The Internet of Silly Things

10 Nov 2014

As featured on the DisruptiveViews blog

Great leaps in technology seem to coincide with great leaps in human stupidity. In the search for the next big thing, the killer app or the technology breakthrough that will make all our lives easier we manage to come up with the most ridiculous things and pretend they may, one day, be of use.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has already attracted more than its fair share of weird concepts considering its relatively young age. Like lemmings to the cliff edge, appliance companies vying to be innovative or ‘hip’ are inflicting some ridiculous concepts onto an unsuspecting market. Sadly though, there will probably be enough rich show-offs to take the bait, but in the long-term you have to ask – why?

For example, why would anyone fork out hard-earned money on a refrigerator that has a touch-screen in the door and talks to you? The excuses for such frivolity include it being an ‘ideal’ assistant for looking up recipes on the internet, including an automated system that could read barcodes as goods are put in, warn of impending use-by dates and order replacement stock online without you ever having to put pen to paper for a shopping list. Its most useful purpose, however, will probably be as a photo frame.

But it gets better! Whirlpool has released a washer and dryer that can be controlled remotely by an app on a mobile phone. It even sends you a message when the clothes are done just in case you forget you put them in there in the first place. Unfortunately, the technology has yet been developed to place the dirty clothes in the washer and transfer them to the dryer then iron them and place them neatly back in the wardrobe. Now that would be cool but not as cool as finding lost socks that will have RFID tags attached.

You can already open and close your garage door from your phone but if you do it whilst driving your car you will probably get fined. You can also control your home heating and cooling, hot water systems and lock or unlock your front door remotely, but why would you need to when you can set the thermostat and timers to do all of that already and keep the door keys under a rock?

Maybe smart garden sprinklers will find a market coming on when the ground is dry and knowing when restrictions are in place. Maybe even an advanced robot mower that comes out when the grass is long, or one of those robot vacuum cleaners that senses when dust levels have reached your predetermined limit and empty themselves when the bag fills.

All these brilliant human aids will need to be connected to be effective and then they could fall foul of those evil hackers or mischief makers that might find it fun to trash your house while you at work by making them do things they shouldn’t.

Regardless of the risks, the question that needs to be asked is do we really need to have every single appliance, device, vehicle, aircon system, even whole homes and buildings connected? Or are we just looking for excuses to sell new technology and services that may serve no purpose whatsoever?

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