Imagine you walk into a room and stand in a digital world

We live in an increasingly digital world, instead of a primarily analogue one. Years ago, in the beginnings of the Internet, people used to distinguish between the “real life” – meaning the analogue one – and the digital life.

Today, we don’t really make these distinctions anymore. Today, we live in an analogue world as well as in a digital one. Our two worlds have merged into one holistic experience. Instead of the “real life” we were concerned about 5 years ago,  “augmented reality” and “internet of things” are the new buzzwords. Take Flatout for example – a project designing smart homes.

In a smart home you control your household devices via an app on your phone. Formerly analogue things like lights, heaters or doors are operated by your digital device. This way, when you enter your home, you are not in a purely analogue space anymore.

smart home flatout

A Smart Home Solution. Source:

We have asked the Flatout founders Daniel Marischka, Manuel Mager and Christian Passet to give us their perspective on the Internet of Things, data protection and the space where the analogue world meets the digital one.

Q: What’s the idea behind Flatout?

A: Our mission is to make life more comfortable, secure and energy-efficient by connecting devices with each other and make them accessible to their users.

Q: What exactly is your business?

A: Flatout is an all-in-one smart home provider, which means that we are building the operating system as well as the apps for the system. As we are developing an Operating System for Smart Buildings that connects analog devices like a light wall switch to your mobile phone, one could say that we are providing a kind of a gateway between the analogue and the digital world.

Q: Which kind of data are you working with?

A: Obviously, every device (sensor, actuator, camera) is sending different data. We analyse the signals of the devices and forward it to the users’ mobile phones. Furthermore, users can define actions that will be triggered once specific devices are sending signals. This can be used to automate the home, for example, if a sensor detects a water leakage, it sends a notification to the user’s mobile phone.

Q: What is the Internet of Things?

A: In short, the Internet of Things, or IoT, is a network among devices. Devices can be sensors, which are providing information like the current temperature, or actuators, that are controlling something. Through the IoT those devices are able to communicate with each other and their environments in order to fulfill their purpose. Applications can range from the automation of the coffee machine to broader topics like connected cars or robotics.

Q: You are gathering quite a huge amount of data. Are you afraid of being hacked?

A: First of all, I guess that every IT company needs to realize there are people trying their best to hack into software. In every IoT solution, much data has to be processed, the challenge is how this data is handled. Flatout encrypts the communication between the devices, as well as, the communication between the devices and the user’s mobile phones. Furthermore, our system supports offline-functionality. That means that the data, like pictures from the camera, is stored at the users’ premises. The offline-feature allows full access to the Smart Homes functionality without having the system plugged to the Internet.

Q: IoT specialist Sam Rehman said at this years Semantics conference: “Imagine you walk into a room and your device responds to thousands of sensors and suddenly you stand in a digital world.” How could the future look like?

A: At the moment we are just scratching the surface. We can expect more smart solutions to come. Connecting things is just the first step. Soon you will be able to talk to your environment, it will react to your movements, it will learn from your behavior, in order to make life more comfortable for you.

Q: Are there other projects that merge the analogue world with the digital world that have inspired you?

A: The IoT has many different applications, that are all interesting, as they can disrupt established industries. This ranges from Connected Cars to Robotics, as well as, Smart Grids that will be used in the Smart City of the Future. Personally, I am amazed by the self-driving car of Tesla. The sensors are seamlessly integrated into the car’s body – it looks great and it just works.



Header image credits royalty free

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About Verena Ehrnberger

Verena works as a data privacy legal expert and studies philosophy at the University of Vienna. Always juggling multiple projects, she is seriously addicted to coffee.

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