Is Twittter the glue for the Internet of things?

This blog is the basis of my talk at the #140 characters event held at the same time as mobile world congress Barcelona(focussing on the Real time internet). It brings a few ideas together.

To me, it indicates the significance of Twitter especially as a platform. I have always been interested in platforms and the disruptive potential of platforms i.e. anything that can be a platform can gain vast competitive advantages over the competition.

So, Twitter is a platform since it is simple, it is free and hence agnostic and it allows unpredictable use. When combined with the Cloud, mobility and sensors twitter could take on a far more disruptive role in the future

Here is how ..

Suppose I enter the room and go ‘swish’ with my mobile device (like a wand)

What happens?


What could happen?

Considering the device knows who I am, it should be able to feed this information via sensors and these sensors in turn should be able to activate services that act upon my ‘accelerometer driven’ movement of my mobile device.

What type of services?

Maybe just to say ‘hi’ to my friends on twitter who are in the room.

Now, on a network level – this is possible. Ex Bluetooth has always promised such services .. But not delivered! Other technologies also face the same problem – NFC, RFID etc all work in pockets but not pervasively

Network layer services globally are hard to deploy and take time (costs, device cycles, global interconnect, walled gardens etc etc).

The web is faster and could achieve the same thing

That’s where Twitter comes in

Devices don’t have to talk to each other. They have to communicate to an equivalent object in the Cloud which in turn invokes the ‘other’ object also in the cloud

The communication to and from the cloud is via a combination of sensors, twitter and mobile devices.

Thus, Twitter is the glue/missing link that binds the Internet of Things

What are the options?

Bluetooth has not taken off. SMS is expensive and is not a platform

Twitter could be the best choice for this vision

This is not science fiction.

Tower bridge, Toasters, Popcorn makers, Toilets, laundry, a cat(stockington), a duck, an R2D2 and a whole house have been made to tweet.

Smart grids also need a simple standard to hook up: for example you could capture all this intelligence and compare against existing standards (for carbon footprint for example)

So, for this to work – things must be capable of measurement (sensors), they must interconnecting (Twitter?) and they must be intelligent

Web 2.0 has taught us that people become creators of data. Web 3.0 could be that devices become creators of data (by answering the question – What are you doing now/ What’s happening).

Any ‘event’ can be recorded if it can be sensed – ex a mousetrap,

But ironically the ‘Internet of things’ may not be the best analogy

The Internet of things needs objects to be Internet identifiable. That is fine

But it also implies http protocol

Which may not be the best for devices since it is based on polling a server periodically

Alternatives may include some form of publish – subscribe model.

It could be based on Twitter

But it could also be XMPP

Wired has a great wiki on How to make your Gadgets twitter

You need

• A microcontroller

• Some software for sending tweets

• A network connection of some sort

• A sensor to detect a change in the appliance’s operating state

• A Twitter account for your gadget

The microcontroller is a CPU with some RAM on a small circuit board designed to perform simple dedicated tasks. In addition, the system needs an Ethernet cable jack or a Wi-fi card + software + sensor(s) all of which feeds into a twitter account

To conclude:

• A coming together of Twitter, sensors, Cloud and Mobile could be very disruptive

• Twitter could be the glue that binds the Internet of things. The Internet of Things itself could be a misnomer in this context since the device may be IP enabled but not connected via http(but rather a higher level service like Twitter or XMPP in a publish-subscribe mode)

microcontroller and sensor - twitter - wired.jpg

An Arduino microcontroller board, (left) and A 3-axis accelerometer, (right)

Source – wired

And a video of a house that twitters!


Thanks for the comments and feedback on this talk

I know Twitter is ‘non standard’. And the twitter whale goes belly up more times than we like without managing device communications :)

Having said that ..

Tim o reilly had a post somewhere .. Which said .. Watch where people play ie watch what the hackers are doing to. Spot the next big breakthrough. I don’t see them creating intelligent toasters out of standards yet.

That’s why the trend is significant

Ultimately, standards may emerge but the trend itself is interesting


  1. absolutely fascinating vision! I’m writing a book, “Democratizing Data,” which deals in part with Internet of Things. Will definitely note this.

  2. Ajit Jaokar says:

    many thanks David :) kind rgds Ajit

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