From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spime is a neologism for a futuristic object, characteristic to the Internet of Things,[1] that can be tracked through space and time throughout its lifetime.[2] They are essentially virtual master objects that can, at various times, have physical incarnations of themselves.[1][3] An object can be considered a spime when all of its essential information is stored in the cloud.[4] Bruce Sterling sees spimes as coming through the convergence of six emerging technologies, related to both the manufacturing process for consumer goods, and through identification and location technologies. Depending on context, the term "spime" can refer to both—the archetype, as designed by the developer, or a user-specific instance of it.


The term spime was coined for this concept by author Bruce Sterling. It is a contraction of "space" and "time", and was probably first used in a large public forum by Sterling at SIGGRAPH Los Angeles, August 2004.[4] The idea was further expanded upon in his book Shaping Things.[2] Since, the use of the term by researchers and in industry has grown.[5][6][7]


The six facets of spimes are:[8]

  1. Small, inexpensive means of remotely and uniquely identifying objects over short ranges; for example radio-frequency identification.
  2. A mechanism to precisely locate something on Earth, such as a global-positioning system.
  3. A way to mine large amounts of data for things that match some given criteria, like internet search engines.
  4. Tools to virtually construct nearly any kind of object; computer-aided design.
  5. Ways to rapidly prototype virtual objects into real ones. Sophisticated, automated fabrication of a specification for an object, through “three-dimensional printers.”
  6. "Cradle-to-cradle" life-spans for objects. Cheap, effective recycling.

With all six of these, one could track the entire existence of an object, from before it was made (its virtual representation), through its manufacture, its ownership history, its physical location, until its eventual obsolescence and breaking-down back into raw material to be used for new instantiations of objects. If recorded, the lifetime of the object can be archived and queried.

Spimes are not defined merely by these six technologies; rather, if these technologies converge within the manufacturing process then spimes could indeed arise. Due to physical limitations and cost-effectiveness, objects that perform similar functions to a spime but exist in a heterogeneous ecosystem where some of their spime-like functionality is performed by and/or shared with other entities may be precursors to spimes. For example, integrating a GPS receiver into every object is currently impractical because of size, power, and cost, among other reasons, but a base station that provides location services for one or many nearby devices may be more practical.[8]

See also[edit]

Similar terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thomas, Sue (2006). "The End of Cyberspace and Other Surprises" (PDF). Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 12 (4): 383–391. doi:10.1177/1354856506068316. S2CID 62537041. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Sterling, Bruce (2005). Shaping Things. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-69326-4. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved June 3, 2014. A SPIME is, by definition, the protagonist of a documented process. It is an historical entity with an accessible, precise trajectory through space and time.
  3. ^ Maciag, Timothy; Daryl H. Hepting (2010). "Constructing Collaborative Online Communities for Visualizing Spimes" (PDF). 2010 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology. Retrieved June 3, 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b Sterling, Bruce (August 2004). When Blobjects Rule the Earth (Speech). SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  5. ^ Bonanni, Leonardo; Vargas, Greg; Chao, Neil; Pueblo, Stephen; Ishii, Hiroshi (2009-01-01). "Spime builder". Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction. TEI '09. New York, NY, USA: ACM. pp. 263–266. doi:10.1145/1517664.1517719. ISBN 9781605584935. S2CID 43426486.
  6. ^ "BaseN". www.basen.net. Retrieved 2017-01-14.
  7. ^ Sterling, Bruce. "Spime Watch: way, way beyond the Internet of Things". WIRED. Retrieved 2017-01-14.
  8. ^ a b Delaney, Kieran (2009). Ambient Intelligence with Microsystems - Springer. Microsystems. Vol. 18. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-46264-6. ISBN 978-0-387-46263-9.

External links[edit]