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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Connect Everything Online Through Twine

Lifehacker: Use Twine to Make Any Household Appliance, Internet Connected
Objective: Will Twine Save You Time?
Curious: Twine: What is it? How can you use it?

It's a universal problem. You are always connected to the Internet, but not all of your devices are. Twine seeks to solve that. Two geeks from MIT started a company called Supermechanical and have built a product that will enable any traditional appliance or location to become "smart" or Internet capable. Appliances like washing machines, toasters and thermostats will instantly have the capacity to tweet, text or email you. Event locations like the back porch, front door, basement and home office stand to benefit from a Twine device. 

What is it?
Twine is a little 2x2 rubber box with a WI-FI connection and an array of sensors that allow it to monitor changes to its environment. A Twine device could be attached to the front of your washing machine and told to tweet when your laundry is done. Another could be placed on your front door with instructions to text you when someone knocks. While it includes a temperature sensor, accelerometer, magnetic switch and moisture sensor in its base configuration, Twine also has a breakout board which allows for expansion. You can add sensors of other kinds like buttons or pressure sensors or current sensors.

Twine can text, email, tweet, or accept a custom http for output. The programming does not require any coding knowledge, but works instead on a rules-based system through a web interface. Meaning, you can build layered rules like, when someone knocks on the door and it is after 7pm, text me, "someone is at the door. [Time]" The in-plain-English approach to setup makes Twine more universally accessible than any of its predecessor's that tended to favor programming experience. 

How it's made
Supermechanical built a prototype and took the Twine project online through the crowd sourcing investment website, Kickstarter. They quickly blew past their goal of $35,000 and today have risen over $556,000 to launch their product, so it seems that Twine will soon become a reality. The base units are listed for a $99 preorder on the Supermechanical website with additional sensors available for a little extra and a promise of the first batch of products shipping in September. 

Will it fly?
It's doubtful that Twine will experience mainstream popularity, but the DIY crowd is large enough to sustain a product like this without that happening. Even before its release, Twine has enjoyed press attention on Lifehacker, Wired, Fast Company and Cool Hunting, and this is just the beginning for Supermechanical. The young company is also developing a wallet that is harder to open when you're running low on money and a table that can print photos directly from a connected twitter feed. These other projects are interesting, but Twine is the flagship offering of Supermechanical, and likely the product that will make its business float for years to come. 

Alyse is a marketing, photography, and tech addict who spends her time investigating the next generation of technology. When she is not brushing up on her art of the scientific know how in the world, you can find her contributing to www.attsavings.com or on Twitter @Alyse_1.

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