How the Past Relates to the Future Promise of the IoT

This concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) was first introduced by technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton, while working at Procter and Gamble. In the late 1990s, Procter and Gamble had a big problem with their supply chain and Kevin Ashton was looking to solve this problem using RFID technology. It was a concept way ahead of its time. Kevin Ashton then went on to found the Auto-ID Center at MIT to further advance this concept. Since then, the IoT gained a ton of momentum as sensor and networking equipment has become cheaper, smaller and more energy efficient. As we move beyond machines relying on humans, we are able to add connectivity to all sorts of new devices. By providing devices with better information, us humans are able to stay more informed, automate and take action like never before.

This is really not the first time we have seen automation in our lives though. Before we take a look at where the IoT is going, let’s take a look back.

In the early 20th century, electricity was starting to be introduced into the home and with this came a lot of new innovations. For instance:

  • The first lightweight, electric iron was introduced in 1903.
  • The first refrigerator was introduced in 1913. The first electric dishwasher was also introduced around that time.
  • In 1919, the world saw the first automatic, pop-up toaster that came from an innovator who was tired of burnt and inconsistent toast.
  • The 1930s saw the first washing machines and dryers.
  • In 1952, there was the first automatic coffee pot.
  • In 1963, GE introduced the first self-cleaning oven.

These devices were created by innovators looking to save time, energy and frustration from manual tasks. People saw what could be done with electricity and started to innovate. When those first devices, such as the electric iron, were made available, it made people think about what could come next.

An interesting story from this era comes from a woman named Josephine Cochrane. She was a wealthy housewife who invented the first automatic dishwasher. As a woman with servants and maids, why would she need an automatic dishwasher? The answer is simple. She got tired of her dishes being chipped and damaged while being hand washed. Josephine said to herself, “If nobody is going to invent an automatic dishwasher, I am.” She did just that.

The promise of IoT is just like this. As problems in everyday life are identified, companies are jumping up to say, "I'm going to fix them!" Companies are already utilizing resources to save time, energy and frustration by building on current technologies to propel the IoT into the future. 

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes this Winter

frozen pipes

When the temperature drops and pipes freeze, the result can be disastrous.  A 1/8th inch crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons of water a day! Leaks like this can result in flooding, major structural damage to your home and leave you at a huge risk for mold.  According to State Farm, the average cost of a claim for broken pipes due to freezing is $15,000.  Pipes that burst when no one is home are much more devastating. When the basement and other areas of the home unknowingly flood, costs in damage can rise to as much as $70,000.

Traditionally, people try and prevent pipes from freezing by leaving cabinets open and letting the water run from their faucets at a slow trickle.  Neither of these methods are foolproof or ideal.  

Leaving the cabinets open in some homes is fine, but for parents of small children (like myself), it poses a huge risk.  There are cleaners and other toxic substances inside of my kitchen cabinets that I would not want my kids to gain possession of out of concern for their health.

He may be cute... but he gets into everything!

He may be cute... but he gets into everything!

Leaving the water running does not always prevent frozen pipes and can be a costly decision. A quick check of the USGS Water calculator shows that 2 faucets left running at a trickle will waste 22 gallons of water or more per day.  After a few weeks of cold weather, the cost to your water bill is sure to add up.

temperature sensor

The ConnectSense wireless Temperature Sensor is a better solution for preventing frozen pipes in your home. This sensor can monitor the temperature of your pipes and alert you only when the temperature gets low enough and you should take action. This eliminates the need to waste water or leave cabinets open unnecessarily.

I set up my own wireless Temperature Sensor in my home last year as the temperature started to drop into the teens on a regular basis.  I am always particularly concerned about the sink in my kitchen since it is right on an outside wall.  If underneath your sink is anything like mine, there are no open power sockets to plug into, so ConnectSense's long-lasting battery power works perfectly for this application.  I set my sensor to record at every hour, as I felt that would be satisfactory for catching any drops in temperature.  If you are concerned about rapidly dropping temperatures, you can set the sensor to record the temperature even more regularly, but note that it will drain the batteries in the unit faster.

I then set up my rules in the ConnectSense cloud application for my wireless temperature sensor.

ConnectSense rules

First I created a rule to send a text message to both my wife and me if the temperature drops below 40°.  Should it get that low, we would take some of the traditional precautions of running the water, wrapping the pipes, or opening the cabinets.  The nice part about having this alert is that none of those methods are necessary until the temperature actually gets to that point.  This allows us to save money by not running the water and not have the hassle of having the cabinets open.

The second rule I created for the more urgent scenario is a rule that would result in a phone call to my wife and me should the temperature below the sink drop below 35°.  This would be close to freezing temperatures, and immediate action would be needed.  Having the phone call option for notification is also particularly important because a text message would likely not wake either of us while sleeping, while a phone call would.

water sensor

For added protection, I also installed a ConnectSense Water Sensor under my sink.  In the event of a leak or flood from a burt pipe, I will receive a phone call so I can deal with the water before it becomes a huge problem.  

After a few days of having the wireless Temperature Sensor installed under my sink, I can attest that it definitely gave me the peace of mind to not worry about having my pipes burst while I am at work or away from the house.  Checking the data, I saw that even when it was around 0° outside, I could easily monitor the temperature under our sink and make sure our our pipes—and our home—were not in danger.