What Is the Internet of Things? An Interactive Tool Lets You Find Out for Yourself

'IOTORAMA' is an online platform where you can discover and learn about smart objects for the home and beyond.

by Kevin Holmes
May 12 2015, 8:00pm

The Internet of Things is coming—but you might not be clear on exactly what that means. We've seen hints of what it might involve with products like the Amazon Dash Button, but what else can we expect? This new Chrome web experiment and multi-screen installation aims to help find that out: commissioned by Mobile World Capital Barcelona and supported by Telit, IOTORAMA is a collaboration between creative studio Alpha-ville—Estela Oliva and Carmen Salas Pino—technologists FLUUUID, designer Jonas Eltes, with sound by Giganta.

The project lets you discover various IoT products by navigating around a playful interface which is inspired by the minimalism and geometry of the Bahaus movement. The exploratory nature of the website means you don't choose a product outright, but instead are led to it after making certain choices. This happens by clicking different categories: home, environment, DIY, culture, body-mind, or social—and then choosing an icon of your object (a yellow circle graphic) before linking it to see the data it collects (a blue square graphic) and its purpose (a red triangle), before you arrive at a product. 

As well as pratical products like door locks, hubs, and activity trackers, there are also design fictions and DIY products (open source kits that let you build your own connected objects) along with solar-powered dresses and toys like Hello Barbie, all curated by Alpha-ville and intended to make users question the roles these objects will play in our future.

Design ficitons include Kyle McDonald and Lauren McCarthy's Pplkpr, an app which tracks and automanages your relationships, and Ethical Things by Simone Rebaudengo, which looks at how smart objects will be able to make ethical decisions considering the vast amounts of data they'll be collecting.

"This was one of the challenges and motivations," Oliva told The Creators Project, referring to the ethical implications of this new connected world. "By desconstructing the Internet of Things to such a simple interface—objects, data, purpose—we want people to really think about what it means. We included a classification of different data sources—personal, environmental, corporate, etc—so when you look at the projects you see which ones they are using. We've tried to strip it down to the minimum to bring out all these concerns and open a discourse."

Already, there are documents that tackle these concerns and their implications for smart objects, like the designer-created IoT Design Manifesto 1.0, which aims to be an evolving code of conduct for professionals working in the field.

Ultimately, projects like IOTORAMA aim to provide the public with a deeper understanding of what the connected world might look like, so that we all may join the discussion early, rather than sleepwalk our ways into the incomprehensible.

The installation can be seen at the Connected Beings exhibition at Mobile World Centre Barcelona from now until July 31, 2015. You can experience the web experiment (works best in Chrome) here


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Internet of Things
Chrome Experiments
browser app
Jonas Eltes
interactive experience