An IoT-Enabled Children’s Book from a Rockstar Inventor
The humans don't know, it is probably better that way
They are glued to their devices all night and all day.
Smart homes, bluetooth, and the internet of things,
everything is connected these days… so it seems.
If Dr. Seuss wrote a book about the Internet of Things, he could have come up with prose similar to the lines above. But he likely wouldn’t have thought to incorporate NFC tags on the pages of the book to help make the story more engaging.
Lisa Seacat DeLuca, however, is no mere Dr. Seuss. The author of a new children’s book titled “Internet of Mysterious Things,” Deluca also happens to be the most prolific female inventor in IBM’s history, with over 600 patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The book, which opens with the four lines above, is “probably one of the nerdiest children’s books,” DeLuca says in a Kickstarter video for the book. “I like to say it is a children’s book with a touch of technology.”
She came up with the idea for the story after noticing that her kids—two sets of twins—were asking questions about the Internet of Things. “I have IoT stuff all over the house, and my kids were asking me: ‘how does it work,” DeLuca says, who is a Technology Strategist and Software Engineer for the IBM Commerce, Cognitive Incubation Lab.
In her book, DeLuca takes some license in explaining how IoT technologies ranging from activity trackers to connected security alarms work, enlisting the help of unicorns, leprechauns, and zombies to assist in the storytelling. “I wanted the book to be really fun to keep kids engaged,” DeLuca says.
Related: The 25 Most Influential Women in IoT
The idea for the story itself was born when DeLuca was at a tech conference and observed that nearly everyone was staring at their phones when exiting the event. “They were literally bumping into each other,” she recalls.
She began work on the story shortly after that. “I came up with the first page about the humans not knowing about this alternative world [of the Internet of Things] because we are so into our phones and the story came together.”
DeLuca hooked up with an illustrator, Adam Record, who had worked on a children’s book for her sister, Sara Crow. Titled “Even Superheroes Have to Sleep,” Crow’s book was picked up by Penguin Random House.
As an illustrator, Record has worked on more than 50 children's books and companies like Disney, Harpercollins, and Penguin Books. In about a year, the artist had completed the drawings. DeLuca employed the help of the illustrator for her first self-published children’s book, Constantine Petkun, from Latvia to create animations that launch in an app when tapping a mobile phone over the NFC tags located throughout the book. DeLuca compares the concept to a living book you might find in the Harry Potter series: “Each page can come to life through the help of the NFC tags, but it’s not like you are holding a tablet; it’s a real book,” DeLuca explains.
For now, the procedure for adding NFC tags to the book is low tech. “I manually take the tags and stick them on every page,” DeLuca says. “If the book becomes super popular and I raise a ton of money, I am sure I can find a printer that can embed the tags.”
When asked about the goals of the book, DeLuca said she had a couple: “I wanted to provide a way for children and their parents to learn together how common everyday technologies work,” she says. “And I hoped to use technology in a counterintuitive way that suggests we periodically put down our devices, so we don't miss out on our real lives.”
Ultimately, it is hard for a conventional book to compete against a smart device for our attention. The “Internet of Mysterious Things,” however, is unique, says Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium.co. “There is no other book like this on the market currently,” McCleary says. “When I read the book, I was struck by how Lisa lures us in willingly with her whimsical prose paired with equally entertaining illustrations, but at the same time she is offering us a more in-depth real-world explanation of complicated technology through her NFC tags and webpages devoted to fun facts and further, more-educational instruction.”
McCleary says that Lisa’s role in technology makes her uniquely qualified to write a book like this. “Lisa is such a perfect person to deliver these nuggets of wisdom as she comes from a place of authenticity, both as a mother and a leader in technology,” she says. “I actually know a lot of adults who could use this information to understand the Internet of Things, better and I hope her book is folded into early childhood education. It needs to be on every public library’s shelves.”