Sara Reiner | Contributor
January 10, 2013

The Internet of Things: How Humans and Machines Interact Thanks to APIs


The Internet is rapidly transforming everyday objects like refrigerators, thermostats and even cars into super-connected machines. As the offline world moves online, this “Internet of Things” (IoT) is starting to revolutionize the way humans and machines interact.

For example, the IoT may soon make your mornings more bearable by syncing alarm clocks with coffee pots. Smart parking meters, water quality monitors and avalanche detectors may be in the cards too once the IoT takes off.

This futuristic technology is already work in the Nest thermostat, which connects via Wi-Fi to mobile phones so people can control their home temperatures from anywhere. And Samsung’s T9000 LCD refrigerator now comes equipped with the Evernote application so you don’t have to tape grocery lists to the door.

Along with household appliances, cars are beginning to enter the IoT race as well. The latest headline from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) suggests IoT will soon become vital to the auto industry.

Ford recently opened up its Developer Program so interested parties can embed the company’s AppLink API in their mobile apps, making them compatible with Ford’s voice-activated, in-vehicle Sync system.

Already, 4,000 developers have signed up to use Ford’s platform, among them  Amazon and USA TODAY. Amazon is building an app to let people access Cloud Player music from the driver’s seat, while USA TODAY is working on an in-car audio version of its daily paper.

General Motors released a similar software development kit at CES, hoping programmers will create GM-exclusive apps for its vehicles. 

With these releases, Ford and GM are not only advancing the IoT but also boosting their businesses. By letting developers play with their APIs, the auto companies are simultaneously spawning new apps for their vehicles and creating a solid platform for consumer outreach.

Given its tremendous benefits, the IoT is likely to continue growing into 2013. And the advent of Raspberry Pi, a $35 notecard-sized computer, may speed up the IoT’s establishment too since the miniscule processor can turn virtually anything into a computer.

Accelerators like Springboard and Y Combinator are taking notice of IoT innovations and offering big bucks to startups that can capitalize on this trend. Springboard is currently funding ten early-stage IoT companies, while Y Combinator recently made clear it is absolutely open to investing in hardware-related technology. 

The IoT may just be getting started, but as investors and companies are starting to recognize, it shows every sign of staying strong into this year and beyond.