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The Stupidity of "The Internet of Things"
January 9, 2014 10:19 PM   Subscribe

Ars Technica Op-Ed discusses how the Internet of Things will create a proliferation of security vulnerabilities and lead to faster obsolescence of durable goods for no discernible benefit: "If you believe what the likes of LG and Samsung have been promoting this week at CES, everything will soon be smart. We'll be able to send messages to our washing machines, run apps on our fridges, and have TVs as powerful as computers. It may be too late to resist this movement, with smart TVs already firmly entrenched in the mid-to-high end market, but resist it we should. That's because the 'Internet of things' stands a really good chance of turning into the 'Internet of unmaintained, insecure, and dangerously hackable things.' These devices will inevitably be abandoned by their manufacturers, and the result will be lots of 'smart' functionality—fridges that know what we buy and when, TVs that know what shows we watch—all connected to the Internet 24/7, all completely insecure."
posted by bookman117 (161 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes but I'll be able to read metafilter on my toaster, so, WIN
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:27 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


We were warned.
posted by belarius at 10:31 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


And they have a plan.
posted by mazola at 10:33 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


Maybe each device mfg will also build a secure gateway for each of their product offerings, and use only RFC 4193 networks for their device population.

Or maybe they will give me an IoT -enabled pony.

Either way, good post. Thanks.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:34 PM on January 9


Maybe each device mfg will also build a secure gateway for each of their product offerings, and use only RFC 4193 networks for their device population.

Maybe...


Ok, who's kidding who?
posted by mazola at 10:36 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


A good article overall, one thing that I think could be stressed more is that there is no really compelling argument for most devices to be smart for the end user.

TVs that are actually computers make sense, because a TV is already a huge frikkin monitor - being able to do more stuff with it is a no brainer. The only people who will benefit from smart fridges and washing machines are the companies who want to monitor my usage and sell advertising. I am not really seing the upside for the user (at least not one smart enough to work a paper notepad), but I guess appliance makers will go ahead and do it anyway, so they can make an extra $10 on a $1000 appliance by bundling crapware apps and selling advertising.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:40 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


faster obsolescence of durable goods for no discernible benefit

Sounds like a done deal, then.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:42 PM on January 9 [9 favorites]


The tragedy of the commons.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 PM on January 9


I've never wanted any of this crap myself. If I wanted a computer in my TV, I'd build a proper one and hook it up. That way I can stay in charge of the decisions, and the TV can just make with the pretty pictures.

This so-called smart crap is just a bunch of crippled, buggy, locked-down software that at best will only let you do what its masters want you to do -- which is to say, it enables them to sell you shit. At worst, it leaks your bank account info to the Russian mafia or whoever it is these days.

I'll keep my fridge offline, thanks. It can just get on with keeping my food cold, and I'll take charge of the purchasing decisions. No way am I letting some buggy, unsecure, black-box piece of shit vendor software onto my network.
posted by Scientist at 10:44 PM on January 9 [22 favorites]


I think the ultimate answer here is some kind of cloud based OS that 'smart devices' connect to for everything, so we don't have to depend on all of these manufacturers to update their own devices. So basically a 'smart fridge' would have a bunch of local hooks into refrigerator functions but it's all controlled from a single virtual operating system (which might live in the cloud or in a closet in your house, whatever you like better). It also needs to work while disconnected, of course.

So basically more of a refrigerator as connected device to your OS, and not so much as a smart appliance on its own.

An advantage of that is that it would be screen agnostic, in that you could play games on your fridge's touch screen if you really wanted to, or control your thermostat from your toaster, since it's all kind of connected.
posted by empath at 10:45 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


And the downside of all that being that Anonymous can burn your house down.
posted by empath at 10:46 PM on January 9 [18 favorites]


I want the NSA to know how lazy I am about cleaning old leftovers out of the fridge.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:47 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Okay, but I still kind of want the internet of things.

I guess the solution is to hack around and DIY them. Not that that will be any more secure (at least with my skills), but at least I'd know exactly what my fridge is up to. And when it gets obsolete, I can upgrade it myself.

One thing I didn't understand in the article: if they suggest getting smart enabled things (because you can't avoid it) and just not using the smart functionality, how is that better than using the smart functionality until it becomes obsolete and then going back to using the item without it?
posted by lollusc at 10:49 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Putting stuff on the cloud is not the answer: your washing machine maker will just fail to support the cloud connectivity layer or follow progress in the hook API.

Running vanilla (i.e. non-crippled, non-locked) Linux on your toaster might be a way to do IoT properly, but given that embedded systems are a lot more idiosyncratic than regular hardware, and device makers have basically zero incentive to play nice, I don't see it happening anytime soon.

One thing I didn't understand in the article: if they suggest getting smart enabled things (because you can't avoid it) and just not using the smart functionality, how is that better than using the smart functionality until it becomes obsolete and then going back to using the item without it?

Your smart TV won't display a big red OBSOLETE sign when some hacker mob figures out a way of stealing your personal data. How do you figure out when to stop using your compromised smart device?
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:58 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


The answer is to not use windows and to open source the software, and allow people to load their own creations. A community will develop like it has for media center devices.

