You’re Using the Cloud, But You Might Not Even Realize It

How the cloud is infiltrating our lives through the gadgets you love to need.

Some consumers think of the cloud as just something to access when they’re sitting at their computers. The cloud is so prevalent that sometimes it’s hard to recognize how much it has actually affected gadgets in every day life. From adjusting thermostats to supporting home security systems, consumers can really utilize cloud-supported gadgets as a part of their daily lives.

Take Greg Duffy. His dad wanted to catch the dog that was trespassing on his lawn every afternoon. Although his dad was a software engineer and knew his way around a computer, there was no easy-to-use, computer-supported home monitoring system available on the market. Enter Dropcam.

In 2008 Greg Duffy started pitching his idea of a home security camera that doesn’t even require the user to turn on a computer. To top it all off, a user’s Dropcam live video feed is accessible through mobile devices, or users’ can just receive emails or texts when the camera detects motion. In 2009, after angel investors saw the value of Duffy’s idea, the first Dropcam product was shipped. This wouldn’t have been viable just a few short years ago without the cloud.

Another example of the cloud becoming a household tool is Nest, the Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat. From a mobile device, homeowners can change their house’s temperature from any location. Nest has been acclaimed for its ease of use and ingenuity, which isn’t surprising for a product coming from two ex-Apple product engineers. Interested potential buyers can’t even order their own thermostat units right now because the website is so flooded with orders. The VP of sales and marketing announced that they are not taking new orders until “early 2012.”

Home gadget developers aren’t the only people using the cloud either. Square’s popular payment device (which enables store owners and customers to make transactions straight from their iPhones and iPads) makes use of the cloud as well. Slingbox is a popular cloud-using device that allows users to watch TV recorded at home on laptops, phones, and tablets. For the more active, the cloud helps Jawbone’s Up bracelet keep track of a user’s movement through the day with other statistics about a user’s activity. The cloud is helping millions of gadget-users in a myriad of ways, every day.

One reason all of these gadgets are able to use the cloud is the lowering cost of hardware. Duffy, the Dropcam inventor, pointed out in a recent CNET article that it only costs about five dollars to add a Wi-Fi device to a gadget now. Check out the product Twine, for instance. Twine is a small box that connects to regular household appliances like your washing machine that can tweet, text, or email the user specified times. Users log into the Twine website to create simple commands that the website translates into the actual programming language. The final command is to send a custom message to the user. The piece of hardware itself has temperature, vibration, and moisture sensors and a magnetic switch. Doesn’t fit your needs? Users can customize their Twine device with whatever they can think of.

In the past, product creators always had to design their own CPU chips for their specific devices. Duffy explains that third-party chips are at a high enough quality today that the expensive labor of designing a processor in-house is no longer necessary. Specifically, Duffy teamed up with Axis Communications (a network camera maker) not just for making the chip for Dropcam products, but for manufacturing the products entirely.

Another lowered barrier to entry that would’ve been a big problem ten years ago is where gadgets can be sold. Dropcam isn’t sold in brick-and-mortar stores, like Best Buy, because the cost to developers is too high. Duffy chose to sell only through his own website and through Amazon to lower his own costs and, in turn, lower the price of Dropcam products to customers.

The cloud is everywhere! Some mistake it for an abstract solution that doesn’t apply to their daily lives, but obviously, the cloud is accessible through a variety of gadgets in existence today, at this very minute. Gone are the days of thinking that gadgets only plug into computers and phones. Gadgets can do anything! Thanks to the cloud.

About Laurie Banks

Aside from reading about technology, blogging, and blogging about technology, Laurie enjoys reading books in a variety of genres, playing video games as often as possible, and singing in the shower.



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