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Here come 'Awareness of Things' gadgets

Mike Elgan | Sept. 5, 2016
A new class of mobile device is tiny, cheap and gives you total information awareness about your stuff.

While nobody was paying attention, a wonderful new class of mobile gadget emerged.

These devices aren't wearables because you don't wear them. They're not "Internet of Things" devices because they don't have IP addresses. And they don't enhance the normal functionality of a smartphone like, say, Bluetooth earbuds or a tiny projector. Even more intriguing is that the actual functionality of these gadgets is very specific, but can be applied creatively to a huge number of jobs.

So what are they?

I'm talking about tiny, inexpensive sensor-based devices that work with a smartphone to keep you informed about what's going on with your projects, hobbies or other stuff.

You might call them "Awareness of Things" devices.

Here are five interesting examples.


The ThermoPeanut is a two-inch long, $29 stick-on thermometer from (Amazon price) that connects via Bluetooth to an app on your smartphone.

It's just a thermometer. Big deal, right?

Actually, the ThermoPeanut has three attributes that make it super useful. First, it's a stick-on. You can stick it on your laptop, inside your refrigerator or even in the car where you leave your dog when you step into a store.

Second, it's cheap. That means you can buy several of them. You can place one in each part of your refrigerator to make sure your beer isn't too warm and your lettuce doesn't freeze.

Third, it's app-connected. This is my favorite part: You can tell the app to notify you when the temperature gets above or below any temperature.

When I'm not obsessing over technology, I'm obsessing over food. My wife and I make a lot of food from scratch, from cheese and yogurt to sauerkraut and fermented escabeche. Making fermented foods always requires a specific temperature range. For example, milk with a little yogurt culture turns into yogurt when you leave it at 110 degrees fahrenheit for between 8 and 12 hours. The light in your oven might keep the oven at around 110, but how can you be sure? The ThermoPeanut can tell you.

The app also tracks temperature changes over time, so you can ignore the app, then later come back and see how the temperature has been fluctuating, and what the highs and lows were.


I've told you in this space about the wonders of Bluetooth beacons.

The idea of beacons is micro-location far more accurate than GPS, cell tower triangulation or Wi-Fi hotspot proximity. Normally, beacons are used for commerce: in department stores, sports stadiums and Starbucks.

Now there's a $20 consumer beacon called the Dot (made by a company of the same name). It's a hockey puck shaped device that's about an inch in diameter with a light in the middle. It's got an adhesive back so you can stick it to just about anything.


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