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Internet cookies move to the physical world

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

Nabaztag was able to send and receive MP3s and messages or RSS-feeds to be read out loud, such as weather forecast, news headlines, or performing the function of an alarm clock to name a few.
This was very much akin to an internet radio but in a funny shape which didn’t take-off. Since then, the company’s focus moved from connection alone to data collection and interpretation, effectively trying to make sense of the data collected by multi-purpose smart sensors.

This time, the form factor is different, one main Internet-connected hub called Mother (through an Ethernet cable and soon via WiFi) collects the data from nearby Motion Cookies (up to 24 of them tracking the activity of objects or people) and relays this information to the cloud for easy access by third-party applications running on smartphones. 

Do you take too much coffee?

Because they are not dedicated to one specific use (like a fitness bracelet), Sen.se says its products are aimed at casual consumers (90% of them) who could find a use for versatile activity trackers, at a much lower cost than dedicated solutions.

What’s more, these cookies can be repurposed from one application to another, at any time. Based on the selected application (Sen.se puts forward a number of applications but is also encouraging third parties to develop their own applications), the cookies will capture and analyse movements accordingly, identifying the movement’s signature to recognize sets of actions. 

Do you have snacks between meals?

This could be monitoring a fridge-door, a coffee-machine (it vibrates when brewing coffee), indicating the presence or absence of someone (wearing one of those cookies), monitoring your sleep (a cookie under the mattress). As well as recording the data, all these actions can trigger SMS or email notifications as the Big Mother kindly reports to whoever owns and configures the cookies.

Do you drink enough water?

The Motion Cookies communicate their data whenever they are in proximity (typically within a similar range as WiFi) of their Mother, otherwise, they can just store the motion and temperature data for up to ten days until they get a chance to offload it through a proprietary radio link (at 868MHz in Europe, 915MHz in North America).

Equipped with a tri-axial accelerometer (ST’s LIS3DH ), a temperature-sensor and running on TI’s MSP430 ultra-low power MCU, these 50x22x4mm units are low power enough to run for a year on CR2016 button cells, or several months when in constant motion.

“For four years, we’ve tried every available standard radio protocol, but none of them would allow battery-operation for long enough with the type of data we want to communicate” explained Haladjian, “and believe me, no one wants to develop a proprietary protocol for the fun of it, but in the end it was cheaper and more energy-efficient”. “The data packets we send can vary depending on the level of aggregation, sometimes a Motion Cookie will have to send from 14 to 20 packets several bytes each” he continued.

Don’t forget your medication.

Data logs beyond user motivation

This very low power operation is a key enabler of Sen.se’s new vision of logging, aggregating and bringing meaningful data to the users, while making the Motion Cookies unobtrusive to a point that their presence could easily be forgotten after a few months in operation.

 

“With wearable connected objects such as a pedometer or a fitness tracker, consumers typically go through different phases of data consumption”, explains Haladjian.

“First there is a revelation phase, when the consumer gets passionate about the data he or she generates and discovers how many steps there are from here to there, how many calories are burnt doing this or that.

Then there is a plateau, because after a while the data doesn’t change dramatically. Maybe within the first few weeks, users will try to walk longer distances or be more active, but then, unless they are performance-seeking athletes, their interest in the data will soon fade away”.

“And this is when the connected device needs to be recharged yet again that most people eventually give-up” adds Haladjian.

“In fact, after the first two or three months of data discovery, the next time the devices need their batteries to be recharged or replaced, people just realize they don’t miss the data, at least not to a point where they’ll pay for a new set of batteries. They won’t care anymore unless their life depends on it” analyses Haladjian.

Yet, according to Haladjian, it is only after about 8 to 10 months of aggregation that data becomes interesting again, new patterns show up with seasonal changes, and the more data is gathered the more meaningful it becomes, new data is better interpreted in relation to the user’s history and data legacy. And the Motion Cookies then also become more difficult to ditch, hopes Haladjian.

But first, the cookies have to be able to solve the “data desert crossing” as Haladjian puts it, that is, have enough autonomy to collect data during a timespan way beyond the user’s motivation for the data.


Actionable data

Sen.se is open to several business models, Business-to-Consumer (B2C) through hardware sales directly to consumers with the first products expected for spring 2014, B2B (Business-to-Business) whereby industrial manufacturers would integrate the cookies into furniture, textiles, food packaging or healthcare products together with branded applications, and last but a promising one, sales through telecoms operators offering bundled packages together with a number of configurable applications to choose from.

“With our Motion Cookies, we offer brands an opportunity to connect their products and communicate more intimately with their customers” says Haladjian. “For example, if you are in the business of selling mattresses, you could embed a cookie and become a sleep expert rather than just a sleep merchant. Or you could become an expert on hydration rather than just selling bottled water”.

Mother kindly reports to whoever owns and configures the cookies.

And this would be requiring minimal input from the consumer, if any, argues Sen.se. In fact, taking sleep monitoring as an example, a cookie could be configured to stay quiet for as long as your sleep pattern is efficient, but only question the quality of your sleep when necessary. It could monitor the quality of your sleep to wake you up gently at the best moment.

 

Sen.se plans to host the data on a cloud-platform to secure it for consumers, ensuring that consumers would have full control over who and which applications access their data and ultimately, letting them unsubscribe their data flow from services or allow feeds to new applications.

Yes, that’s what we would all agree upon, yet getting access to various internet-related services often means ticking a blind box. And that’s precisely when you have totally forgotten about these cookies that they sneak the most valuable data out to interested third parties.

In its promotional material, Sen.se marvels at the prospect of consumers being able to carry out with their normal life, go out for a walk, drink a glass of water, go to bed, take their medication, brush their teeth, play with their kids and their old plush teddy bear, cook, take care of the garden, walk the dog… all without the need to remember to launch an App or plug a device in or push a button.

Personally, I never had to launch an App to wake-up, enjoy my day, go cycling, fulfill my appetite, have casual conversations or entertain my son… Why would I want to condition myself to preset routines via M2M communications? Not knowing where the data could end, why would I want to buy yet another device just for the purpose of giving away more data about my everyday actions?

Well, I guess it will be up to application developers to find alluring ways to present dull data into something people will want to buy, or these cookies may just function as a marketing exploit, running for the duration of their batteries, way longer than competing solutions.

 

Visit Sen.se at www.sen.se

 

Related articles:

How IoT is changing M2M economics

Lost in Big Data: digital zombies


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