Struggling with the “Internet of Things”
2017 was a big year for IoT, the so-called “Internet of Things,” driven by year-end panicked holiday gift shopping for friends and family who already have too many things.
The latest popular Bluetooth-connected devices include smart thermostats, smart door locks, smart tracker tabs for car keys, smart bike locks, and smart appliances.
(A gal friend laments that smart men aren’t available yet, but that’s a loaded issue to unpack another time.)
IoT is getting so big that we now need smart home apps to connect our many smart devices. The connecting apps have names like Thington, Stringify, Gideon, Yonomi, and DO by IFTTT, which allows us to “Save time and control your world by connecting DO Button to Philips Hue, LIFX, Google Drive, Nest Thermostat, WeMo, Twitter, Evernote, Slack, and hundreds of apps and devices you use every day.”
I have no idea what that jambalaya of words means. It could be a string of nonsense like “tax cuts grow the economy.” Or like when I’m in Paris and can understand a few French words thanks to my undergrad requirement, but the rest is gibberish.
(I mean, “Twitter” and “Google”? “Thermostat?” C’mon. Why can’t tech geeks speak regular English?)
It’s obvious that smart devices are too smart for me to work or fix when inevitably they don’t work and I collapse in hysterical, wracking sobs and childish tantrums. I’ve broken three smart universal remotes for my home entertainment system by smashing them against the wall when they wouldn’t turn on the freaking TV when the last Ray Donovan finale was coming on.
My old furnace had a thermostat wired into the wall. It always worked especially when it was cold and I needed it the most. My new furnace has a wireless thermostat so it doesn’t work when my top-line Verizon Fios modem fails again under normal circumstances or a winter storm kills the power.
But who wants our stuff to get so smart it starts bossing us around in our own homes? Don’t we have cats, spouses and kids for that?
Imagining the near future, here are just five IoT devices just waiting for geeks to invent and raise millions in venture capital to fail with:
1. Smart commode
New high-tech toilets offer no-touch flushing, overflow protection, water savings, massaging bidet wash, air dryer, heated seating, foot warmer, self-cleaning and deodorizers, nightlight, slow-closing lid and Bluetooth and MP3 capabilities so you can listen to tunes while you go.
The NextGen commode will collect and analyze data on our specific personal alimentary situations to indicate, for example, if we need more dietary roughage. If so, the commode would automatically order and deliver fruit, nuts and kale via Whole Foods Market@Amazon.com as needed and charge our accounts.
Also, ads for Cottonelle Ultra ComfortCare and Charmin Ultra Strong will pop up on our Facebook feeds along with premium offers from Conde Nast for subscriptions to thick magazines and Walgreens for laxatives and enema kits.
2. Smart sofa
Reflecting a new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that sitting for excessively long periods is a risk factor for early death, this sofa linked to an iPhone app would offer three main settings that can be adjusted as needed:
Reminder (to get up at least once a weekend afternoon during playoffs);
Vibrate (to stimulate muscles and blood flow to avoid atrophy and clots);
Throw (using a powerful spring mechanism and explosive device to eject the sitter off the sofa and across the room).
The smart sofa would also order nutrients from Doritos.com delivered in an hour via drone when the sitter’s blood sugar monitor indicates levels are declining. Beer.com also would deliver when blood alcohol concentration falls below .080 indicating that the impairment of muscle coordination needs to continue through the two-minute warning that lasts an hour.
3. Smart fridge
More than the Samsung Family Hub 2.0 Smart fridge, which lets you shop for food, advises what you need based on expiration dates, and offers recipes to combine what’s going to rot in there pretty soon, the NextGen fridge will drill down to offer food health and wellness information we really need to know.
For example, many items from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other costly “organic” and “healthy” food stores are actually crap that’s worse for us than microwaved bacon-cheesy Hot Pockets from the highway Wawa.
Eatthis.com’s “33 Worst Products at Whole Foods” includes the 365 Apple Cereal Bars as loaded with sugar and junk and almost no protein or fiber. Like a Snickers without the flavor, attitude, or concern for Our Planet.
A truly smart fridge would assess and analyze the healthiness of the foods it contains and connect with Siri, Alexa and other virtual assistants to offer helpful commentary such as, “Just because Ben & Jerry’s cares about the planet, it doesn’t mean it cares about your arteries.”
The smartest fridge would connect with our smart commode, shopping history, bathroom scale, Fitbit and electronic health records to offer guidance such as, “Close the door, porky. Go for a walk.”
4. Smart cats
No, cats are not things per se and can’t be connected via Bluetooth to any household device or interconnected system to do anything they don’t feel like doing ever.
But wouldn’t it be nice if our cats would do something while they’re home all day lazing around in sunny spots while we’re out slaving for the money to feed them the expensive prescription urinary gourmet morsels in gravy? While we’re dining on cheap bacon-cheesy Hot Pockets that will cause us to die before the cats do?
Maybe if our cats are so smart, when their smart collars prompt, they could pop the screw top off our $5 Target wine and let it gasp for breath when our iPhones indicates we’re getting close to home. Is that too much to ask of the so very important cats?
5. Smart pajamas
These would Bluetooth-connect to the commode, sofa, fridge and cat apps to indicate when it’s time to get out of bed, shower, shave in bodily places where shaving is de rigueur, use hygiene products, dress in being-seen-in-public clothes, suspend thinking that having seven cats is a social life, and get out of the house. And also, wash the pajamas after a month, whether we think they need it or not.
Look for ads for All Free Clear, Tide Clean & Fresh and other laundry detergent to pop up on your Facebook feed.
By the way, if anyone thinks these are good ideas and tries to cash in with a startup that eventually goes public or gets bought by Google, Apple or Microsoft and makes billions for its geek founders who then buy $200,000 Lamborghini Huracán supercars they can’t drive in spite of their incredible tech prowess, forget it.
I know a good IP lawyer. Who spends his days in pajamas surrounded by cats. So he has plenty of time and the need to rack up the billable hours.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.