Writing in Forbes (a few years ago), Theo Priestley threw cold water on the “Internet of Things” craze:
This time last year Gartner said that by 2022 a typical family home, in a mature affluent market, could contain several hundred smart objects by 2022. Several hundred. […]
But if we examine the market as it is today apathy is rife because the current trend by OEM companies is to “stick a chip in it” in order to connect it to the internet, without any real value to the consumer. In fact, the only ones getting excited by the Internet of Things are the vendors.
Take Samsung’s offerings at the recent IFA exhibition. Samsung now have a new SmartThings hub to connect the many devices in your home. There were examples like;
- The smart oven that waited for you to be on your way home before starting to heat your dinner.
- The home that switched on lights as you approached.
- Samsung also added a touch of personality to their SmartThings platform; you can start the morning by texting the app “good morning”, and your house will bid you farewell as you leave.
The immediate response to these was – Why ? (especially the last one!)
What software and hardware vendors fail to answer is why is their connected device necessary for a consumer to own and what value does it ultimately bring ? Consider the ‘smart oven’ above. It won’t actually prepare the food for you the night before. You have to do that. So the convenience is…. ?
I know of a family that has a cutting-edge Samsung microwave/oven combo that cannot even display the clock for more than 60 minutes at a time. Apparently, this is because the screen is actually a tablet computer that needs to sleep. In their disgust, the family has not even bothered to set the clock to the correct time. Also, as far as they can tell, the Wi-Fi connectivity is completely useless and adds no value to their cooking experience. In effect, then, their lavishly priced “smart” appliance is arguably rather stupid.
I thought of this when reading of Amazon’s latest efforts to create an omni-connected happy digital republic:
Amazon is using a surprise hardware event in Seattle today to introduce a bunch of new devices with its Alexa voice assistant built in.
Why it matters: Amazon is in a race with Google (and to a lesser degree Microsoft and Apple) to make its assistant as ubiquitous as possible.
So far, the company has announced, per CNBC:
- Amazon Basic Microwave, which will cost $59.99.
- Echo Wall Clock, at $30, to set timers and such.
- New Alexa capabilities. She’ll be able to tell when you’re whispering — and she’ll whisper back. She’ll also act on “hunches,” so if you tell her “good night,” she might turn off your lights and check if your doors are locked.
Creepy! More to the point, how does this invasive consumer technology actually benefit humanity? Are we really better off being able to whisper to our devices, or to control our kitchen lights from 100 miles away?