The Internet of too many Things?

From smart condoms and AI-equipped bins to printing toasters and even rectal thermometers that can post your temperature to Facebook, Rob Horgan explores the possibility of a world that’s too smart for its own good.

For more than a decade, the number of connected devices has outnumbered the number of humans living on earth. That disparity is only set to rise, with the number of connected devices expected to hit 50 billion by 2020. And with more and more smart technologies being rolled out all the time, the IoT explosion is perhaps in danger of going too far (that is, if you don’t think it has already). 

Now, to put this into perspective, no one is bemoaning the smart phone, or the ability to print wirelessly or even the ability to adjust the temperature of your radiator on the way back from work. These are all useful, understandably beneficial, advances in technology that ultimately make life better. 

However, alarm bells start ringing when products such as the iCon (a ‘smart’ condom that measures performance) begin to surface. Jon Harrison from Platinum Components believes that a growing desire for connected devices, combined with the technology already being in place will lead to a barrage of gimmicky products being developed simply for the sake of being branded as ‘smart’. 

“Looking at IoT, I believe there will naturally be some products developed just because they can be developed,” Harrison said. “With the technology available it’s important to focus on what benefits humankind rather than what can just be another measurement tool for the sake of measuring something. Of course this comes down to individual as well as corporate needs, however because something can be built, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to build it.” 

Harrison believes that vendors have a duty of care to stem the possibility of a never-ending pointless production line. In fact, he is urging all manufacturers not to be sucked into the honey pot of connecting devices for no real purpose.

He continued: “Vendors have a responsibility to ensure the right products are developed for beneficial purposes. There are so many areas IoT will fit into that the general public will not even be aware of, it’s only when you start looking into the vendor’s new technology and what it will do within any industry you start to realise the real growth.”

“Just because something can be built, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to build it.”
Jon Harrison, Platinum Components

Another area in which the IoT market is set to expand is within the workplace. Everything from smart printers to app-driven coffee machines are already on the market, as the office space undergoes a 21st century make-over. Jordan O’Connor, Technical Lead EMEA at SOTI believes that companies need to wise up or risk wasting time and money by ‘over-connecting’. “Companies must adopt a strategic approach to IoT, by connecting some things rather than the internet of every thing,” he said. “Only devices that are critical to the business need to be connected. Unnecessary IoT adoption will result in time and resources being wasted and won’t provide any asset to the business. The possibilities for IoT are endless, but companies need to avoid becoming lost in the ever-growing IoT explosion.”

A recent high-profile example of a public backlash to a ‘pointless’ IoT device gives reason to believe that if a product isn’t worth its weight then it will be found out. The Juicero – a $400 app-driven juice machine – was dragged through the mud when it was proven totally irrelevant, because squeezing the refills alone can dispense the juice packages. It sparked an anti-Juicero campaign with everyone who’s anyone tweeting about it in anger. 

On the back of the Juicero lambasting, a series of ‘pointless product’ articles are doing the rounds online, proving that criticism still holds the key for whether these apparently frivolous and unnecessary connected products sink or swim.

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