While working alone in an otherwise quiet house yesterday afternoon, just as the sun was setting, I was surprised by the sound of a cockerel crowing from the living room. Baby Iris has a toy puzzle with different farm animal shapes, and it uses tiny light sensors to detect the presence or absence of the pieces. It plays the animal sound as each piece is put in the correct hole. As is usual in our house, the pieces were scattered around the room, none of them in their little holes.
There are many electronic services which fall, roughly, under the category of “monitoring”. A mixture of commercial and open-source, the list includes systems like Nagios, and my personal recommendation for monitoring websites, Pingdom.
I’ve written before about the importance of “notification by exception”. I could spend part of every day running down a checklist, making sure everything’s ok. Apart from the inefficiency, this relies on me. In a more automated world, I could have an email delivered to me every day, saying that all was well, but if I didn’t notice on the day it came… you get the picture.
My latest electronics/as-little-hardware-munging-as-I-can-get-away-with project is definitely at prototype stage, but it has some features already.
battery powered and USB rechargeable completely wireless (on the outside!) connects to my home xbee network… …and thus to my computer and the wider world, making it extensible, crucially, without hardware rejigging. It’s interesting how different something feels when it becomes hand-held. The same electronics, performing the same functions, feel very much less useful when they’re spread out over a table in a tangle of wires with other bits all over the place and soldering irons knocking around.