No Coding Required: New Tools Embedding Interactivity Into Maker Projects

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New software tools and interfaces allow makers to connect their products to the Internet and begin experimenting with various types of interactive experiences.

Give a man a fish. Teach a man to fish. Feed vs. facilitate. It is often said that giving someone the skills to do something is a much higher calling than simply doing it for them. The maker movement has followed a middle path, encouraging a community of innovation through accessible resources and shared inspiration.

As Jay Melican of Intel Labs put it: “In the last few years, we have slowly exposed people to tools that lower the barrier to entry for anyone interested in making things, whether they’re art students or design students or engineering students or even entrepreneurs.” In other words, the fishing rod is within reach of the curious angler – the rest is up to him.

This is a particularly appropriate metaphor for the recent release of software and tools that make it easier for makers to connect objects to the Internet and add digital functionality to their projects. Even without formal coding skills, innovators and DIYers are tapping into the growing consumer demand for interactive features thanks to a trend we’re calling Intuitive Programming.

In a recent report on the Internet of Things, Cisco IBSG estimated that by 2020, over 50 billion “people, processes, data and things” will be connected to the Internet, yielding more than $14 trillion in revenue for companies and industries worldwide. How can makers develop products that tap the growing IoT market without programming skills?

New York-based Bug Labs developed a platform that allows anyone to easily pull in information from connected devices and compile the data for consideration, manipulation and consumption. Through their service, you can connect any web-enabled device and collect short reports (called “dweets”) regarding activity related to temperature, power consumption, location or any other custom criteria you set.

These dweets can then be arrayed on their Freeboard dashboard where you can see all the streams of information in one place. Thanks to readily available kits and add-on sensors, virtually anything can be connected to the Internet, which means that almost anything can dweet. On their site, Bug Labs demonstrates how their tools enable users to capture and report a variety of data with a distillery, networks of mobile air quality monitors and a range of residential sensors.

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