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From the bathroom to the front door: Ordering without a browser thanks to the Internet of Things

Gillette_BoxConsumer goods have so far held something of a niche position in online retailing. Manufacturers and retailers aim to change that. A Procter & Gamble development shows that the Internet of Things may have an important part to play in bringing about this change.

Clothes, books, and consumer electronics have for years been among the sales hits in online trading. The also-rans have been mainly consumer goods such as food or drugstore items. Online retailers and manufacturers now plan to boost demand for these product categories by means of new approaches.

Online retailer Amazon, for example, offers customers a Subscribe & Save facility. With just one order, customers are supplied regularly with consumer and household goods such as fruit, muesli, make-up, or washing-up liquid. Subscription models of this kind often fail to correspond to customers’ actual needs, however, because they assume that everyday life is regular and they have to be canceled when, for example, customers take a vacation.

From product to Point of Sale

Razor manufacturer Gillette has adopted a different approach. With the Gillette Perfect Shave box, users order razor blades on demand. Along with the holder for the razor the box has an “Order” button. When blades are running low, you just press the button to order more.

P&G subsidiary Gillette developed the concept in collaboration with the eCommerce startup Perfect Shops and Telekom. Together the partners successfully presented the Gillette Box on this year’s CeBIT. Users must first register – themselves and the device. When they then press the order button a GSM wireless module and SIM card in the box place the order, making the product a mobile Point of Sale (PoS). To prevent inadvertent orders, the customer receives an order confirmation e-mail. Click on the link and your blades will be shipped.

An Internet of Things pioneer

It comes as no surprise to industry insiders that P&G has entered the fray on the Internet of Things. Kevin Ashton, a former employee of the consumer goods group, is considered to have coined the concept, which he describes in a June 2009 RFID Journal article.

But the Internet of Things should be much more than optimizing the supply chain. That was demonstrated, for example, by the early telematics applications of Deutsche Telekom around the same time. Today, every conceivable object and location is going to be connected to the Internet.

That opens up entirely new opportunities for online retailers. If the customers’ things are already connected with the Internet customers no longer need to scroll their way around websites and online shops and fill out forms. The products themselves are the PoS and can be ordered directly by pressing a button. Tradesmen can order nails straight from their toolboxes and cooks can order fresh vegetables from their stores by pressing a button.

From order to delivery

When Ashton gave his presentation in 1999 the typical supply chain ran from the production site to retail stores. Today it runs increasingly often to the consumer’s front door. To ensure that razor blades and other deliveries reach the recipient even if he is not at home, Telekom has developed with DHL and feldsechs the PaketButler, a simple mobile parcel acceptance solution. It will be launched in the course of the year.

This is how it works: If you are expecting a parcel delivery you fix the PaketButler on your front door. The delivery agent puts the delivery into the device and closes it securely. In the future, the PaketButler will also be able to handle returns. Put the parcel into it, close the device, and order it to be collected.

The extent to which solutions of this kind expedite eCommerce remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that with the Internet of Things a new era is about to begin for eCommerce.

If you are located in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, you currently have the opportunity to be one of the first users. The German tech magazine Computer Bild is looking for early adopters.

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Happy Internet of Things Day!

M2M-in-Daily-LifeM2M and the Internet of Things are omnipresent in our daily lives. Reason enough to take a closer look at the subject. We have compiled an overview from our best blog articles.

There are days for nearly everything nowadays – jogging pants, allergies, penguins, towels, even beer –, so why not an Internet of Things Day?
It is five years since Postscapes and the IoT Council first proclaimed the international Internet of Things Day. They called on IoT enthusiasts around the world to organize small meetings on the subject on April 9. Here is what they say on the website:

The day is designed as an open invitation to the global #IoT Community to join a Meetup, host a hackathon, or just share a beer or coffee with a friend or fellow collaborator focused around the Internet of Things and its implications.

 

These smaller and larger events around the Internet of Things are now being held for the fifth time. We have taken IoT Day as an opportunity to compile for you a small dossier from our best blog articles about the Internet of Things:

How long has the Internet of Things been around?

You will find in our timeline a brief historical delineation of the Internet of Things. It provides an overview of key milestones like the development of the Gauss-Weber telegraph or the launch of the TCP/IP protocol suite and the influence of interesting contemporaries, including Alan Turing, Marshall McLuhan, and Kevin Ashton.

The five TED Talks we presented to you a few months ago venture, in contrast, to take a look at the future. They included a lecture by the economist Marco Annunziata in which he outlines the Industrial Internet. When intelligent machines, advanced analytical methods and creativity join forces, enterprises benefit, for example, from improvements in machine maintenance. We describe what that means in the article How M2M is Changing Machine Maintenance.

Developers experiment with connected things

Along with enterprises, the driving forces behind the Internet of Things include the maker movement. More and more makers are trying out connected ideas of their own using small, single-board computers like Raspberry Pi. Dutchman Michael Teeuw has connected his mirror with the Internet in this way, for example. We present his project in the article Three Things that Raspberry Pi Puts on the Net.
At times the creativity of the makers unearths curious ideas such as the #OktoberfestOfThings project. In our blog article about it you can read about how two hackers are working on hanging beer tankards around the global data network. Their project has been under way for two years and is taking shape in increasingly specific ways.

From gadgetry to innovation

Our interview with Kai Kreuzer shows that tinkering around in the cellar can lead to more than mere gadgets. As a 12-year-old the developer evangelist Kreuzer was already working on switchable power outlets. He went on to found the open source project openHAB on the basis of which he continues to this day, now at Deutsche Telekom, to take the QIVICON Smart Home platform further forward.

