As a kid you have wondered how the heck the refrigerator knew to shut off the light when the door closed. Was there a little gnome in there whose sole purpose was to monitor this? And where did he go when the door opened? If your parents were jerks, maybe this myth was perpetuated for far too long, when they could have just pointed out the push button on the door frame.
Our world is exponentially more complicated and automated now than when you grew up, even if you can't rent a car yet, and it's all connected by the Internet of Things, the midichlorians of the machine world. The only constant is that kids ask questions--constantly. Imagine trying to explain to a four-year-old how you can control your fridge now from your phone, or how you can command your AI personal assistant to turn on the air-conditioning or play music.
IBM's most prolific female inventor, software engineer Lisa Seacat DeLuca, did. The result was a colorful book full of yeti, leprechauns and fairies who run our machines behind-the scenes. It doesn't just teach kids about IoT. It is IoT, because the included NFC stickers allow parents to interact with the book via a smart device.
Lisa Seacat DeLuca
|While reading The Internet of Mysterious Things, you can use your smart device to access animated content on educational material about IoT, or let them believe the world is controlled by monsters.
Photo: Lisa Seacat DeLuca
"The Internet of Mysterious Things is probably one of the nerdiest children's books," says DeLuca, who launched the book on Kickstarter in late January. "I like to say it's the children's book with a touch of technology, because you can tap on the hidden creatures on each page to launch more information about the story."
So now your kids will think an invisible man controls your Nest thermostat and a diligent fairy inhabits your Amazon Echo...until you go online and get the real story, distilled for a younger audience by one of the world's foremost authorities of software engineering, and busiest mothers, with two sets of twins.
DeLuca previously wrote A Robot Story: Learn to Count to Ten in Binary in 2013, also a Kickstarter project. So far, The Internet of Mysterious Things is two-thirds funded with 25 days to go. the early bird price is $30, or $45 for both books. For $5,000, DeLuca will come to any continental U.S. classroom to deliver 30 books and speak about computer science careers.
The book won't ship until May 2017, but tech gurus are already lading praise on DeLuca.
"DeLuca explains all the modern technology around us in a child-friendly, consumable way that still keeps the most important thing intact--the mystery of technology. In our STEM challenged age, a must read for parents who realize technology is important to their kids." -- Holger Mueller, VP & Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
"I love this book! The Suess-like phrasing, rhyming couplets, give the information on the Internet of Things personality and make the descriptions more child-friendly." -- Marsha Collier, Author and Futurist
Lisa Secat DeLuca
|Ten Near Field Communication (NFC) tags with a 13.56 MHz frequency, NTAG213, and are custom printed on the front to blend in as a hidden creature on each page, author Lisa Seacat DeLuca says.
Photo: Lisa Seacat DeLuca
Because the books are linked to the the Internet via the NFC tags, more information can be added on as IoT creeps into more of our world.
"As technologies evolve the content will to," DeLuca says.
While DeLuca knows how vital it is to teach kids about the emerging smart machines that could total 30 billion by 2021, she makes known on her Kickstarter page how much more important it is to keep your kids' heads in the real world, not the cloud.
"The story ends by giving us a glimpse into the future and encouraging everyone to look up from our devices so we don’t miss out on these amazing creatures right in front of our eyes," she writes.