The Power of Unexpected IoT APIs

the-power-of-unexpected-IoT-apis-nordic-apis-doerrfeld-01Data is all around us — sensors in smart city infrastructure, sports, home automation, air monitoring, and more are opening avenues for some pretty unexpected use case scenarios. Application programming interfaces or APIs are critical at this intersection, exposing data to enable creative real world interactions to flourish in an Internet of Things (IoT) environment.

Continuing our explorations into Swedish companies like Deportivo that are using data and APIs within innovative marketing campaigns, creative technologist Ellen Sundh of Coda Collective guides us through some of her own case studies on how sensors and APIs drive creative experiments. We’ll take a look at case studies that have produced inventive marketing campaigns and unique end user experiences, from helping the blind play football, to reducing large-scale community energy consumption.

Imaging 3D Environments

Listeners are most often accustomed to a left-right stereo separation when listening to audio. 3D sound modeling extends this experience by situating the listener in a virtual sound landscape, where distance and direction can be used to image the physical world through sound. A unique intersection of sound design, APIs, and sports, Sundh cites a project she was involved in with Society46 and Pepsi that allowed the blind to not only follow a soccer match, but actually play on the field.

nordic-apis-blind-football As football/soccer Paralympic teams have to rely on other senses, they use a shaker in the ball to hear where it is located. The problem is that it’s hard to locate the ball and other players when they’re not moving. To create a 3D model of all objects Sundh and Pepsi first used 16 cameras on a football pitch to track where players were on the field, capturing the real-time positioning of each player at a 25 time per second rate.

They tracked each player’s movements via gyroscope and GPS tracking from wearables attached to each player. All this data was sent to each player’s device using the Tracab API and UDP protocol. With the help of wearable sensors, the sound landscape was shifted based on a user’s perspective. Using FMOD, a middleware audio engine, the team was able to trigger various sounds to communicate the real-time positioning of fellow team members, opponents, and goals, represented with varying sounds and frequencies.

Utilizing Data Within City Centers

Sundh believes the same 3D sound modeling technology can be applied to indoor situations, such as a city center or train station. Blindsquare actually accomplishes just that — using the Blindsquare API, developers can link a physical place to the app to display information or trigger an audio simulation using GPS coordinates.

Using data in unexpected ways can power transportation innovation and create similarly cool insights with the help of APIs. Take Pendelkollen, an app that integrates with the transportation system in Stockholm. Smart developers noticed on-bus sensors were detecting the weight of each car, therefore, they determined that the weight of total passengers could be calculated, and the occupancy thus determined so that the app could indicate the likelihood of acquiring a seat on board.

Energy Consumption

The home energy space is making great strides to utilize data from sensors to increase efficiency and cut down expense. Hardware such as Nest and it’s app can demonstrate energy usages, displayed in appealing ways for the user. Many other digital initiatives are also utilizing green APIs to promote sustainability at home and throughout the globe.

Dubbed as Sweden’s largest energy savings experiment, in 2013 Sundh worked for Society46 who produced a campaign for Forsman & Bodenfors and E.ON Energy to design a program that tracked data from energy consumption sensors installed in 10,000 households. Compressed into a single API designed specifically for the campaign, all participating data energy consumption levels were monitored and exposed in real time on a web interface so that participants could visualize their electricity meters graphed alongside other similar houses in the study.

The study found that by simply viewing how much electricity the participants were using, their behaviour consumption decreased by an average of 12%. It helps to know your habits.

Of specific interest are the various apps the E.ON campaign experimented with — a tamaguchi that died if your energy consumption was too high, a personal energy drill sergeant, and a friendly neighborhood competitive app. Just think what could be accomplished if interfaces like this were created at a far larger scale — city-wide, or country-wide. By increasing the design standards for the IoT with open APIs to our devices and sensors, all kinds of apps can be created to monitor, remind a user of their habits, and keep personal energy usage on track in customizable ways.E.ON-nordic-apis

APIs and Electronics: IoT Sensorland

Imagine turning Facebook likes into candy. Connected vending machines are all the rage — Coke has stockpiled 16 million IP addresses for their web-connected Freestyle machines dedicated to monitoring supply levels, usage habits, and even dispense soda — all performed remotely. Get a cold drink simply by checking in on your phone.

Enter sensorland, as Sundh calls it. The space is exploding, so there’s a big range of sensors and potential applications out there, but some examples applicable to the API space include:

  • Phone: gyroscope, GPS, microphone
  • Outdoor Monitoring: air, water, temperature, humidity
  • Wearables & Health: heartbeat, blood sugar levels, blood pressure
  • RFID: transportation, marketing, product tracking
  • Buttons: simple connected circuit switches

raspberry-pi-nordic-apisThese sensors can then be controlled from small connected circuit boards specifically designed for people who are making interactive projects, like Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Looking to the future, Sundh foresees even more growth in the field of sensors and microcontrollers, along with size reduction and Bluetooth for close connectivity.

Similarl to the E.ON campaign, many mesh networks have emerged that aggregate crowdsourced sensor information. For example, Smart Citizen enables people to track and share data on noise pollution, air quality, and more, to build a library of data for smart cities. Smart Citizen creates their own data visualizations and also provides an API for integration purposes. Some other communities pushing open data initiatives are Air Quality Egg or developmentseed.

Benefits to Driving Creative Marketing Campaigns With APIs

The intersection between hardware and the cloud can have remarkable outcomes. Accessing on-device firmware APIs that push data to the cloud, for example, could create entirely new web experiences. Whether it be inflating balloons triggered remotely via online suggestion, or a data-driven energy analysis campaign, either using third party APIs or developing one internally to streamline a marketing campaign can be beneficial for many reasons:

  • Agile: demonstrates that your brand is modern, adaptable to new technologies.
  • Innovative: allows room for contributors and third party minds to spark additional creation.
  • Use cases: end result may provide excellent case studies, research, or models for future reference and study.
  • Interesting: in a world oversaturated with content, ideas must be intriguing to shine through.
  • Image: sustainability, hunger, disability… using open data and sensor technologies, companies can go beyond buzzwords and actually experiment in the field on meaningful projects to increase public image and support certain causes.

Time and time again, we see APIs as enabling connections to drive some pretty extraordinary projects. What will your company do with APIs and connected devices to augment your marketing initiatives?

Bill Doerrfeld

About Bill Doerrfeld

Bill Conrad Doerrfeld is an API specialist, focusing on API economy research and marketing strategy for developer programs. He is the Editor in Chief for Nordic APIs, and formerly Directory Manager & Associate Editor at ProgrammableWeb. Follow him on Twitter, visit his personal website, or reach out via email.