What is a spime?
In simple words a spime is an object that is aware of his position, is able to collect data from the physical world (e.g. CO2 level, noise, etc), has some sort of memory to store read data, and communication capabilities to send the data stored.
On the other side there should be an infrastructure capable of retrieving all the data collected by spimes, store it and make it available to anyone who is concerned.
If we think at the definition of spime it is quite easy to think at our mobile phones as potential spimes candidates. Most of them are able to gather location data through their GPS sensor, they have memory to store data and they can communicate with the internet through their packet switch connection.
As you can see there is only one element missing in the picture:sensors. What kind of data is a standard mobile phone able to collect from the environment?
Well, there is one obvious answer: noise! All of our mobile phone have a microphone and they are able to capture sounds from the environment and sample them to convert from analog to digital. Some mobile phones, like the iPhone, allow the developer to have a little bit more information. On the iPhone you can measure the level of the sound coming from the microphone. May applications use this kind of technology: Ocarina, just to say one.
It seems that an iPhone may become a perfect spime.
There comes the idea of Widenoise. Widenoise is an iPhone applications that samples the noise around you, gather your location and let you send the collected sample to the cloud. At the very same time it is able to show you a map of your area and display other collected data, if there is one.
So your iPhone has become actually a spime and, at the very same time, it is a consumer of data collected by other spimes. In some way you are making noise a social thing.
I definitely think this is one of the most innovative applications I have see on the iPhone and I had no problem at all giving the guys at www.widetag.com the 1.99 USD they charge for the application. The application has also a fantastic look and feel for the price.
Again, the mobile phone may be the perfect spime, but with limitations. Its capablity of collecting informations from the physical world is very limited. Noise, as we have seen is a great examples, speed may be another one in particular situation. Unfortunately you are not able to measure the levels of CO2, or temperature, or level of rain. It is quite possible that in the future may emerge from the market devices with these capabilities.
I would like to make some additional considerations.
I think that the concept of spime is definitely social and based on collaboration from entities the are not coupled. You sample the physical world and send the data back to the cloud using your own device and resources. Well, this is, at least, what happens with Widenoise.
We have seen that the mobile phone may be the perfect spime but it is missing the hardware to gather data from the physical world.
I can imagine sensors deployed in the physical world with some sort of short range communications capability (e.g. bluetooth). When a mobile phone comes in range the sensor may ask the phone to couple with him to be a temporary spime, offering the sensor GPS location data, storage and communication. As a user I would be happy to offer my device and a few cents of my phone bill to allow the data to be collect and sent.
You may find some more informations on the subject here:
- Widenoise. The official web site.
- Widetag, Inc.. The first company that makes of the Internet of things their core business. I had the opportunity to meet with some of the founders in the past and they are all brilliant guys.
- The post from Leandro Agro’, one of the founders of Widetag, on the release of Widenoise.
- OpenSpime.com and OpenSpime.org