Thanks to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise we were invited to present and to have a stand at the GigaOM Structure Connect show in San Francisco. Sam from MeMini joined me as another Kiwi company. The show was particularly interesting as with the Internet of Things just starting out there was a lot of conflicting opinions about approaches and standards as well as new and amazing demo’s.

We showed how the Umajin app creator can be used to make apps on phones and tables which can touch the real world. The example was literally pavlovian in it’s simplicity – get candy dispensed for answering our in app survey!


The 1994 retro moment was considering the discussions about smart homes. These diagrams are from my 1994 thesis on “Computer Aided Living”. You could create a layout of your house with digital locks, digital lights, smoke alarms, temperature sensors, appliances, speaker/music systems. These were all instrumented via a network that could be wired with Cat5 cable, or via a power modem which was able to send signals down power cables.

There was an expert system to define behaviours like how your house would react to different inputs.


There were even some cool features like a personal information manager which would integrate with email and calendars (outlook in those days) and even your handheld computer (Psion 3!!).

There was a working handwriting recognition system for input (with a wired KURTA tablet) and a rudimentary voice recognition using Dragon Dictate for giving voice commands. It also had an integrated web browser which could show text with differnt fonts, JPEGs and animated GIFs.

It also had an expert system for enabling the system to answer questions about some problem domains like cooking and health (for which we now ask Dr Google).

It’s really interesting to see how it takes all these ideas quite a few iterations and improvements before they become widespread.