Ian Pilon holding a computerchip

Ian Pilon, founder of the Internet of Things Waterloo meetup group,
is one of the organizers of the Ambient Intelligence conference
Aug. 20. (Photo: Anthony Reinhart for news.communitech.ca)

For normal people, summer means taking their foot off the gas pedal and slipping on a pair of flip-flops.

For tech people, it’s a non-stop, full-on race to the future – and it’s a future increasingly dominated by the Internet of Things (IoT), the vast and fast-growing online network of sensor-equipped devices (about 8.7 billion at the moment).

While others are checking out and heading for the cottage, a committed band of volunteers is hard at work organizing Ambient Intelligence, a one-day conference scheduled for Aug. 20 at the Tannery Event Centre here in Waterloo Region.

The event promises to take a close and nuanced look at IoT and its implications, not just for everyday life, but for liberty and personal privacy.

I caught up recently with Ian Pilon and Emile McLean, two of the people heading up preparations for Ambient Intelligence, to talk about why this conference is a must-attend for people in, or merely interested in, the Waterloo Region tech community.

“Connections make us human. They give us a sense of belonging, community, and togetherness,” McLean said. “The Ambient Intelligence conference will explore setting up distributed IoT networks in emerging markets, smart cities (intelligent traffic systems), the importance of quality RF antennas, moral and ethical questions surrounding IoT applications, and security concerns.”

Pilon and McLean then offered this list of five specific reasons to mark Aug. 20 on your calendar and come to the conference:

Networking – Ambient Intelligence is an opportunity to share and grow your knowledge of ubiquitous computing with local leaders in IoT technologies. You don’t need a background in technology, just a curious mind.

Education – IoT is about more than connecting your toaster to the cloud or having your coffee maker automatically start in the morning. It’s about creating seamless human experiences by bringing people together and improving lives.

Guest speakers – A group of intelligent, motivated, and successful people will share their experiences. You’ll be able to learn from them, share with them and motivate each other.

Startup panel – Four future leaders will talk about the ups and downs of operating a small startup. See what’s at the forefront of IoT technology from people at the frontline.

IoT Waterloo – Your hosts for the day. In less than a year IoT Waterloo has grown to almost 900 members in the community. If you’ve been to the meetups, you’ve experienced the atmosphere of learning and community that will be a big part of the conference.

Tickets for Ambient Intelligence are on sale for the earlybird price of $160 until July 30. After that date, the cost will be $220.

Now, how to connect these flip-flops to the Internet...

Anthony Reinhart is Communitech’s Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer. View from the ‘Loo looks at the issues, people and events that shape Waterloo Region’s technology sector.