Shroedinger’s Cat and the Internet of Things

Jonathan Morgan, CEO, OpenMarket – October 22, 2015

May I present to you Shroedinger’s Cat. For those of you who studied science in school, I’m going to take you back to final year physics class. For others, I’ll try and explain. Erwin Shroedinger was an Austrian scientist who studied quantum physics. In 1935, he devised a thought experiment which I will describe in simple terms in the interest of time.

black cat amazon box sms mobile engagementImagine a cat. You take that cat and put it in a cardboard box and close the lid. Is the cat alive or dead? (Or both – but maybe we’ll leave that to another post!) Well, the point of the experiment is that you don’t know without taking a reading. That is, you need to open the box and look for yourself. You need to confirm the status of the cat to determine whether it’s dead or alive. Just because the cat was in one state when it entered the box, you can’t be sure that its state hasn’t changed without taking a reading.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is often described as physical objects that are connected to the internet so that they may communicate. For example, in the old days you had a fridge which just sat there and kept your food cold. In this hyper technology new world, the fridge is connected either via a Wi-Fi connection or a mobile network operator SIM to the Internet, and it can communicate. It can send its temperature, perhaps its contents, and even a requirement for a new light bulb. Whatever it may be, it sends it into the cloud.

Some applications are truly revolutionary – think of Tesla’s Model S – by having a connection back to base, as its firmware can be upgraded remotely. That means that owners of the Model S have received various performance upgrades both on fuel economy and acceleration over the last few years after having bought the car. This is a complete change from the typical car ownership experience, which is once you drive the car off the lot, the car’s capabilities are fixed for life.

Areas like home security and home monitoring offer new areas where connectivity can bring new capabilities – e.g. your front door reporting that it’s open is potentially useful information if you are at work, your smoke alarm reporting that it detects smoke is likewise handy to be aware of if you’re out. Last week in Sydney, there was a conference to talk about sharks being hooked up to the web.

shark hooked up to the web

Not all innovations in this area are earth-shattering. Below is the connected egg holder. Ever had a problem with your eggs going rotten  and just not knowing? Probably not. But if you did, this now scratches that itch.

rotten eggs

So what does Shroedinger’s cat have to do with the Internet of Things? Well, what’s the point in having objects connected if you don’t know what’s going on? Answer – there is no point. The killer app with the Internet of Things is notifying the owner or the user. There’s little point in having these objects connected if you can’t take action when it changes state. That front door opens – how do you find out? That smoke alarm detects smoke when you are out of the house, how do you find out? Your house falls in temperature, how do you find out you need to switch the heat back on? And for those connected sharks – it would be handy to know if there’s one nearby and you are about to go surfing. Any company examining connecting physical objects to the Internet should have a strategy for how they are going to use the insight this connectivity offers to notify their users or owners so that they may take action.

Sometimes, simpler is just better. What’s the best way of notifying users of time-critical information, for which they may wish to take action? The answer is SMS, or text messaging. In fact, 90% of people read an SMS within 3 minutes, and the recipient is over 9 times more likely to take action.

Any company examining connecting physical objects to the internet should have a strategy for how they are going to use the insight this connectivity offers to notify their users or owners so that they in turn may take action. OpenMarket provides a simple API for integration and we handle all the complexity for you – across any phone, in nearly any country. As long as we have the phone number for the person who needs to be notified, we can do the rest. If you are connecting your product to the Internet, contact us and we can get your text messaging notifications flowing before you know it!

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