If you’re a clothes horse, you are probably constantly buying new items and trying to keep straight in your head how to match them with what you already own. Today, there’s an app for that and it’s evidence of how the “Internet of Things” is going to continuously change our lives.
Tuesday night I was in San Francisco for a press conference hosted by Broadcom, a chipmaker based in Irvine, Calif., but also with offices in San Jose. Broadcom unveiled a new line of embedded processors that will enable smart devices to share data on a whole range of connection types including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and more. Also at the event various companies unveiled new devices that do everything from watch how your steak is cooking on a grill, display the current weather conditions and, yes, organize your closet.
The Virtual Closet comes to us from the people at iDevices and it helps people shop for clothes and match what they’re about to buy with other stuff they already own. Further, the Virtual Closet app helps the user at home assemble an outfit from the inventory in their closets.
The Virtual Closet app starts with fashion designers that embed tiny tags into their clothing that communicate with the app on a smartphone or tablet, Chris Allen, CEO and founder of iDevices, explained at the Broadcom event. Point your device with Virtual Closet installed at a mannequin in a store and you’ll see information about the garment, whether it’s in stock in your size at that store or, if not, whether you can buy it at another store or online.
But that kind of technology is already available, Allen said, while the next step is to match what you’re about to buy with what you already own or just what you have packed on a trip.
“You can look through what you’ve brought with you and then put together a virtual outfit. Look at when was the last time you wore it, how often you’ve worn it and what friends have the same outfit. A lot of women don’t want to show up in the exact same dress as everybody else,” Allen said.
He then hastened to add that men can also use Virtual Closet to inventory their own clothes to avoid the same mistake he made when he showed up at a wedding wearing the same seersucker suit as another guest.
Virtual Closet and other devices will be able to run on a new wireless connectivity platform from Broadcom called “Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices,” or WICED for short (pronounced “wicked”).
WICED enables devices to connect and share information with each other across a whole range of existing standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and global positioning satellite (GPS) as well as some that you may not yet have heard of. WICED also works with near-field communications (NFC), in which a signal can move a short distance from a smartphone to a point-of-sale device without the two actually touching. It also works with next-generation 5G Wi-Fi, which delivers substantially broader signal spectrum than presently available, Broadcom said.
The WICED platform is needed in order to connect the “explosion” of wireless devices coming in just the next few years, said Scott Pomerantz, senior vice president and general manager of the embedded wireless connectivity combo group at Broadcom. He cited industry forecasts that there will be as many as 50 billion devices globally seeking to connect with others by 2020.
“In order to get there, and this is key for Broadcom, all of these devices have to be able to connect and transfer data, very quickly, easily and seamlessly,” Pomerantz said.
Just as important as connectivity, he continued, is power efficiency. If someone is going to wear something like Google Glass or a smartwatch like the one Samsung is rumored to be ready to introduce next week – both of which would communicate with a device like a smartphone – the devices need to have decent battery life.
“Low power is key because you can’t charge these devices twice a day when you’re out on the road. You want these [devices] to not drain the battery while communicating,” Pomerantz said.
Also featured at the Broadcom event was NextNav, which specializes in location-based services. CEO Gary Parsons explained how a NextNav application could locate a shopper in a mall and send him or her a coupon while they are looking at a specific product.
Parsons claimed NextNav’s technology could more accurately locate a person, through their smartphone, than rival technology from chipmakers Qualcomm or Polaris. Further, NextNav can locate a person on a vertical plane as well as a horizontal one. The device could see that the shopper is on the second floor of a shopping mall rather than the third floor and show her a coupon for the Gap store she’s in and not the Williams-Sonoma store one floor above her.
But besides just selling stuff, the NextNav device has more important functionality, he said, such as locating a patient in a hospital and determining how to get him to the X-ray lab, for instance.
Such gadgets are destined to proliferate as time goes on. At the event, Broadcom shared industry stats such as these: There was a two-fold increase in mobile data traffic just between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013; an expected 12-fold increase in data traffic between 2012 and 2018; and an expected 60 percent increase in mobile video traffic by 2018.
It’s no wonder then that, according to another statistic, people check their smartphones an average of 150 times a day. Does that include you?