Think back 15 years ago, if you are old enough to remember, when the internet was in its infancy and the possibilities endless. The possibilities still may be endless, but the world has changed. The internet, as a technological backbone, has changed our every day lives in ways we never could have imagined in 1999. The companies who were first to embrace the internet are the ones who are leaders in today’s business world.
Here we are, almost a decade and a half removed from that time, and there are two areas in technology which could be just as, if not more promising than that of the internet. One is the ‘Internet of Things,’ promising to connect billions, if not eventually trillions of everyday objects to the net and ultimately one another. The second is 3D printing, which has the capability of transcending the current methods of manufacturing, with an entirely new paradigm of making. There are billions being spent in both these areas, preparing for the next wave of explosive technology progress.
One company who is embracing both 3D printing and the Internet of Things is General Electric. Earlier this week, we discussed their FirstBuild microfactory, a platform used to harness the powers of the crowd in order to design, engineer and build the next generation of home appliances.
One of the first products offered by FirstBuild was unveiled this week, called Green Bean. For just $19.95, anyone can purchase this tiny green module, which has the capability to control many of your appliances. With an intermediate level of programming skills, one can essentially hack their normal GE appliances, making them smart appliances. Do you want to be able to control your oven temperature from your tablet or phone? How about check on the wash cycle of your dishwasher from afar? All this is possible and more, with the Green Bean module. The module will come with a software developer kit, and the complete instructions on how to program the device can be found on Github.
General Electric isn’t stopping there though. The green bean module itself, which is basically an unprotected circuit board, should have its own enclosure. Firstbuild does not provide such an enclosure, instead they offer a link to Thingiverse to download a 3D printable case for the Green Bean Module. Of course, you don’t have to print the particular enclosure provided by FirstBuild, as you could always use the basic open source design as a starting point in creating your own.
What this project does, is provide the bare-bones hardware necessary to turn dumb appliances smart, for a price which nearly anyone can afford to pay. It’s up to the consumer to dress up this device, both from a coding sense, and a 3D printing sense. It will be interesting to see what else comes out of the FirstBuild initiative, and how 3D printing will be incorpoarted into the future of GE’s home appliance ecosystem
Let us know if you have purchased a Green Bean module. Feel free to post your opinions, as well as any customized 3D printed enclosures you may create for this device, in the 3D printed Green Bean forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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