it. In fact, says Kevin Slavin, founder of area/code, a geo-location firm, we’re just beginning to get interactive with all sorts of objects—Kogi taco trucks that move around LA and tweet you their locations; Nike Air Max sneakers that warn you when they’re so worn, they're hazardous to your ankles; plant sensors that tweet you when their hosts are thirsty, the wash machines in the campus Laundromat at Olin College. (“You can find out, for example, if two or four washers are available, or zero,” Slavin explains. “Saves you a trip. Tells you when your laundry is done.”) Even the River Thames is tweeting now—its water levels, to city inspection engineers.

"This matters. This isn't trivial," Slavin insisted at this week’s 140 Characters Conference in Manhattan, the first-ever, all-things-Twitter conference. He may be right. According to Gartner Research, the amount of data being tweeted by sensor-equipped objects in the world will soon become so huge that by 2012, physical sensor data will account for some 20 percent of all non-video Net traffic.

Still skeptical? Check out Project 28, the 28-mile fence of sensors being built along the Mexican border. “They will soon be tweeting law enforcement authorities about immigration leaks,” Slavin says—and not just in words. Pictures, too. Video.

What next? More Things That Tweet—from automobiles to groceries. Also, look for more trucks to get into the chatter. And don't forget about games: Shark Runner, a game created by Slavin’s firm for the Discovery Channel, staples GPS sensors into the dorsal fins of great white sharks off the coast of California and asks players to guess their next moves.

So, fellow travelers, consider this: If a tree falls in a forest in the near future, odds are it will make a sound—in the form of a tweet to a forest ranger. No kidding. The possibilities, says Slavin, are "deafening."

—Marcia Stepanek

(This post first appeared on PopTech and is being reposted here with permission)

(Photograph courtesy of Joits on Flickr)

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