How Twitter Could Become A Social IFTTT For IoT

This week I've been thinking about why social media companies care so much about IoT and smart home and, the more I thought about it, the more obvious the connection became to me.

As I wrote in Forbes, social media companies want to play in IoT to stay relevant, become the alert and control system for both us AND our things, and to add contextual relevance to their services, which will in turn make them more magical for consumers and create better insights to feed their large and growing data businesses.

I pointed to Facebook, TenCent/WeChat and Life360 as examples of social media companies that have been fairly obvious about their interest in IoT, but as I looked at Twitter, I had to dig a little deeper and think a bit more in the abstract. 

The most obvious use-case for Twitter and IoT is to connect physical devices to the social messaging service via API and let them tweet. As this great piece by Sophie Curtis of The Telegraph states, folks have been doing this for some time and Twitter is making it easier via first-party dev tools:

According to Andy Piper, developer advocate at Twitter, people have been putting inanimate objects onto Twitter since the early days; the first plant sensors were given their own Twitter accounts in 2008, allowing them to tweet that they were thirsty and needed watering.

Piper said that Twitter's open API (application programming interface) allows anyone to write an app to record data from sensors in buildings or public spaces and translate that data into 'tweet' form so that it can be posted onto Twitter.

While this might seem silly at first - why would we want our machines to tweet, after all? - think about how useful it could be for a variety of scenarios. As a first-alert system, there's maybe nothing more distributed and fast as Twitter, so imagine seismic activity or fire alerts signaled via a tweet. Other examples could be notifying people in specific geographic locations about traffic density or atmospheric conditions like smog. The possibilities are endless.

As for our smart homes, I can envision smart home systems could be programmed to recognize contextually relevant tweets that set into motion an action or series of actions. Imagine if your smart home management system could track the Twitter accounts of local police, government or environmental monitoring authorities, all of which increasingly use Twitter as a first-alert system. It's easy to imagine a police alert about a crime in an area starting a "scene" into motion where smart locks lock and connected cameras go into awake mode, or an air quality warning that starts a "clean air scene" resulting in a air purifier turning on and windows shutting.

These make a lot of sense to me and probably are doable today through using existing Twitter APIs, but are there other ways Twitter could be used in our connected lives? One way is through the integration of a "connect to your things" button, similar in concept to their "buy" button but instead targeted towards connected services. 

What do I mean by this? Envision, say, a tweet by a sports team telling their fans to turn out their homes in the team's colors and there's a connect button for you to click. If you're Hue smart lights were, say, connected to this hypothetical "connection service" they could then suddenly turn your favorite team color (like green and blue for us Seattle Seahawks fans).  Taking it even further, imagine the lights flashing every time your team scores a touch down.

This might seem far fetched, but I think it's plausible and likely will happen. In a way, Twitter could become instant-alert system meets IFTTT for connected device and services matchups. (Remember - If Twitter buys IFTTT, make sure to remember where you heard this first). 

Bottom line, Twitter is likely going to flesh out its IoT strategy this year. They're already investing in companies (like this beacon tech company), so clearly IoT is on their white board.

So time to sit back and wait for that "connect" button.

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1 comment

  • Alexa

    Nice take on Twitter/IoT. I can see them buying IFTTT!

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