Useless IoT Products and how they’re paving the wayAugust 1st, 2016
by Andrew Bell
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the idea that the majority of machines will soon be connected and communicating to one another via the internet. This will be achieved through embedded or wearable devices that collect and share data in order to analyse and optimise processes so that individual’s lives are made more convenient and efficient.
Since the introduction of the phrase in 1999, the popular notion has brought with it a degree of backlash however, with some critics questioning the validity of the concept. On the back of this, a series of humorous websites have emerged to expose some of the weaker attempts to build this ambitious ecosystem. Websites such as weputachipinit.tumblr.com and the satirical internetofuselessthings.io are worth a visit if you have the urge to explore curiously useless and naff connected technology.
Some of the more memorable examples include the smart water bottle, smart socks and even the smart toilet seat. While some would site these products as signs of weakness in the IoT’s mission statement, arguably these products are actually central to its progress and development.
What could be the upside to the release of experimental products such as the notorious smart fridge or dishwasher? These products lead the way in shaping the tech market, providing a better sense of what the Internet of Things should aim to achieve whilst bringing into greater relief what it shouldn’t bother with.
Ever since it first hit the consumer market in 2000, the smart fridge has clearly lacked vitality as an IoT product, inconveniently requiring its users to log in and register the items being cooled. There is also a serious lack of autonomy throughout this process, with the fridge relying on the user to input the category of each item by hand. Sure, your food might be better organised, and you might be able to remotely order certain items at the touch of a button, but do you really want to go through with this onerous process in the first place? Of course not.
Indeed, a good IoT product is one that brings a greater degree of convenience, autonomy or efficiency to an everyday situation or process. For example, IoT home lighting systems bring greater convenience and autonomy to the home by centralising all lights and activating, deactivating and dimming them remotely or by pre-programmed specifications.
The impact of this is both big and small – the security implications of this are notable, as you can give the impression of being home even when you’re not. Where the IoT shines however is the way in which it can remove everyday minor inconveniences such as switching on and off your lights. You can build a routine and simply don’t have to think about this minor task any longer.
It’s a small example, but when you have a series of IoT products taking care of minor tasks such as this, life is made more convenient, discreetly giving you have more time and mental space for whatever it is you actually want to do. In this way, the Internet of Things is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Perhaps then we shouldn’t be so harsh on the smart sock or smart water bottle. What we’re witnessing is simply the marketplace going through its own usual process of natural selection, wherein vital IoT products are continuously being distinguished from the forgettable ones. And so, just as Edison famously found 1000 ways not to invent the lightbulb, perhaps these inventions are helpfully showing us exactly how we should and shouldn’t aspire to a higher state of connectivity.
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