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Deutsche Telekom at CeBIT 2015

CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, is the world’s largest exhibition and conference for IT and digital business. In this post we would like to share some pictures of the Deutsche Telekom booth at CeBIT 2015 and some M2M use cases displayed there.

This year’s booth was dedicated to the motto Wirtschaftswunder 4.0 – Digitization made in Germany.

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The industrial displays on the booth were a special eye-catcher.

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There were several M2M use cases that displayed the wide array of possibilities how Machine-to-Machine is a value to areas like engineering and production.

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One of the highlights was the “Industrie 4.0 Paket,” a starter kit for connected industry. The package contains hardware for machines to go online, a SIM card, as well as access to the “Cloud der Dinge” platform, which is hosted in data centers in Germany.

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The showcases on the booth were varied and versatile. Seen below is the Connected Canyon Bike.

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On a large screen visitors could monitor sewing machines by Dürkopp-Adler, which showed a connected sewing machine solution.

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An electro scooter by Kumpan shows the battery status of the vehicle in real time.

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Just like at the Mobile World Congress, the app myKIDIO was another highlight on the booth, as displayed here in a BMW with BMW ConnectedDrive.

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Impressions from Mobile World Congress 2015

In the past week experts from the mobile and communications industry gathered in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress to learn about new innovations.

At the Deutsche Telekom booth, myKIDIO was on display, showing how the app can entertain children from the ages of three to 13 during a car ride.
The innovative in-car entertainment app made its debut at Mobile World Congress, being shown to the public for the very first time.

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The app also offers a special “BMW Kids Cockpit,” with which the little ones can gather information on the trip’s length or speed travelled.

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A screen at the booth also showed how parents in the front seat get to see the entertainment their children are enjoying in the back seat.

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Here is a video in German language explaining the app’s functionalities.

 

At the GSMA Innovation City the Global M2M Association (GMA), which Deutsche Telekom is also part of, displayed their Multi-Domestic-Service solution at the Mobile World Congress.

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The connectivity management service offers a GSMA-compliant embedded SIM, instant product life-cycle management, SIM localization, real time-connectivity management, and powerful administration features all on one platform.

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Together with its members the GMA aims to enhance service quality by eliminating borders and delivering seamless M2M services globally.

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Three Things that Raspberry Pi Puts on the Net

Few innovations have caused such a stir among the makers in recent years as Raspberry Pi. Since it was launched a large number of projects have taken shape, including in the Internet of Things. All about M2M presents three of them.

 

While I was studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, I also worked for the university as the Director of Studies, organizing undergraduate studies. Every year we got fewer people applying to study computer science, and every year the sorts of things incoming students knew how to do got less impressive.

 

That is how Eben Upton described his motivation to construct Raspberry Pi in a Wired interview.

In 2006 today’s Executive Director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation began to develop the single-board computer with his colleagues. Six years later they launched the first model on the market. More than five million have been sold so far. They can be connected in the normal way with a display and a keyboard and used as a computer, as a media center, or to realize ideas for the Internet of Things. All about M2M has taken a look around the scene and here presents several exciting projects:

The Smart Doorbell

Classic doorbells have a serious drawback. Residents must always be within hearing distance. If, say, they are in the garden or turn up the volume of their music, the visitor will have to wait. For people with impaired hearing or who are deaf the situation is even more difficult – and that is why Daniel Garden has connected his doorbell to his smartwatch. Here is how he outlines the project on Twitter:

Project doorbell complete. + @adafruit PiPlate + @cammakespace lasercutter + + PC speakers = :-D

 

If somebody rings the doorbell Raspberry Pi automatically sends a message to a terminal device. Garden used his Pebble smartwatch, which draws attention to itself by vibrating and emitting a message sound and indicates on the display that somebody has rung the doorbell. This is how it looks in practice.

If you now feel interested in connecting your doorbell by means of Raspberry Pi, take a look at the instructions on Garden’s blog.

The Magic Mirror

What most people see when they look in the mirror is their own mirror image, but the Dutch hobbyist Michael Teeuw sees more. His connected mirror shows the latest weather forecast, the day’s news headlines, and his upcoming dates.

To convert the mirror into a connected display Teeuw removed a flat screen from its frame and mounted it behind a “spy mirror,” a one-way mirror that lets light through in one direction only. Teeuw has published a detailed description of the design process in his blog. A slight challenge that he faced was to find a monitor that did not have its connections on the back. He needed one to keep the distance from the wall to a minimum.

Teeuw connected Raspberry Pi to the monitor by HDMI and a USB WiFi adapter provides the connection with the Internet. The single-board computer boots Raspbian automatically (Raspbian is a Linux-based operating system based on Debian Linux), and once it starts it automatically shows a browser in full-screen mode. The target website is stored on an Apache Web server that also runs under Raspberry Pi. The website retrieves the data requested via various APIs and arranges them in an attractively designed interface.

Internet of Toilets

It may sound made, but the digital revolution has even made its mark on the bathroom. Visit instructables.com, for example, for instructions on how to connect your toilet to the Internet. A user by the name of e024576, for instance, documents automatically on a Google Drive spreadsheet significant events such as flushing the toilet or changing the toilet roll. Why does he want to know all of that in such detail? Because it can be done, he explains on instructables.com.

To record the toilet flush the user repurposed the filling-level sensor of an aquarium. A photocell in the holder registers the changing of a toilet roll. The two sensors’ signals are relayed wirelessly to a Raspberry Pi that uses the Python API gspread to enter the event data in a Google Drive spreadsheet. On this basis, for example, the consumption of water and toilet paper is easily calculated. Interested? Then listen to this 31C3 lecture by Tobias Preuss.

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