Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to Peter Semmelhack, the founder and CEO of Bug Labs, and author of the recently published book, “Social Machines.” Peter will deliver the Friday keynote address at the PRSA 2013 Digital Impact Conference, June 27–28, in New York City. All I can say is, get ready to have your mind blown! Our conversation was one of the most stimulating I have had in a while — the kind that immediately goes off track, gets your brain working in a thousand directions at once as it considers the implications of what it is hearing, and is just plain fun.
Peter told me that he spent his youth with soldering iron in hand as he and his dad used Heathkits to explore the possibilities of electronic devices. His various businesses have continued this interest, creating software, hardware and services that, at their core, are about connectivity. His latest venture, BugLabs, continues this work as he builds the tools needed to create what is currently called the “Internet of Things.”
After introducing ourselves to each other, we started talking about definitions — my favorite place to start. The first question I asked was, “What is a ‘thing?’” (You have to admit, “thing” is one of the quintessentially undefinable terms in the English language — the term we use when we can’t figure out what term to use! This leads me to laugh a bit about how much this new area obviously troubles our intellects.) Peter’s “things” are network devices that have no screen and a limited or no user interface. Think air conditioners, vending machines or wearable fitness trackers. This is, of course, in contrast to other connected devices, such as smartphones or tablets. It doesn’t mean that “things” are dumb, it just means that their intelligence resides elsewhere — probably in the growing data cloud.