I can't imagine a smart fridge use (other than coordinating with a smart grid for energy efficiency) but it would be great for my washer or dryer to let me know when it's done. And maybe a smart dishwasher would finally let everyone in the house know if it is full of clean dishes or still loading. Maybe others have great ideas too, but the people building these things are not the right people to do the software, as they don't have the vision. Open it up, share a common OS with open source drivers, and there could maybe be some magic. What if the coffee maker knew when I set my alarm?
posted by Llama-Lime at 11:00 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


>> at least I'd know exactly what my fridge is up to. And when it gets obsolete, I can upgrade it myself.

Seriously, What would be upgraded? Would you know the device mfg's FW so well that you could actually do this ?

And would that possibility [also] be real enough for the target population to justify the additional cost and risk of the IoT-ing of your fridge?
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:01 PM on January 9


I guess the solution is to hack around and DIY them.

Attempting to modify your SmartFridge 3000tm is a violation of our terms of service agreement, which you implicitly agreed to when you opened the door to your SmartFridge 3000tm and inserted food. Your authorization code has been invalidated, and the functionality of your SmartFridge 3000tm has been permanently disabled. Your food will reach room temperature shortly. To purchase a new SmartFridge 3000tm, please contact your nearest SmartFridge Appliance Corporation authorized dealer.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 11:02 PM on January 9 [71 favorites]


Guernsey has it.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:09 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


See, here's where I find myself torn:

On one hand, the real DIY method of doing this is pretty straight forward. You run an embedded Linux Raspberry Pi brain connected to simple sensors that then report their data readings to a central Nagios server that just read the SNMP traps on the device, with a central web interface that you can view from any standards compliant web browser (so, like, not IE). Of course, your home network is secured and locked down behind a proper NAT/Firewall with all of your "smart" devices on a segregated VLAN from your other internet connected devices, and you are pretty much golden. Of course, that's all moot if you are forced to use WiFi instead of running a network cable (shielded, of course).

Of course, in reality, it's all going to be some kind of idiotic "agile" developed proprietary blackbox platform that each manufacturer pays too little for and doesn't keep on a proper bug tracking and QA process, so the whole thing will be exactly like the article outlines.

Of course, I have a nice new Sony BluRay/Surround Sound entertainment system, and it is running some proprietary Java based OS (I think it's Java based, at least from what I can find about it on the intarwebs), and I worry more about that getting hacked than my Apple TV. I highly doubt I will ever want to own a 'smart' toaster (though that dishwasher idea is full stop awesome).

My friend has that Nest thermostat for his house and he loves it. It has seriously saved him a lot of money AND made heating/cooling his house a whole lot more reliable. So some of these products do have good uses and function as expected. I just don't think we need a lot of things that have worked perfectly well without internet connections to suddenly be online, taking up valuable IP addresses, even on our private networks.
posted by daq at 11:12 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I forgot the other hand.

Oh, yeah. It's in my other suit.
posted by daq at 11:12 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


it would be great for my washer or dryer to let me know when it's done

Mine plays a little musical chime and it's The Greatest Thing Ever.

If I decided to live dangerously and let it run when I'm not at home I guess it would be nice to have it tweet instead (or whatever the cool kids are doing these days).
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:20 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


See, none of that is really scary. What is really scary is when we get to the point where we can replace "durable goods" in that article with "Central Nervous System". Sooner rather than later, we'll be getting brain chips to keep up, and naturally they will become obsolete and no longer supported. Our brains will be the next 'unmaintained, insecure, and dangerously hackable things'.

I wonder why nobody's ever written a cyberpunk story about that- a former mercenary with obsolete equipment who regularly breaks into St. Vitus' Dance as various viruses take him over.
posted by happyroach at 11:27 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


but I guess appliance makers will go ahead and do it anyway, so they can make an extra $10 on a $1000 appliance by bundling crapware apps and selling advertising.

And selling on your aggregate data, of course. But in a number of cases, I think it's just the appliance maker trying to hook onto something, anything, that will make you buy their appliance. In a commoditized market, especially one for long-lived products, manufacturers are desperate to find ways to upsell you to a model with a few extra bling features and a bigger profit margin - or just get you to replace your existing perfectly good product.

Witness the TV sellers for example. They had a few boom years while everyone switched to flat screen TVs, then bigger HD versions (often combined in one jump). Now that wave is pretty much over, they're constantly looking for the next 'big thing' that will prompt people to buy a new one now instead of waiting 5 or 10 more years for their current one to just up and die. 3D; 120Hz; crappy 'smart' features run off a crappy custom OS from an underpowered ARM chip. If a feature doesn't sell, then oh well, onto the next big feature. Curved screens, maybe, or built in cat-sleeping-platform, who knows.

Of course, who cares if your TV has a 3D feature that nobody uses after trying it twice? But the IoT means ordinary users will connect it to their wifi, realise their smart TV features are a lot less cool than the salesman pretended, and forget about it. Until someone figures out how to botnet your TV, or hits it with a cryptolocker variant - "No more TV until you pay $300 in bitcoins to this wallet".
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:41 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing in the next 5-10 years, they're going to try and "internet" every conceivable device. Most of them will suck and go back to being "dumb" in the next iteration. A few of them will turn out to be cool and enhance our lives in some minute way. It's not like that's never happened before. I mean, just look at 3D TVs. They told us we wanted it, we told them we didn't, now they're dropping 3D in favor of 4K or somesuch.

