I was searching for an idea on the borders of credibility, that might just seem real, but wasn’t. I talked it over with my son, currently working for Internet of Things company Opensensors (who would have thought the IoT would turn out to be a family business so soon?), and we came up with the idea of an internet-enabled umbrella.

You know, embed moisture detecting sensors into the fabric, so that the umbrella can tell you (via a smartphone application, naturally) if it’s actually raining. It’s not any sillier than the umbrella that makes samurai sword noises that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

Trouble is, there are several serious, real, Internet umbrella projects out there. At least one, the Kisha, is actually already in production and on sale; it not only connects to weather forecasts so as to tell you if it’s going to be needed, but also to your smartphone via Bluetooth, so that it can alert you if you forget it (the same as the Davek umbrella, from the Philippines). Which makes this one, which only connects to the internet via WiFi so that the handle glows if it’s going to rain, seem a bit last year. Not mention just like this one, which does exactly the same thing.

There’s the Pileus umbrella, aimed at “making walking in the rain fun” by incorporating a camera and a screen, so that you can both take and view pictures…of rain. And if you don’t want to buy a ready-made project, here’s a couple of tutorials (this one, and this) so that you can make your own internet-connected umbrella.

All of these pale beside the Hong Kong version, UmbrellaHere, which incorporates a social dimension – it lights up when you offer to share it with a stranger, and it tracks your trips and your shares. A leaderboard must be coming, surely?

Sadly, none of them seem to have incorporated a Big Data element. After all, if Fujitsu can propose collecting data from cars’ windscreens, then why not use those umbrella-based moisture detectors to track weather patterns?

If the umbrella doesn’t fly, how about an internet enabled toilet? I’d talked with friends about a connected urinal that would do random drug tests on urine samples so as to monitor the incidence of drug-taking (and various medical conditions, if the money was there). Naturally, I was pissed off to discover that this had already been done, and in London where I live.

Well, perhaps the concept could be extended from public toilets to workplace ones, which could identify the person who was the source of the sample and tag the drug test results to specific individuals.

There might be a few privacy concerns, but nothing that a waiver couldn’t sort out. You could do even do a North American version linked to law enforcement, a Northern European version linked to counselling placement, and a liberalised version linked to promotions and offers.

But the internet enabled toilet, or smart pipe, is already the subject of the best IoT spoof ever, this one. There’s also a semi-serious discussion in Wired. And once again, reality has overtaken spoof.

Japan has long been the home of the smart toilet (I’ve actually used one – the electrically heated seat, and the automatic spray-wash and air dry in place of paper, and the incomprehensible set of controls were all less of a surprise than the carefully folded rack of reading material on the back of the door) but this article shows that using connected toilets for diagnostics is already in progress.

So I give up. There is no idea so ridiculous that someone isn’t already doing it, and raising funds on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

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