Internet of Things – Switchboard

Experimenting with the Internet of Things

with: Philipp Schmitt, Stephan Bogner
when: October – February 2013/2014


The Internet of Things Switchboard was a more experimental project. We tried to imagine how it would affect us when every single device is smart and connected to the internet. In a not too distant future, every kitchen appliances could potentially recognise their surroundings. But is there a real benefit of a toaster knowing what's around it? For example, if the washing machine is from a different manufacturer than the dryer, they need a few hours longer to complete their cycles, or else they refuse to work entirely. After a long period of research, we came to the conclusion that we can't imagine all possible connections. There are many stories about an IoT utopia/dystopia and whether or not it ends good or bad; apart from a smart bulb or 1984, there aren't any real-life use cases.

Before we we were able to track objects we had to create a database entry

It’s all about tracking

To find out what the real benefits could be, we started to track our behaviour. We created a fictional future where everything we do is tracked. To get an idea of the implications, we wanted to know everything about us that every device is going to know in the next few years. Thanks to smartphones, location tracking was easy. A bit harder was tracking our everyday interactions. So we invented the first useful application for QR-Codes. Every thing we wanted to track, like light switches, kitchen appliances, toilets and so on, we tagged with QR-Codes.

Every single interaction was tracked with QR-Codes

QR Codes everywhere

With an iPhone app we logged every single interaction by photographing the code. Additionally, we tagged the type of the device and the purpose of our interaction. After one week we had a semi-massive database.
Of course we had to visualise it. The goal was an installation where everyone can experiment with different device combinations to find interesting use cases.

Visualisation of interactions and locations: As time progresses, the users' position data traces lines on the map

The Exhibition

We combined our three datasets to simulate one day. Depending on the time of day and the connected devices, the switchboard shows all accumulating data. The system in the middle tries to find relevant connections and manages the devices.

The exhibition encourages you to experiment with different device combinations while it tries to find a relevant connection between them
Example: Device connections vary depending on selection

See it in action: Demo