Calling for Assistance

The boom, the bust; Andy Grove still believes in the Net, Marc Andresseen still believes in the Net and your garbage-can believes too.

M2M (or Machine to Machine) is the big revolution that is made up of lots of small parts. We’ve been told that silicon will be getting so cheap that we can put a microchip in everything. Turn all machines into a mini-computer and get them to talk to each other- that’s the idea behind the M2M movement.

Japan’s NTT DoCoMo is forcasting 360 million mobile telephone subscribers in the 2010s (Japan has as population of 127 million). What gives? Well, two thirds of the subscribers are toys, bicycles, cars and other machines.

But what exactly would one machine say to another machine? I mean, they’re not going to be talking about the weather-or are they? There’s no reason why a sprinkler placed in a park couldn’t send a message to the control station saying “Hey Tom, how’s the weather there at the control station? Well, it just rained here- I guess you shouldn’t turn me on today. Go ahead and save that water for another day”

Well, in case you didn’t know it, Barcelona is on the cutting edge in M2M. What are they up to? Well, they are installing memory chips in the garbage cans in the Gothic quarter.

Each chip installed communicates a series of information: when it was last emptied, how full it is, and even when it was last painted. By communicating how full it is back to a central control station, the daily pick-up route can be planned in advance and optimized before the garbage truck even leaves the station.

It’s not a cheap system to install. It’s going to cost some 20 million pesetas ($113,592) and it’s going to be installed first in the Gothic quarter- some 18,000 smart garbage cans. The payoff is in efficiency, which brings with it reduced operating costs. Why should a garbage truck drive way out just to pick up one small bag of garbage? That wastes time, gasoline, truck depreciation and hard labor. By focusing on only what needs to be picked up, the city will probably recoup the investment in a couple of years (although I haven’t seen any predictions on cost vs. savings analysis).

Talking garbage cans may not change you life that much, but a child’s bicycle having a chip installed could let you know where little Johnny is at any moment or help little Johnny find his bike if he loses it very well could.

The possibilities for applications are limitless. And that’s one thing that keeps the Net exciting.

So don’t worry about the next big thing-it may not be that big after all.

Until next time- Happy surfing!

Jason Ball

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