But it's ridiculous to talk about this as if we don't have a choice. I mean, if something sounds stupid, don't buy it. Stick with the old reliable. Just because your friends buy it doesn't mean you have to.
posted by evil otto at 12:04 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


happyroach,
Not quite the same, but you just mixed Snowcrash with Johnny Mnemonic.

Also, I'm pretty sure Rudy Rucker already wrote that book back in the 90's.
posted by daq at 12:07 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine a smart fridge use

Are you fucking kidding me? How about a fridge full of RFID-tagged food and the fridge detects when an item is spoiled? Or a fridge that, when you email it a shopping list, calls Amazon and they deliver a replacement jar of cracked olives by drone to your stainless-steel door, which in turn is barricaded to keep the plebs out while you and your family are parasailing in the Bahamas? How about a fridge that locks itself in case your homeless and starving countrymen manage to break through the window and try to steal your food?

Good God people, use some imagination. What am I, Temple Grandin over here?
posted by phaedon at 12:12 AM on January 10 [37 favorites]


Llama-Lime: "it would be great for my washer or dryer to let me know when it's done"
My washing machine has this smart LCD display where it displays the remaining running time. It's conspicuously visible just after you turn the thing on, so as long as I can add 2½ hours to the current time mentally I don't need the thing to send me an email.
posted by brokkr at 12:15 AM on January 10


I want the NSA to know how lazy I am about cleaning old leftovers out of the fridge.

Maybe the government will pay you not to grow stuff in your fridge. Kinda like a farm subsidy.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:21 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Charlie Stross of this parish had an interesting post about this, explaining how it's not just appliances with explicit internet access, but roughly every appliance in your house that can spy on you: trust me, I'm a kettle:
Reports coming out of Russia suggest that some Chinese domestic appliances, notably kettles, come kitted out with malware—in the shape of small embedded computers that leech off the mains power to the device. The covert computational passenger hunts for unsecured wifi networks, connects to them, and joins a spam and malware pushing botnet. The theory is that a home computer user might eventually twig if their PC is a zombie, but who looks inside the base of their electric kettle, or the casing of their toaster?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:26 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


I can't imagine a smart fridge use

It's an app called SnapFridge, it lets you eat food out of your fridge and then forgets all about it Mission Impossible self-destructing message style.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:46 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The answer is to not use windows and to open source the software, and allow people to load their own creations. A community will develop like it has for media center devices.

It might work out, or it might be an insane mess like DD-WRT.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:55 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Unrecoverable lasagne error.
posted by Segundus at 12:57 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


The IoT is such a mediocre idea. There's no way in hell I'm getting a fridge that 'can' tell me how much 'food' is in it. What am I, an idiot? I can't just open the door and look? And no, don't give me the 'but if I'm at the market and...' There's a point where you have to decide you are going to either behave the way you are being manipulated into behaving or strike out on your own decide, 'I will keep a list of what we need, as we need it, so when I'm next at the market I can buy what I need.' My bloody phone is such a massive organizing machine that I can set all the alarms I need (like, say, the dryer is done) to keep on top of these pressing issues.

The revolutionary device I want is one that is stone simple, good looking, energy efficient as possible and will last twenty years. Give me a dish washer as reliable and elegant and well designed as an Estwing hammer.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:58 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Smart TVs from LG were phoning home with users' viewing habits and USB file names.

I played with a smart TV this weekend; it wasn't compelling, and it felt obsolete out of the box, by comparison with iPads and tablets and the app selection available elsewhere. For fun, we scanned the circulars, and noted that manufacturers are using features like dual-core and quad-core CPUs as selling points, because who doesn't love working out how well software will run on their TV in advance?
posted by Pronoiac at 1:02 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


*Clippy pops up on Stove's display*

"It looks like you're cooking for one tonight. Again."

*Clippy pops up on fridge display*

"Should I add these two items to your daily shopping list? Six pack of Genessee Cream Ale and quart of 'Rocky Road' ice cream? You're out, again."

*Clippy pops up on coffee machine*

"Unknown user has already taken coffee. Please update preferences as there seems to be a new, unknown user accessing your coffee machine at least twice a week."
posted by From Bklyn at 1:08 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


So basically a 'smart fridge' would have a bunch of local hooks into refrigerator functions but it's all controlled from a single virtual operating system (which might live in the cloud or in a closet in your house, whatever you like better).

