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From Mood Rings to the Cloud

by Angela McIntyre  |  November 11, 2011  |  3 Comments

An example of technology, once a kids’ fad, which will increase data traffic in the Cloud

My daughter turned nine recently, and with her birthday money she chose to buy a necklace with a cat pendant that turns hues of green and blue from her own body temperature when she wears it.  The necklace reminded me of mood ring from 30 years ago!  They turned pretty shades depending on how warm one’s finger gets.  What a blast from the past for this old mom!  I think I was in 5th grade when my aunt gave me one as a present.  It was the top fad at the time, and I just had to have one.  I had been envious for months of the rich-looking purple color the “stone” turned when my friends wore their rings.  I was disappointed that all my skinny finger could generate was a muddy brown color.  “Cold hands, warm heart,” my mom would offer in consolation.  Geesh.

Yet mood ring technology has evolved into useful thermal sensors.  I was reading news about Near Field Communication (NFC) and SMART (Status and Motion Activated Radiofrequency Tags) technology and came across announcements from American Thermal Instruments, Inc.  ATI got its start manufacturing mood rings in 1980.  After mood rings, ATI turned their attention to more useful applications of thermal monitoring, such as forehead thermometers; they supplied more than 30 million of them last year.  ATI announced pilot programs for sensors and mobile software that track temperature and send alerts if temperatures go outside a programmed range.  The sensors provide data, which can be transmitted and stored in the Cloud, via NFC-enabled smartphones or RFID scanners. 

Thermal sensors with wireless connectivity can lead to improved product quality and safety benefiting both business and consumers.  Medicine can lose potency above certain temperatures. The shelf-life of produce will be shorter if temperatures are too high during transport from the farm to the market.  Temperature increases in the wheels of cars, trains and airplanes can indicate they need repair.  A variety of wireless sensors may be used in the home, such as in appliances to send maintenance alerts, to inform parents if their child develops a fever, and on food containers to indicate the leftovers are going bad.  Consumers will want the option of receiving alerts on their smartphones or tablets.

ATI is an example of companies entering the connected device market.  The number of devices intermittently connected to the internet is 50 billion worldwide, but with trends, such the increasing use of sensors and greater penetration of smartphones and tablets, the number will grow to 200 billion by 2015.  Gartner analysts Sylvain Fabre and Jessica Ekholm write that by 2020 there will be more cellular connected devices than conventional subscribers.  By 2015 data traffic through cellular networks will increase to 26 times its volume in 2010.  The increase in data traffic holds opportunities and challenges for communications service providers, and Sylvain and Jessica discuss them in “4G: The Next Frontier for Cellular Networks.”  Sylvain recently did a Talking Technology segment, “4G Services: A Premature Call,” which provides an introduction to issues surrounding 4G.

The growing trend for real-world objects to be connected forming an “Internet of Things” is included in a webinar by David Willis and me, “iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds.”  It was well-attended, and you can download the slides or listen to the replay through the link above.  (Access to Gartner content depends on your subscription.)

Note: SMART technology has a patent pending from the University of Dayton Research Institute, whose inventor Bob Kauffman developed it in part to detect and report mechanical failures of certain clamps on aircraft.

Thank you for reading my blog.  Have a great day!


Tags: 4g  big-data  cloud  computing-trends  internet-of-things  nfc  smart  

Angela McIntyre
Research Director
5 years with Gartner
18 years IT industry

Angela McIntyre is a research director with the Gartner Technology and Service Provider Research group. Her focus is on consumer computing hardware trends. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on From Mood Rings to the Cloud

  1. Awesome read. I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. He actually bought me lunch because I found it for him! So let me rephrase: thank you for lunch!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this, I’ve been considering moving for months now!!!
    Thanks for this post, very helpful! Keep it up….

  3. Excellent Post…
    I should definitely say I’m impressed with your blog.
    I enjoy some of content in the post.. please keep it up..

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