IoT613 is a two-day conference in Ottawa dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) and provides a unique collaboration between the user experience (UX) and design communities. This was IoT613’s inaugural conference in response to the growing IoT trend in the Ottawa/Gatineau region as in most of the world at large. Tickets for both the conference and individual workshops sold out early with attendees coming from as far away as Montreal. Ottawa’s technology industry has strong historic hardware ties that are still visible today. As the keynote speaker, Leo Poll, President of Akendi UK, pointed out: “IoT is not necessarily a new concept, but the term coins what brings it all together: the cloud, the software, and the thing.”
The various booths at the conference were reminiscent of a time at the start of the mobile industry: A serious grassroots, do-it-yourself movement spearheading an entire industry. IoT, however, encompasses more enterprises and bring a background in machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The IoT613 speakers, booth staff, and attendees were a diverse mix of individual makers and folks from various crafts in organizations ranging from startups to enterprises. The conference offered content for this diverse audience and was designed to inspire.
A tweeting plant
On day one of the conference, Macadamian hosted a hands-on IoT workshop on how to get a regular houseplant to tweet its “feelings.” We built a Node.js® server hosted on Microsoft® Azure and participants were provided with a circuit kit that included sensors (e.g. hygrometer to measure humidity, photo sensor) and a selection of LEDs. The selected microcontroller platform was by Electric Imp. This platform streamlines the connectivity process and makes it easy to integrate circuits with Internet services like Twitter.
Participants learned how to build a prototype circuit, as well as develop both device-side code and cloud code to integrate the circuit with the Internet. As a first step, participants implemented a blinking light that was integrated with the custom Macadamian server. They then progressed to more complicated aspects such as connecting sensors that detect water and light levels, and implementing a button that tweets the plant’s status to the Internet. One interesting observation from the traditionally software-oriented engineers was that hardware could be just as buggy as software.
The end results were very successful: 20 of the 25 available plants were successfully connected to the Internet and most were able to start tweeting. For additional details on this workshop and to see how the last surviving plant is doing, visit our dashboard or follow the plant on Twitter.
We had a large Macadamian contingent attending IoT613 and we were able to gain insights across the entire conference. Here are some aspects that particularly resonated with us.
Akendi and Design1st’s interactive workshop was certainly aligned with Macadamian in regards to designing for IoT: understand the context, scenarios of use, user needs. Keynote, Leo Poll, spoke on how IoT can glue the things of the physical world to the digital. He also questioned that while many ideas are possible with IoT, are they really useful?
Yishel Khan brought her drive and fresh approach to her presentation. In 2015 she established DOT Inc. that uses a brain-sensing headband to monitor the brain activity of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This allows caregivers to remotely monitor the health of children and create customized plans to help develop cognitive skills. Through the use of IoT, DOT is able to provide a personalized care system that takes into account special needs.
The IoT Entrepreneurship Panel really highlighted the dedication required for successful startups with a focus on IoT. A great example is MakerBloks’ team that over a period of time worked for free. MakerBloks is a Montreal-based startup that aims to enable children to easily build their ideas using real tools and components. This also shows the importance of cultural fit during growth.
Overall, this conference really helped to raise local awareness of IoT in the Ottawa region and we’re expecting to see future editions in the coming years with even wider audiences.