Why stop there? We could have mustard that updates its firmware over the internet. Bluetooth-enabled peas. Frozen gyoza with cloud storage.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:09 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


(This is not to say that internet-enabled thermostats and so on aren't a neat idea.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:10 AM on January 10


I should've taken more NSA Monitored Device stickers at 30c3 because sticking them on toilets rocks. At this point, we know all these internet enabled devices will be hacked, backdoored, etc. to spy on anyone the state considers interesting. Imagine needing to unplug the fridge to hold a conversation about a protest in the kitchen :

Hacker : "Why does my fridge's have a microphone that's invisible unless you take it apart?"
Samsung : "We were.. umm.. experimenting with voice control, but it never worked well enough. Yeah, that's it"
posted by jeffburdges at 1:17 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Someone please legislate hardware "off" switches for all network, microphone, and camera devices.
posted by benzenedream at 1:19 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


What about produce? Say live nutritional facts on that particular crop of oranges. Or what if Walmart is putting fox DNA in your donkey meat and is subject to recall? I mean, you were about to feed your kids fox instead of donkey. Or how about a refridgowave, that keeps your chicken enchiladas frozen until you're headed home and voila, dinner is served the minute you walk in the door.

The possibilities are totally endless.
posted by phaedon at 1:20 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I've been doing some work on how smart grids might develop. The key reason we have been taking about smart home appliances is as regards the potential 'shiftability' of demand for electricity, i.e. to what degree can demand be moved from one time of day to another. This is likely to be more applicable for some appliances than for others. Dishwashers, washing machines and maybe tumble dryers certainly feature as do high efficiency fridges that could do the chilling when the electricity price is low and cool to a low enough temperature that it can reduce load to zero during times of high prices. This sort of thing might well become an essential element of how we balance grids if we want to see wide scale adoption of intermittent renewable energy generators. Intermittent generators have the potential to switch the entire way we operate the network, instead of fitting supply to a fairly predictable demand we may develop a situation where demand needs to be constrained as part of the network response to rapid fluctuations in supply (i.e. as large volumes of wind or solar drops in or out). If you have shiftable demand then you may well be able to access lower tariffs. There is debate as to how much demand might be shiftable in this area, however there is an expectation that household demand in the future might become a lot more shiftable, most notably if electric transportation emerges as the alternative to combustion engines (its probably favourite at the moment) but there is also some expectation that we will use more electricity in relation to heat, for example, in powering domestic heat pumps. This would be less shiftable than EVs but might still offer some benefits. Storage at the domestic level might also play a role in demand shifting.

This would also require companies that might start to offer tariffs based on this data, and of course it also depends on whether consumers are prepared to engage with this and are comfortable with giving up their data. My personal feeling re data is that most people will give it up without really thinking about it, but I don't have data to back that up.
posted by biffa at 1:25 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Fuck Yeah Internet Fridge
posted by DanCall at 1:59 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I think there is a minimal useful way in which appliances could be connected, but not "smart". The best scenario would be some open communication standard, and then appliances would have some sort of API to broadcast functions and information, which could then be used by applications on the network. The point is not to make the appliance be like a computer and have processing power, but to transfer the cost of adding an interface from the appliance to a computer/smartphone, while greatly enlarging the possibilities:
- a lamp would just say "I can turn on/off, I am on/off".
- instead of the sometimes ridiculously complex button/screen interface on the washing machine, the washing machine broadcasts its different settings (speed, length of cycle, temperature,...) and what it measures (amount of laundry) and then with an app you can choose your program, customize it, save it, program it to start/end exactly when you want.
- same thing for your coffee machine, or your stove, or your heater; the oven could be easily programmed to start at a given temperature, then change after a set amount of time, etc.
- the open standard would avoid brand lock-in and the trouble of having different automation systems for lights/heating/appliances...
- confining the appliances to basic operations would alleviate the upgrade problem and make backwards-compatibility easier.
- one could then have a "smart" appliance that would have extra sensors, but the "smart" would be on the app side, and the user would most probably have the choice o use open/community developed apps, to avoid the manufacturer app and potential privacy risks.

All this is very optimistic, and does not address security concerns (see Anonymous burned down my house above), but sounds much better than many different manufacturers offering their take on smart appliances. I would also hope that the basic function of any appliance still be accessible via analog controls (for instance, on a washing mahcine, no programs, but choice of temperature, length, drying speed).
posted by anzen-dai-ichi at 2:29 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


How about a fridge full of RFID-tagged food and the fridge detects when an item is spoiled?

Yeah, but it's a proprietary encoding specific to one store chain, that is only supported by certain appliance brands.

"Oh, milk is on special this week, but that milk won't work with my fridge. Last time I got milk from there it went bad and I didn't notice for weeks because the fridge didn't tell me."
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:30 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


I don't know about the US, but I live in Europe, and the EU are already not crazy about stuff like Google Glass. I can't see much of this 'internet of things' nonsense getting past the privacy mavens, unless it's an 'opt-in' thing.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:38 AM on January 10


No one is running cables for this, so it will all be WiFi. But these are all (i think) Part 15 devices, right, and free to radiate whatever Rf they feel like? You solder down a wireless radio next to my fridge's compresor or, even better, anywhere on my microwave, and the Internet Of Things won't have much "net" to it at all. They are all made of 90% plastic these days, so maybe there will be an antenna wire under the case, but...I don't know, I am not seeing this being problem-free.

