Strata Gems: DIY personal sensing and automation

A simple app turns Android phones into intelligent agents.

We’re publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday’s Gem: Turn MySQL into blazing fast NoSQL.

Strata 2011 Tomorrow’s augmented reality is being built today on mobile devices. The Tasker application for Android is a fun platform for prototyping personal automation and sensing applications. Described modestly as an application which “performs tasks based on contexts,” it gives non-programmers access to the sensing and system features of the phone.

Following a simple rule metaphor of taking action upon matched conditions, Tasker can respond to states such as:

  • Presence of a certain wifi network or Bluetooth device
  • GPS location, time or date
  • Phone event, such as incoming text messages or calls

The array of resulting actions that can be taken include altering the phone’s attributes by adjusting volume, brightness, playing music and, more interestingly, taking photos or performing network actions such as performing HTTP GET or POST and sending email.

Screenshot, taken from the Tasker home page

All of these conditional rules can be set up from the application’s interface on the phone itself.

While Tasker’s initial appeal is in having your phone respond to its environment, with its network capabilities Tasker provides the ability to create sensing applications that can connect simple web applications with your personal attributes, responding to your location or proximity to others.

An example application might be tracking and recording your mileage expenses for work by having the phone log your GPS trails whenever it senses it’s connected to the car’s Bluetooth system.

A plugin interface offers developers the ability to add modules that detect more sophisticated conditions or take custom actions.

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