Are we losing interest in the Internet of Things?Follow article
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What prompted the question above was a TV commercial for the ‘latest’ must-have gadget for the Connected Home: a camera that allows you to see what’s happening in your living room remotely via a smartphone. Did I just see that, or perhaps my brain just slipped back in time 10 years on a nostalgia trip?
I have thought for some time that the domestic IoT lacked a ‘killer app’. Those applications that have emerged are mainly extensions of ideas that have been around for literally decades: wearable fitness monitors and home automation. And the marketing, particularly for home automation (or the Connected Home) is getting more and more desperate as the hype fails to match the actual product reality. As the Gartner Technology Hype Cycle predicts, public disillusionment may be just around the corner. Here are a couple of examples of recent connected home products that either failed to fly off the shelves or flew off and then flew straight back. They feature in this article about the 2017 Gartner Hype Cycle.
The Lifestyle Product for people with More Money than Sense
The Juicero juice maker hit the headlines recently but for all the wrong reasons. This Wi-Fi connected device squeezed pouches of fruit/vegetable mixtures into a glass so creating a healthy drink without the bother of chopping up the ingredients yourself or cleaning the machine afterwards. For this convenience you paid (initially, until potential customers decided they didn’t need such a costly boost to their lifestyle) $700 plus $5 to $8 per pouch. Just in case you tried to use cheaper pouches from another supplier, this clever machine rejected anything without the correct QR code. Then came the real stunner: some spoil-sport discovered that you could extract the juice without the machine at all by, er, squeezing the pouch with your hands. Cue outraged customers returning machines for a refund, red-faced technology pundits back-tracking frantically, backers pulling their money out and the rest of humanity shaking their heads in disbelief.
The Expensive Replacement for Old Technology
Otto was another IoT start-up that fell foul of the old axiom: if it ain’t broke then don’t replace it with a more expensive technologically-advanced, but less-functional solution. The Otto door lock was a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi enabled keyless replacement for the humble mechanical deadbolt. A very nice piece of design but again, the price was way too high ($700) for something that potentially reduced security. One selling point was that you could provide genuine party guests with access to your home, but gatecrashers would not be admitted. Hmmm, sounds like desperate marketing again which failed to impress anybody.
The SmartWatch still clings on
When smart watches first appeared, I thought: ‘Why would I want to pay £300 for a plastic digital watch?’ ‘Ah’, they said, ‘but this watch can monitor your body’s vital signs and nag you about not getting enough exercise too’. ‘Thanks’, I said, but I’m not obsessed with the former and my wife handles the latter very well’. Anyway, I don’t want all my health data beamed into the Cloud where it can be analysed by some intelligence, artificial or otherwise. ‘Fitness bands’ have been around for ages, but you had to download the data into your own (off-line) computer for analysis – no opportunities for hacking. The IoT just seems to benefit the malevolent snooper in this case. My interest in smartwatches was aroused recently, albeit briefly, with the announcement of the Apple Watch 3. At last, you could use it to communicate – the Dick Tracy watch is here! (N.B. Younger readers should check the Internet for references to this 1950’s fictional detective and his legendary watch.) Then I realised that only one service provider (not mine) could support it in the UK. Typical. Oh well, a watch that needs its battery recharging nearly every night could be very annoying.
A Practical Use for the Fitness Band
While the wireless-connected health monitor, to me at any rate, has limited serious value to most ‘well’ people, a week spent in the hospital recently, suggested that in-patients could really benefit from its use. Obviously, lives could be saved by the device instantly signalling problems to a central nurses’ station, usually outside the ward. However, unless you’ve spent some time in a hospital bed you may not realise that a nurse might be taking blood pressure and temperature readings every few hours – including all through the night. An open ward is frequently a noisy place at night, with lights constantly being switched on and off as well. Sleep is at a premium and an IoT device which cut down on the routine disturbance would be welcomed by patients and over-worked staff alike. In case you’re wondering about bans on mobile phones scuppering the idea: where I was, all patients had phones and they were in constant use! Just a thought. One for the MIoT (Medical IoT).
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they'd have said faster horses"
This quote is attributed to car maker Henry Ford and taken to mean that the entrepreneur should tell the people what they want - a Product Push approach that often leads to failure. In fact, Ford did give people what they wanted: not more horses, but more horsepower.
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