I was reading one of my favorite link blogs and found a Kickstarter page for a gadget called Twine. Developed by David Carr and John Kestner from the MIT start-up Supermechanical, Twine is a small box loaded with sensors and a WiFi connection that hooks up with a web app that lets you set up and monitor the sensors so they can send you messages of your choosing.
Out of the box, Twine comes with four sensors: temperature, accelerometer, magnetic switch, and a motion sensor that let you measure all sorts of things around the house like when doors are opened or when a room is occupied. A pressure sensor and RFID reader are in the works.
It reminds of a Lego Mindstorms set - except you can hook this up to your washing machine.
While manufacturers and regulators are fleshing out standards for home networks and smart appliances, you can tinker around in a month or so with your own sensors and a web browser. And according to the guys at Supermechanical, no "nerd degree" required.
The Twine is read-only right now, scooping up information from its sensors and sending you messages based on the instructions you have given it. You can't, for example, have it adjust the A/C or turn off the lights when you're out and about.
But quick updates could be useful pieces of information about how you use everyday appliances in your home and might lead to behavior changes that save energy or water. Or maybe just a little bit of time.
I can think of a lot of useful (and useless) things I could do with a bunch of sensors and a web app. Want to know if your housemate forgot to turn off the Xbox before going to bed? Or if said housemate forgot to unload the clothes dryer? Or if there is enough hot water left for my shower? Let me just check my phone! It might be worth trying just so you can excuse yourself at dinner to read a text message from your toaster oven.
Or it's quite possible this will just contribute to information overload.