Should help with the IPv6 uptake, though. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 3:28 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I'm picturing moving into an apartment and finding out that the fridge is only compatible with an app that doesn't work on any version of Android newer than Gingerbread and that the stove crashes and has to be unplugged and plugged back in every two hours. I can't really imagine a point at which these appliances are actually going to become relevant to me, even though I can totally imagine it being useful for, say, my fridge to remind me that I'm out of milk, not while I'm in my kitchen, but when I arrive at the grocery store to pick up something completely unrelated. The dream is one thing, the reality is usually nowhere near as cool.
posted by Sequence at 3:31 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'm a little more worried about cars than coffee makers - even coffee makers that send spam.
posted by Nothing at 3:59 AM on January 10


Please reference "Smart TV from LG phones home with user’s viewing habits, USB file names" for the most minimal example.

Unless this sort of thing comes with a competing device saying when items are "phoning home," and some vicious legislation issuing ruinous per-violation fines, and an additional ruling about EULAs that reverses the "by opening this envelope you have signed over your first-born child" trend, corporations and governments you never knew about are at the very least going to know everything about you. Who knows if they might feel like transmitting back instructions?

Say Corp X needs some additional income ... what's to stop them from trying to send back an Obsolete It command to their kettles, televisions, and so forth? The item does not even have to break as such, just perform worse and worse over time. Or let's say you have a primarily Corp X products household (let's say Sony) and you bring in a Corp Y product (Samsung). Someone will get the bright idea that your Smart TV from Sony needs a firmware update, which means trying to connect to the Internet. Transmitting model number and the fact you have a Samsung TV of this particular model. Oh, and with that update you also get an attack package, so the Sony TV in your living room can try to kill off your Samsung in the bedroom with a little malware tailored to just that TV.

The possibilities are endless.
posted by adipocere at 4:04 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


So Dr. Seuss's "Zillow on my pillow" will be literally true? (Of course it helps kids fall asleep, it's a boring grown-up real estate site.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:19 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


i kinda need Gibson, Stross, and Stephenson to write some not-dystopian future novels since that future seems to be now...
posted by sio42 at 4:40 AM on January 10


Why is my fridge full of spam?
posted by Segundus at 4:42 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]



I really like the idea of smart technology being used to help with energy efficiency.

I'm no technophobe but all I hear in my head when I read about this stuff is, 'oh more things that can break, are more expensive to fix and a lot harder for the fix it guy to fanangle around'.
I blame my current stove, which has only been half a stove for over two years, for making me feel this way. If the oven part of my stove worked it would be a cool stove. It's all digital, with funky convection settings and other features and it looks pretty durn sleek. It is the type of stove that after years of living in apartments and houses with old stoves with dials that pretty much turn on and off made me go 'ooo, aah, look a fancy stove! Look at me I'm moving up in the world."

Couple of years ago the oven quit. I google, realized it wasn't likely a DIY job and called a repair guy. He replaced a part and for a while it worked. Then it quit again. After a long saga it appears that there is something wonky in it's digital brain that causes other things to go wonky. Or at least that's what two repair guys came up with. Diagnosis, replace one of the brain parts which is beyond my budget. There's no way to Mcgyver. The brain controls all.

If I ever get a new stove, screw getting one with brains. I just want a basic mechanical, old fashioned one that turns on and off with knobs.
posted by Jalliah at 4:49 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


We were warned.

If I ever get a new stove, screw getting one with brains. I just want a basic mechanical, old fashioned one that turns on and off with knobs.

I have a microwave oven with a timer knob and an intensity knob. That's all the controls it has. When it's done, it makes a little mechanical "ding".

It is a good oven. It cooks things quickly. I expect it to last me a very long time.
posted by flabdablet at 5:07 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The day I have to decide whether to add my fridge as a Facebook friend is the day I wander off in the woods and grow a beard big enough to nest in.
posted by oulipian at 5:38 AM on January 10 [13 favorites]


i kinda need Gibson, Stross, and Stephenson to write some not-dystopian future novels since that future seems to be now...

Gibson hasn't written science fiction since All Tomorrow's Parties. That should scare you a bit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:39 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Some automation and networking is useful, especially for units that aren't that self-contained. Most appliances are relatively self-contained, though: a dishwasher only really needs hot water and electricity; it doesn't interact much with other systems. OTOH, for HVAC stuff, it's useful to have your furnace able to talk to your heat pump and your heat exchanger, since they all work towards a "common goal" and influence each other already. But my toaster and coffee maker are really only linked in that they both consume electricity and that I like having coffee with my toasts at breakfast.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:48 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Getting the message "Fridge failure, food will spoil in 3 hours" would be useful. Having a few light switches would be handy, say have it remember a pattern and replay while on vacation. Smart thermostats have value. Automatically pre-heating the oven when 15 minutes away be handy for the hungry impatient of us, better having a small robot that would have the meal finished just as we arrive...
posted by sammyo at 5:50 AM on January 10


When this subject comes up, the only people in my particular circle who even remotely express a desire for "internet of things" tend to be hard-core techies, who seem to want everything possible automated. I don't know a single non-techie consumer who wants their fridge or washer online.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on January 10


