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The iKettle: A Storm in a Brighton Teacup

Big data specialist Mark Rittman is resident here at WiredSussex’s home, the FuseBox. His epic eleven hour struggle to brew a cup of tea using an Internet of Things (IoT) kettle went viral globally, earning him thousands of retweets and generating requests to be interviewed by the The GuardianThe Independent and others.

[caption id="attachment_6905" align="aligncenter" width="498"]Mark Rittman's media attention Mark quickly recieved attention from mainstream media from his tweets[/caption]

Mark’s story obviously resonated with many people. In the Fusebox he chatted to us about how his story is not about technology failing or even the lengths an Englishman will go to make a good brew, but instead it demonstrates the massive opportunity that sits behind IoT and why all good technology is designed to be human-centric.

Mark is no a stranger to technology. This year he embarked on a project in which he used a range of wearable devices to collect data on himself and measure his own health and weight loss.

Mark took the data he collected from fitness trackers and his smart home sensors, crunched and processed it to explore patterns in his weight loss and the influence of his environment.

One of the insights he uncovered was discovering a strong relationship between his weight loss and the number of emails he sent (linked in part he thinks due to the stress of setting up a new business..).

It does nevertheless suggest the possible power of Internet of Things. With interconnectivity you gain access to new data and that can be brought together to deliver to gain new insights.

Our Digital Catapult programme, in which Mark is participating, includes a focus on the value that IoT data provides and how these insights can enrich our lives.

[caption id="attachment_6909" align="aligncenter" width="300"]One of Mark's tweets that went global One of Mark's tweets that went global[/caption]

Mark is good humoured in response to the national newspaper who asked “Why couldn’t he just flip the switch?”

“Well part of it is obviously my interest in gadgets, but it’s mainly to see what can be done with the data these devices produce, and then combine it with other data that we increasingly log using wearables, smartphone apps and social media sites. This gives us better insights into the lives we lead, it makes our smart devices even smarter, helps carers and health organizations provide better services and support for the elderly and vunerable … or in my case, help me exercise more and adopt a healthier lifestyle.”

I have a number of compatible devices that can be controlled from my phone. I can set the temperature and turn on-and-off the lights in the house as well as dim and change their colour.

Things got complicated, however when I tried to join up the iKettle with my morning routine:

I wanted the kettle to be triggered by my health band detecting I’ve woken up, put the downstairs lights on and boil the kettle ready for when I came out of the shower”

Mark began set up at 9am and finished just after midnight.  Although no-one would dispute the media’s inference that this merely illustrated how far an Englishman will go to make a cup of tea – the more interesting story for Mark is the huge opportunity that IoT represents.

[caption id="attachment_6913" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Mark talking about his experience at the Fusebox Mark talking about his experience at the Fusebox[/caption]

Mark’s ‘experiment and learn’ approach resonates with how the Digital Catapult Centre programme works.  The more we get out and experiment with connected devices, the more we are going to see more and more exciting and valuable products, beyond just kettles and fridges.

The happy ending to Mark’s story is that he triumphed and not only got the kettle to work but is now joined up to his every expanding smart home, so now can enjoy walking into his kitchen and simply say “Alexa, turn on the Kettle”

We raise a cup of tea in salute to Mark.

Contact if you want to find out more about the Digital Catapult Centre Brighton’s programme of activity.

You can read Mark’s own blog on his storm in a teacup here or watch his presentation to WiredSussex members here.

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