A new coffee maker hitting stores for the holidays can display real-time weather data, using a "smart objects" technology that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has been touting for years.
The $200 Melitta Smart Mill & Brew, made by Salton Inc., (SFP) takes advantage of a wireless-data system built by Microsoft to automatically display current weather conditions and forecasts.
This concept — imbuing everyday objects with the ability to deliver at-a-glance information — has been in the works at Microsoft since at least 2000.
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Chairman Bill Gates highlighted the "Smart Personal Objects Technology" (SPOT) in his keynote at the Comdex trade show in 2002, calling it part of a seminal shift in computing that would soon make a mark.
In practice, though, making SPOT run has been laborious. To shoot real-time data to household gadgets, Microsoft and partner companies had to design a mini-operating system and power-friendly microchips for them. It also set up a nationwide wireless data system using the FM radio spectrum.
The first SPOT-infused products, watches from three companies that offered real-time news and other information, hit the market in 2004, followed by a home weather gadget from Oregon Scientific Inc.
That makes the coffee maker just the third kind of item to deploy the technology.
But Eric Lang, who manages the SPOT initiative, said the project "is on a roll now."
Microsoft has simplified the process by which gadget makers can add SPOT to products, and several are due to be announced in coming months.
"It's clear this is where technology is going, there's no doubt about it," Lang said. "It might be a little before its time for mainstream America, but it's absolutely where things are going."