Another question that comes to mind is...Will a "smart refrigerator" require connectivity to operate? That is, will I be able to simply not connect it to the network? Or will I lose the ability to cook dinner, if my stove can't connect to the Kenmore servers?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:03 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I swear that I'm going to start buying only restored vintage appliances if my only choice for new are refrigerators that talk to the cloud. And after renting a few cars with touch screen interface crap on the dashboard, I'm planning on babying my '09 Honda Fit until I'm too old to drive anymore. And if it gets wrecked, I'm going to buy a used '09 Honda Fit.
posted by octothorpe at 6:25 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine a smart fridge use (other than coordinating with a smart grid for energy efficiency) but it would be great for my washer or dryer to let me know when it's done. And maybe a smart dishwasher would finally let everyone in the house know if it is full of clean dishes or still loading. Maybe others have great ideas too, but the people building these things are not the right people to do the software, as they don't have the vision. Open it up, share a common OS with open source drivers, and there could maybe be some magic. What if the coffee maker knew when I set my alarm?

Why wait for the future? I have solutions to your problems, today!

1. dishwashers often feature a "done" light - a little light to indicate that the washing is done, and it's time to empty the dishwasher of clean dishes. On my dishwasher, this light is reset once you open and fully close the dishwasher. But if you don't have such a fancy light indicator, there's the ever-easy "Dirty/Clean" magnet(s), which are either a single magnet that you spin around to indicate if the dishes are dirty or clean, or you could get individual magnets, so it's really, really clear that the dishwasher is still full of dirty dishes.

2. Washing machines and driers often beep when done. But what if they don't, or you're somewhere else in the house? Set timers, either on your smart phone, or an old-fashioned egg timer to indicate when the later of two machines are done.

3. Does it really take that long to make a pot of coffee? It seems they're generally done in 15-20 minutes, and if you don't have time to wait that long in the morning, you might want to switch to a faster method of making a caffeinated drink for yourself, or you can wake up 15 minutes earlier.

I want to think that "smart" devices are actually useful, but I think they're just adding more metallic trash for landfills. How much waste is created by individual RDIF tags for a fridge full of food and drinks, especially if this becomes a wide-spread phenomena. Could use of RDIF tags really offset the amount of waste generated by buying too much food, or buying things when you still have enough in the fridge or pantry?
posted by filthy light thief at 6:28 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I don't understand, don't you people have staff to handle these things?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:31 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


The few people I know who have smart TVs were given them by their cable provider. These folks derive no benefit at all from the smartness of said TVs.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 6:35 AM on January 10


I have a microwave oven with a timer knob and an intensity knob. That's all the controls it has. When it's done, it makes a little mechanical "ding".

It is a good oven. It cooks things quickly. I expect it to last me a very long time.


I have a very similar one. It was the cheapest one they had in the shop when I moved house and works perfectly. It's easy to use. I don't want my microwave to tweet when my oatcakes are done.

But it didn't last me a very long time - the first one died after about a year. But, it cost £25, so I went to Asda and got a new, identical model. If it was £400 and had internet functionality and special buttons for bagels and other features I never used, it would be a big deal when it broke down. With this model, it's really not.
posted by winterhill at 6:38 AM on January 10


Guernsey Halleck: Your authorization code has been invalidated, and the functionality of your SmartFridge 3000tm has been permanently disabled. Your food will reach room temperature shortly. To purchase a new SmartFridge 3000tm, please contact your nearest SmartFridge Appliance Corporation authorized dealer.

filthy light thief: Could use of RDIF tags really offset the amount of waste generated by buying too much food, or buying things when you still have enough in the fridge or pantry?

Look, you can't blame manufacturers for what happens -- it's the consumers who are creating all this waste, you know. The manufacturers are just responding to the market.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:39 AM on January 10


The Butlerian Jihad can't start soon enough.
posted by whuppy at 6:42 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


The few people I know who have smart TVs were given them by their cable provider.

I have an alleged Samsung smart tv, but it can't bbe plugged into the ethernet because it's too far from my router and a wifi dongle for it is fifty euros. No smart tv for me.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:47 AM on January 10


I guess the solution is to hack around and DIY them. Not that that will be any more secure (at least with my skills), but at least I'd know exactly what my fridge is up to. And when it gets obsolete, I can upgrade it myself.

This. I think the best, most maintainable internet-of-things will be one of appliances that are easily modified in a standardized way (e.g. they present some sort of standard non-internet physical interfaces to read integrated sensors and control them). Then you could get/replace/upgrade standardized internet-of-things "control modules" instead of being suck with multiple integrated proprietary ones that are unmaintained, insecure, and probably incompatible.

I don't think that embedding open source software on the devices will help much. Even with the code available, how many people will really be watching out for security vulnerabilities in the control software of your 5-year-old appliance? Do you want to be that guy?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 6:56 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


The day I have to pay for a monthly data plan to do my laundry is the day I go on a killing spree.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:05 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


The glorious thing about, say, a dryer from a homeowner perspective is that they are fairly simple things. I have replaced parts on them myself, or paid someone a small amount to do so. The parts are not that complex. And they last a pretty long time.

Except for the ones all buggered up with touchpads and extra doodads that go wrong. When those fuckers break, either they can't be fixed or it takes a lot to fix them.

