Usually Tom Sarris, Electric Imp’s communications chief, jots down these short introductions to new Electric Imp team members. But since I’m Electric Imp’s new Technical Writer, it’s perhaps more appropriate that I write to tell you who I am and why I’m really excited to be joining the company.

Until recently I was a technology journalist. For the past 25 years – it sounds much, much longer if you say, ‘a quarter of a century’ – I’ve been covering technology issues and products for a variety of consumer and trade publications in the UK. At the end of the 1990s, I became one of the first writers to join The Register, one of the most popular online tech publications with IT pros in the UK and abroad, and it had been my professional home since then.

Until now. When the opportunity to join Electric Imp arose, I didn’t hesitate. I’ve had my eye on the Internet of Things for a while but for so long it lacked one of five essential components needed to make it a reality. Three of them we have: widespread broadband Internet connectivity, wireless local networks that anyone can install and use, and, in the smartphone, a convenient, connected platform for accessing devices and services on this wider network.

Smartphones have been around for many years, but it took the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 to start making them as ubiquitous as broadband and WiFi had already become. Now we come to the fourth component: the platform. Sure, there are many Internet connectable and controllable devices on the market now, but they are islands: app-and-gadget combos that exist in isolation from others of their kind.

These are early days for Internet of Things, and consumers are just beginning to get a sense of what is possible. But what happens when they have really taken to the technology: are they going to want 30 different phone apps to monitor and control 30 different devices? That integration can only begin to happen when a common, standard platform emerges – the Internet of Things equivalent of Intel’s x86 instruction set, which paved the way for the standardisation of the personal computer – and the ARM architecture, which has done the same thing for mobile devices.

That platform, I believe, is here. It’s Electric Imp.

There are alternatives. From the maker world, there are products like the Arduino family, the Beaglebone and the Raspberry Pi. These are great devices; I use them in my own projects, from hosting iBeacons to building USB keyboards out of old 1980s home micros. But none yet offer the same mix of Internet-ready hardware, web integration, non-techie suitability and commercial friendliness that Electric Imp’s tech does.

For me, Electric Imp makes for a fine opportunity to get my hands dirty with the coal and iron ore of what’s being called “the second industrial revolution”, rather than watch and comment from the sidelines. And to work with some of the brightest brains in the business: software experts in Britain’s Silicon Fen, and hardware masterminds and entrepreneurial wizards in Silicon Valley. A day doesn’t go past without a Wayne’s World ‘We’re not worthy!’ moment.

As a wordsmith rather than a boffin (British slang for a scientist, engineer, or the like – ed.), I’ll be working on new, improved documentation for the imp, its software APIs and its Squirrel scripting language. My goal is to make Electric Imp’s technical library as easy to understand and as accessible to all as BlinkUp makes getting imps online.

I’m glad to be here to help the Internet of Things happen, to make what Electric Imp offers of value to everyone – makers and non-techies alike – and excited to be a part of defining it all.

Tony Smith
Technical Writer