The Internet of Things

I know, I know.  I didn’t coin the term.

I like to think that the first person to write about the subject put ‘Things’ in the draft title and then forgot to change it when the document was actually published.  They could have used ‘whatsamacallits‘, or ‘thingymabobs‘ – at least that would have been entertaining.

The Internet of Things is… well, it’s more of an idea or a concept than a single piece of technology.  It encompasses all those household items, doo-daas and thingymajigs, that can interact with the internet.

So that pedometer that sends information to your laptop?  That’s part of the Internet of Things. It’s a thing that communicates, via the internet, with another thing.  Google’s NEST central heating, which can adjust itself depending upon (among other factors) the current location of your mobile phone?  That’s another Internet of Things thing.

There’s also this other thing called If This Then That (IFTT).  This is basically the tool that allows us to get our devices communicating in this way.  If you fancy doing a bit of extra homework, here’s some more information about it.

It’s all very weird.

Now, the music industry isn’t exactly renowned for keeping on top of these things.  Will.i.am has already said that he’s on board with The Internet Things but, while he seems like a lovely chap, heaven help us if we’re putting Will.i.am in charge.

The good news (or bad, depending on your standpoint) is that some companies are already embracing the idea. There’s one that uses music to slow down your heartbeat.

this technology captures your heartbeat in an ingenious way: All you have to do is hold your finger over your iPhone’s camera (Android version coming “soon”), and the app detects the variation in light passing through your finger as blood courses through your veins, and with that, your heartbeat.

It’s meant to relieve stress. (As a Luddite, I maintain that you can do this with a cup of tea and a biscuit, but… whatever.)  Apparently Nike’s already in on it as well.  In this case, they used fitness tracker bracelets to track the energy levels of a dancing crowd, and reflect it in colour on the side of a building.  It was a promotional thing; a one-off.  But it proves that the technology is there and already being exploited.

This article discusses a few other examples, including headphones that select music by sensing your brainwaves and music apps that can react to your jogging patterns.

Neurowear prototypes include:

  • Brain Disco, which challenges DJs to keep an audience’s attention, as measured by their brainwaves;
  • Zen Tunes, which charts your emotions as you listen to music; and
  • Neural Turntable, which plays music only if you concentrate on it — you know, the way people supposedly used to do with vinyl records. (It’s like this weirdness but with concentrating instead of dancing)

What does this mean for the future?  Yes, I’m a Luddite and a pessimist, but I can’t really see it impacting music in a positive way.  If the Internet of Things doesn’t do any damage, it’ll probably just provide yet more ways of experiencing music.  So that’s nice, I suppose.

Imogen Heap‘s magical musical gloves are pretty fantastic though.  Not sure whether they count as part of the Internet of Things but I thought I’d mention them anyway. They’re brilliant – as a musician, I’d kill for a pair.

However, it is as a musician that I worry about the Internet of Things.  It seems that a lot of its impact will be on ‘suggestions’ and ‘recommendations’.  Great for us as consumers, but not so much as struggling artists – because money.  The artists (read: labels) with all the money, are going to be able to get their music all over our ‘recommendations’ lists.  New artists won’t stand a chance.

Those my brief and predictably negative thoughts, but… que pensez-vous?