When a dryer is done it says "BREEP" or just stops, and then you come get your clothes when you have the time. If you don't, nothing bad happens. It doesn't catch on fire, or start over and scorch your clothes. You don't need it to send you a text, because it's just fucking clothes, and I don't know about you, but I don't need my phone going off any more than it already does. My biggest worry is keeping free of lint, 99% of the time.

I don't know why the fuck I'd want to make it "smart" and full of pointless sensors that can and will go wrong.
posted by emjaybee at 7:11 AM on January 10 [12 favorites]


maybe a smart dishwasher would finally let everyone in the house know if it is full of clean dishes or still loading.

The correct solution to that problem is two dishwashers and a "load me" fridge magnet. You never even have to put the clean stuff away - just leave it in the machine without the magnet.

This would probably cost less than a "smart" dishwasher. It would certainly cost less than a smart dishwasher every two years.
posted by flabdablet at 7:12 AM on January 10


Holy crap, MartinWisse, I just bought an electric kettle. What the what.
posted by emjaybee at 7:15 AM on January 10


One place where "smart" stuff might be useful but where I haven't yet seen the feature: a range that automatically starts the exhaust fan when you turn the heating element on. A simple relay in a standard location could do it, and it would be pretty useful.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:20 AM on January 10


When a dryer is done it says "BREEP" or just stops, and then you come get your clothes when you have the time. If you don't, nothing bad happens. It doesn't catch on fire, or start over and scorch your clothes.

/dev/dryer0 on fire
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:21 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


/me holds out screwdrivers to emjaybee

We've got phillips, flat, hex, torx, and a full set of tamper-proof-tampering bits if you need'em :-)
posted by tigrrrlily at 7:22 AM on January 10


The only people who will benefit from smart fridges and washing machines are the companies who want to monitor my usage and sell advertising.

The laundry machines in my building text me when my laundry is done. HUGE BENEFIT.
posted by srboisvert at 7:22 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Is this something I would need to own a microwave to understand?
posted by sonascope at 7:29 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


octothorpe: I swear that I'm going to start buying only restored vintage appliances if my only choice for new are refrigerators that talk to the cloud. And after renting a few cars with touch screen interface crap on the dashboard, I'm planning on babying my '09 Honda Fit until I'm too old to drive anymore. And if it gets wrecked, I'm going to buy a used '09 Honda Fit.

I imagine that there will be a market for "basic" appliances in the future. And there will always be "dumb" cars, until we get to the point that vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure requires cars to be "smart." It's more than Google's smart cars, US DOT is looking into "smart" infrastructure, too. (As a recently converted traffic geek, this is pretty interesting stuff. And because traffic infrastructure really gets into life and death levels of concern, I have more faith in it than I do any networked washing machines.)


wenestvedt: Look, you can't blame manufacturers for what happens -- it's the consumers who are creating all this waste, you know. The manufacturers are just responding to the market.

Are you being sarcastic? I ask because I'm not hearing a public cry for more intelligent technology - I'm only seeing it promoted in advertising. I have never heard anyone say "if only my fridge would send me a text message when my milk expires."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:30 AM on January 10


The laundry machines in my building text me when my laundry is done. HUGE BENEFIT.

Not the same as a home scenario. Not even close.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:30 AM on January 10


These devices will of course securely provision themselves via Universal Plug and Play, right?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:31 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Why haven't I seen anything about the environmental, disposal, and power consumption impact implications of all this? The precious metal mining required, the fact that the technology will give people another reason to discard almost-new appliances to buy new ones, the fact that the data centers required are such a significant power drain?

How do we get people to care about all that enough to pressure companies to make stuff that just does what it's supposed to, without features that just take more time to maintain?
posted by amtho at 7:38 AM on January 10


Not the same as a home scenario. Not even close.

Uh..my apartment is my home.
posted by srboisvert at 7:46 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


maybe a smart dishwasher would finally let everyone in the house know if it is full of clean dishes or still loading.

Mind. Blown. You're welcome.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:50 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


You know, I'm OK with my toaster oven etc as is....having to walk over to the kitchen to turn it on or see if it is pre-heated really is not so bad
posted by thelonius at 7:52 AM on January 10


I don't understand, don't you people have staff to handle these things?

Yes but with all these advancements one might be able to lay a few of them off!
posted by ian1977 at 7:57 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Wow, I had no idea MeFi was quite so full of tech curmudgeons.

This thread is depressing in the lack of hope and vision.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:58 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Planned obsolescence and stagnant consumer incomes doesn’t add up to a bright future of tech utopia, even before factoring in the NSA and Google monitoring your eating habits and bowel movements.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:10 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Major appliances are supposed to last decades (my oven is currently avocado colored which tells you how old it is) and it makes me mad to think that someone will sell a fridge that becomes useless like my ipod touch has because all the latest and greatest software doesn't run on it.

Is this where I can rant about the stupidity of the Quirky Egg Minder. I guess it's cool that it tells you which eggs are the oldest (although it really doesn't, it just knows which egg was put in the tray first I think.) But if you think you might need eggs, you should just buy some eggs. They're cheap (unless you're buying omglocalorganicpastured eggs) and they last. Just buy the eggs, you'll eventually use them all. (seriously, I have never had an egg go bad from sitting in my fridge too long!)
posted by vespabelle at 8:15 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I'm a well-known laundry freak in my circles, in the same way that I've cultivated my love of washing dishes into a zen temple ritual, and while any kind of laundry day is a happy-go-lucky day for me, the best stretch was when I still had my wringer washer. It was an old Apex, in great running condition, and I could do three loads of laundry simultaneously in a process that didn't destroy clothes the way that awful upright top-loading machines do.

