Big Ben has been steadily keeping time in London with its distinctive "bong" for over 150 years. But unless you were in the famous clock's proximity, you most likely remained unaware. That is, until late last year, when Big Ben joined and now keeps time virtually for nearly 50,000 people through Twitter's API.
While we can all have a bit of a laugh at Big Ben's presence on Twitter, our newfound ability to communicate with what were previously inanimate objects is no joke. Advances in a host of technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID), near field communications (NFC), electronic product codes (EPC) and, most importantly, Twitter and its API are enabling an array of smart interactions and connections between objects and people.
Not too long ago, unless you knew how to write code, the primary way that we communicated with objects was decidedly one way -- beep -- a simple signal for us to pay attention. AOL ingeniously took a step to humanize the beep in the '90s by alerting us to an incoming e-mail with a chipper "You've Got Mail." But since then we haven't made much progress.
Twitter is helping to change all of that by allowing developers to add intelligence to devices and inanimate objects in a surprisingly warm and human manner. We saw some of this with early experiments like BakerTweet, a system made by U.K. agency Poke that allows bakers to dynamically send out tweets to customers alerting them when a fresh batch of buns have emerged from the oven, and Botanicalls, which uses networked open source hardware and software to allow plants to communicate with people in human terms (e.g. "water me please") by either using the telephone, text message or Twitter.
Sometimes called "The Internet of Things" or "Web 3.0," the possibility of smarter interactions between people and objects is opening up whole new realms for advertisers and product developers alike. Here's a look at some of the more noteworthy attempts.
Read Schmitt's full piece to find out about Nike, Guinness, Mattel and other brands on board with the 'Internet of Things' on Ad Age's Digital Next blog.
Garrick Schmitt is managing director of experience and platforms at Razorfish, whose clients include Microsoft, Best Buy, Intel, Mattel and Mercedes. He publishes FEED, Razorfish's annual digital brand experience report and in his spare time flails about on Twitter @gschmitt.