Before I really turned to technical journalism, I was a software developer. My first college internship was at a data science startup, where I spent my summer writing scrapers and learning how to turn chunky HTML tables into elegant spreadsheets ready for analysis. And although I do not write much code these days, handling data is still dizzy. This ethos has had a strange impact on my career as a journalist.
I am open to open systems. If I can control my own data with an app or a physical product, I'm much more likely to see it better. This is in equal parts the product of a Stallman-like philosophy, but also because I am a nerd at heart. I like to make things.
In this sense, you should get to know the WiCub 2. With this small device you can measure the air quality in your bedroom or office. It has a small e-ink screen that shows the relevant details such as temperature, humidity, pressure and air quality. If your room is particularly stuffy, it will trigger you to open the window with an unfortunate emoji. It's after all 201
The WiCub 2 is a touch bigger than a box of raisins. It comes with a 40-day battery. Connect to your home network and receive a regular update email or provide the data via a JSON interface. Although there is no complete API, you probably do not need one. It's very easy to integrate the data into your own application. The only two components you need are a file download (like Python's Requests library) and a parsing of the JSON data.
At £ 100 (about $ 125, give or take the Brexit news cycle), this is slightly more expensive than the more powerful Airthings Wave Mini, which can detect potentially harmful substances like radon. It's also not tied to a cloud service that may not exist in a few years.
In general, I'm pretty cynical about the Internet of Things. I'm worried about the vanishingly short life of most devices. I do not like how someone can flip a switch and disable people's expensive computer gadgets like Google did with Revolv. It's hard for me to understand how smart devices in a technology landscape populated with open standards have a shorter lifespan than their "stupid" counterparts.
But then I see things like the WiCub 2 and realize that there is a better, more sustainable way to do IoT. And all this in order to give users as much control as possible while at the same time separating them from complicated and short-lived cloud services.
I should note that I used the previous model. Mesh-Net, the developer, emailed me around 2017, though I have not come to terms with writing a full review yet. You can attribute that to the frenzied madness of the marriage. That said, I remember that I was clearly impressed by the device.
The follow-up, WiCub 2, is currently being funded by Crowdfunding on IndieGogo. If you're tempted to support the project and purchase a device, you can do so here – but with the compulsory warning that crowdfunding campaigns are always at risk of ringing in your ears. Reviews follow. Plugged on
Published on October 21, 2019 – 23:36 UTC
Product WiCub2 by Mesh-Net