Summary:

The internet of things may be largely about connecting everyday objects, but who says design shouldn’t be a major focus? Not Berg and Benetton, who are partnering up on an Italian R&D facility called Sandbox.

littleprinter

Remember Little Printer, the cute connected gadget we reported on about 18 months back? It’s a great collision of old and new: a thermal printer that can push out everything from news snippets to Foursquare check-ins – the kind of stuff you’d normally look at fleetingly on your mobile phone, in updated-retro paper form.

Well, a month ago the creator, Berg London, pivoted from its original incarnation as a design house to become a product-focused firm, looking to develop devices to run on its Berg Cloud platform and inviting other developers to do the same. And now the company has stepped up that latter ambition by teaming up with the Benetton Group’s Fabrica communication research center to launch Sandbox, a new R&D facility for developing connected products and services.

Not many R&D facilities run out of a 17th-century Italian villa, but Sandbox will. According to a statement, the facilities in Treviso will be used to prototype “connected objects, spaces and experiences” – just the sort of language you’d expect to hear from such design-centric companies.

Here’s how Fabrica CEO Dan Hill described the Sandbox mission:

“Sandbox is a unique opportunity for Fabrica’s researchers to imagine and prototype how these new connected objects and spaces will begin to radically change the way we live, work, play, organise and communicate. Going beyond the hype around ‘smart cities’ and Internet of Things, we are layering these technologies over our wonderful building to create a unique, open demonstrator – to help both us and our clients understand what it truly means to live and work with these exciting possibilities.”

I’m not sure centuries-old villas restored and expanded by star architects (Tadao Ando, since you ask) are the best representations of normal people’s living or working environments, but it sure does look like a nice place to do R&D:

Fabrica

Berg and Benetton are just the founding partners: more will be added in the summer, they say. Everything that comes out of this luxurious collaboration space will use Berg Cloud, however.

There are quite a few of these platforms gearing up at the moment, all of which aim to make it easier for people to create new types of connected, everyday devices. One of the biggest looks to be LogMeIn’s Xively platform, which counts the muscular ARM as a partner as of earlier this week, but there are other smaller efforts also underway, such as those from Carriots and Electric Imp. This is a very new field, though, so there’s every chance that different internet-of-things platforms will attract different types of developers.

I think it’s fair to say the more design-minded among those developers now know where to look as they prepare to invent the connected future. If you’re interested in design and the connected future, make sure to check out our RoadMap event in San Francisco in November. Tickets will go on sale this Summer, but you can sign up to be one of the first to get access to those here.

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