Twittering your Home

I had no sooner got finished writing “don’t discount twitter. I’ll lay odds that it gets hacked into a really useful service before long” in the comments on Nat’s twittervision post, in response to the various people saying that twitter was drivel, and who cares, when I saw that the Mac Dev Center on had published a blog post on twittering your home. Gordon Meyer reports on how he’s using twitter as a mechanism for having his home automation system send him messages. He writes:

First, Twitter supports several methods of delivering messages (which are called “tweets” in Twitter-speak). A tweet can be received via SMS to your cell phone, via several instant messaging services, by visiting a web page, or by using specialized apps such as the terrific Twitteriffic.

The best thing about this flexibility is that the recipient chooses how they want to receive their tweets, and changing this setting is easily done “on the fly.” The sender of the message doesn’t need to know which delivery mechanism is currently active, it’s all handled by Twitter. This simplicity is a boon for home notifications which typically either take a shotgun approach and send notifications to several places at once (home, office, and cell phone email), or try to guess (based on time of day or other data) what the best destination might be. Letting the recipient determine where they want to receive messages, at any given moment, makes delivery much simpler and more reliable.

Finally, Twitter has a simple HTTP-based interface for sending messages. Instead of having to script an email program, or an SMS utility, sending a tweet is as easy as having your home automation system open a URL.

Ars Technica picked up on the idea and wrote about it (referencing Gordon’s post but not linking to it — bad form), pointing also to our Smart Home Hacks book. That book hasn’t done as well as we hoped, but we are still big believers in the future of “smart stuff,” of which home automation is only one small aspect.

In a similar vein, check out botanicalls, Kate Hartman, Kati London, Rebecca Bray, and Rob Faludi’s sensor+asterisk-hack that allows plants to call you when they need to be watered. (botanicalls was featured at Etel and will also be at the Maker Faire in May.) You should also follow Matt Webb for more on this subject — he’s speaking about the design implications of smart stuff at Etech next week.

In addition to the smart stuff meme, pay attention to the idea of apps like twitter that are really communications multiplexers. The theme of being able to reroute communications, whether web, email, sms, IM, or voice, to the device of your choice, is a major one. For example, I’m seeing lots of new services (including Rael Dornfest’s stikkit) (in which I am an investor)) that apply the idea of cc’ing a bot on an email, and having it do something smart with it.