I Want Widgets that Come With an API

Aside from the glut of “UltraHD” televisions at CES this year, I saw two other trends that seem noteworthy to me but that have not been highly reported in the tech press: There is a huge number of Internet-connected home sensors of all kinds, and also a much large concentration of smart or connected fitness devices. Examples of the former include a cool line of Wi-Fi-connected switches, motion sensors, and other devices from Belkin, a line of Internet-connected temperature and humidity sensors from La Crosse, and even several Bluetooth-connected soil moisture monitors for your nerd gardener friends (pictured).

Soil moisture monitor pic

On the fitness side, the examples are too numerous to mention, but as an avid Boulder cyclist, I found Garmin’s Edge 810 to be particularly impressive. (It was even introduced with an awesome video.)

I’m skeptical of the value of most of these products. In the connected home realm, the only products that I think will have long-term legs are those that can make a clear economic case. If you can save me money each year on my heating bill, then great. Otherwise — well, I’m personally skeptical that I need a Wi-Fi connected switch so that I can turn on and off my Christmas tree lights from my iPhone. (It’s possible I just don’t “get it,” however: Belkin told me they had great success selling into exactly that application this past holiday season.)

Likewise, most of the connected fitness products seem gimmicky to me.

However, across all these products I would love to see some open APIs so that there would be lots of room for innovation and experimentation amongst the broad world of independent app vendors. This seems especially true in a year where the Wall St. Journal proclaimed CES passé because of its focus on hardware “in an app-driven world.” Let me integrate the Belkin motion sensor with my homebrew Arduino thermostat and my own web app: That could be cool.

Ford and GM seem to be heading this direction — I’d love to see some more open APIs for the rest of the products.