Friday TechMunch: RoboEarth and the Thingternet

Despite many of the team working in technology for many years, some of the advancements still continue to shock and amaze us.

This week, we were all talking about RoboEarth, a network where robots can share information and learn from each other with the aim of assisting humans – whether that’s tidying up the house, or administering care to patients in hospital (which does sound a little scary). Researchers involved, from Philips and various educational institutions, hope that eventually both robots and Homo sapiens (and let’s face it, there is every chance we may become the primitive species) will be able to share and access information via a cloud-based database.

Another development this week was the first acquisition with the potential to help make the Internet of Things, or the ‘Thingternet’ as some are calling it, even more of a reality.  When Google first announced it was buying thermostat and smoke alarm developer Nest Labs, you could almost hear thousands asking ‘Why?’.  Google is just a search engine, right?  A very successful one, but a search engine nonetheless. But while Nest Labs is focused heavily on ergonomics, [‘taking unloved products in your home and make simple, beautiful, thoughtful things’], the products are smart – for example, the smoke alarms are designed to know the difference between genuine danger, and when you may have just burnt the dinner. The thermostats are mobile-controlled, and learn your schedule, which results in energy and cost savings.

If you look at Google it stopped being just a search engine many years ago.  As analyst Benedict Evans points out it is a vast machine learning project, with many things on the go, including wearable technology like Google Glass and a new ‘smart’ contact lens to help with diabetes.

We touched on the ‘connected everything’ in last week’s CES roundup and the key point is that we focus the ‘Thingternet’ on things that are actually going to provide value to our lives, like reducing power bills or informing medical decisions. When you consider Google’s acquisition of Nest Labs, it appears to make a lot of sense.