The Master of Internet-things
Saving your $$$$ the technological way
‘Imagine your table telling you: “You’ve been eating too much”’ or “go easy on the wine!” Or your chair saying: You’ve been sitting down for three hours. Time to get up and move.’”
As I’m picturing the rather disconcerting scenario of my own furniture lecturing me, I am actually sitting on said chair. On the table, blissfully silent for the time being, is my green notebook, also quiet.
And across the table animated Italian Walter Colitti, founder and CEO of www.Modosmart.com, continues explaining how, within three or four years, the toilet, lamps, everything, will be shouting commands and telling me off.
‘Your fridge will tell you when you need to get more milk, and…’ Stop, I get it. A futuristic nightmare, mere weeks from now. ‘It’s called the Internet of Things’ he says.
Yes, even I have heard of that. The Internet of Nanny State, more like. But… so soon? And what do I do to shut it up?
We can’t stop technology
‘… but that’s not what I do,’ Colitti reassures me.
‘I deal with something more useful, namely a remote control especially for air conditioning units, aimed at the Airbnb or smaller hotel market.’
Relief! I know that the Internet of Things is coming, okay, already here, and that all my electronic gadgets are listening to me, writing down everything I do and say in a little book. But I don’t want my shower curtain, or bed, or lamps to rat on me. Not yet. Not ever.
On the other hand, a thing where you can turn off the air con in your guest room without actually going in, now that sounds like a genius idea. How does it work?
‘So your typical guests in an Airbnb or other small rented accommodation will often leave the air conditioning on all day while they are out gallivanting on the beach. It could be because they are thoughtless and just forget, or because they think they have paid for the room so they can do whatever they like – either way, you’re stuck with a huge electricity bill’ he explains.
‘But with the Modosmart device you can turn the air con on – cooling or heating -and off when it suits you. And this is the coolest thing: The device will actually detect when the room is empty, and switch the air con off by itself! After a suitable amount of time, naturally. You can also just set it to go on and off automatically at a certain time, or adjust it manually. Turn it on ten minutes before your guests come back, and they’ll never know the unit hasn’t been blowing 11 degrees all day. Everybody’s happy. Oh, and of course the device can be operated from your phone. To all intents and purposes, it’s an app.’
Briliant! I wish I had had that device when I lived in Hong Kong and ran my own little airbnb room downstairs in my house. Standing outside the guest room, I could feel the polar gusts from the air con, set on minus freezing, on my toes from under the door. I knew the tenants were out and wouldn’t be back for hours, but felt I couldn’t just go in and turn off the unit. This was a dilemma taking up much of my time. So this genius device/app sounds like an idea that every short term rental host on the island will buy into?
‘Yes, that’s what we thought, ‘ Colitti agrees. The other person in “we” is Ettore Giuliani, Walter’s business partner and friend. Giuliani lives in Madrid and is in charge of the production part of things. Walter is doing research and marketing, a task he is well placed for, seeing he has lived in Mallorca for the last six years and his wife is Mallorquin.
‘I love Mallorca! In fact, I feel half Mallorquin,’ the Italian enthuses. ‘Palma is so international, and it’s easy to set up a business here. The quality of life is great and I feel integrated in my wife’s family,’ says Colitti, who met his wife in Brussels when they were both on a EU scholarship called Erasmus to do a thesis.
‘This scholarship changed my life,’ he recalls ‘I just wanted to travel and live abroad for a while, but after I got my MES (master in engineering sciences) specialising in telecommunications, I stayed on as a researcher. It was a good life, travelling the world for work conferences. After that I became a consultant doing research and development for the EU government. That was also a good job, but I wanted something that was my own.
Your t-shirt will know your heart rate and tell you when there’s something wrong…
I thought I had to invent some kind of break-through technology, or build something based on what’s already there. This was right at the time when the world moved from fiber optics to wireless, and I had the idea, or rather, realised the need for, something that could help vacation rental properties and small hotels save money on their electricity bill.‘
Walter and Giuliani met in Madrid four or five years ago and found each other in their mutual interest in the Internet of Things, for which Colitti appears to have a fondness I cannot quite share.
‘Think about it! Your t-shirt will know your heart rate and tell you when there’s something wrong…’ he muses.
When I argue that my t-shirt, were I ever to wear such an inelegant garment, should mind its own business, he points out that we allow a guy at the bank to know everything about our expenses, and Amazon employees to know our credit card number.
‘Look, we can’t stop technology’, he insists. ‘Anything can be used and abused, and there is always a collateral effect to every new innovation. We need to educate people how to use and benefit from technology,‘ says Colliti, who enjoys the freedom of being an entrepreneur.
‘I just wish that in the beginning I had thought more about finding the market first and then developing the product, because the market teaches you about the product,’ he smiles. ‘But it’s all good; the product is helpful and good for the environment.’
I agree! And after a year of paying my electricity bills here in Mallorca, I sincerely hope he goes on to invent other money-savers too. Forget about my t-shirt blathering on about my heart rate; I want my wallet to tell me it’s bursting with health.