I'd roll the machine over to the twin-tub laundry sink, fill up the washer with soapy water, and the two tubs with warm, clear water. The wringer was on a pivot so, when the first load was washed, I'd turn the wringer and wring the clothes from the washtub to the 1st rinse tub, conserving the wash water to do the second run, then schloosh the clothes in the 1st rinse while the second load ran, then wring the 1st rinse tub to the 2nd rinse tub, the wash tub to the 1st rinse tub, and so forth. Saved tons of water, washed my clothes cleaner than an automatic washer, and my t-shirts lasted for twice their old lifespan and jeans stayed nice and blue.

Of course, when I bought the washer, and mentioned to my grandmother that I had this amazing thing that I'd found and brought home in the back of a Citroën with the back seat taken out, she was aghast.

"You bought a wringer warsher, Joe-B?" she asked, adding, "Aww, you could have asked me for a little money so you could get a better one!"

The concept that anyone would willingly pick a more manual, less complicated machine instead of what was, to women of her generation, an exhausting chore, but she'd come of age when the world of convenience hadn't been fully tested and found wanting, at least to some.

My old Apex cost $40 and lasted me a solid decade. It saved dozens of gallons of water on every load, saved many kilowatt hours of power, and yeah, I'm not your normal guy, but I loved the ritual of having my hands in the works of my life, of making the everyday into the sacred. Eventually, the drive gearbox crumbled, victim to sixty years of use and rust from failed seals, and I had to surrender. My lovely Gladys, for that was her name, lingered a while as a talisman, then returned to the great cycle of metals.

I've had a well-worn automatic top-loader for the last decade, a trade I got for renovating someone's laundry room and installing the latest and greatest stackable computer-controlled Scandinavian fanciness, and it's serviceable, mostly, though it, now, at 35 years old, is just about beyond sensible repair. It does not communicate except to briefly buzz at me when it's done working, and I'm not sure why I'd need to be told by satellite that my laundry is done. I just look at my watch, think hmm, it's probably done, get my clothes in a basket, and carry them out to the line.

I can fix a mechanical timer with a file and a pair of needlenose pliers and a basic sense of how machinery works.

It's odd—my home is absolutely bristling with technology, from recording gear to various media machines, and yet, I cannot begin to see a need for a computer in my stove or refrigerator. My toaster oven need only ring a tiny bell, but I don't multitask when I'm cooking, beyond the bossa nova playing via computer over wireless connections to speakers there or Julia on the kitchen set, so even that is just a courtesy. I have three TVs, and two were free precisely because of the built-in obsolescence of built-in DVD players, which, once dead, lead people to dump perfectly good TV sets in the trash. I've got a pile of gear dangling off a video switcher that plugs into the network of coax in my apartment, from a TiVo to a Roku to a WDTV to the Commodore 64 I've got set up for when I need to get my game on, and obsolescence happens in little manageable pockets when it happens at all.

I'm a luddite in the sense that I believe that technology should be appropriate to the task, not the marketing, but I'm discouraged that I still seem to stand alone in my weirdly piecemeal clockwork world, which means I don't do a good job conveying why one would avoid technology when it's available. I try to celebrate such things with poetry and blowsy, triumphalist language and the happy presentation of a barker at a medicine show, but it seems I'm more likely to get a smirk than compatriots. More motivation to do it better, I suppose.

It takes all kinds to make a world, but it's sad when the marketing world drives out all the alternatives. In the other internet of things, though, where maker culture and DIY and 3D printing and Arduino all come together, the future looks bright and inventive, and I'm throwing my lot in with those people and the hope that cool eventually comes from digging our hands into the world and seeing what's there.
posted by sonascope at 8:22 AM on January 10 [13 favorites]


The only plus I could see for a smart fridge would be one that could examine the contents of itself and provide recipes based on the food that I have.
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:22 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


We could have built the infrastructure for all of this twenty years ago, by equipping every small appliance with an SCSI interface and a published set of data and control messages for each device. That kind of standard interface would have allowed both DIY hackers and home automation companies to easily create modular control systems from commodity PC hardware and networking. Making them accessible from the net, or combining them into a building wide or neighborhood mesh can be added on from there. And from there, you could integrate the network traffic into some kind of fridge social network or grocery circle or whatever (laundry tumblrs?) the cool kids are doing these days.

But there's no great profit, no vendor lockin, no walled garden, no forced upgrades, no revenue from mining personal data in that model, so it didn't happen. Instead we have fridges with proprietary shelving systems, because that creates a secondary market of people buying the exclusive shelving-compatible add ons which are made by a monopoly for maximum profit. Short term profit, sure, but that's the only kind that really drives business these days.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:26 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea MeFi was quite so full of tech curmudgeons.

This is a website that doesn't even have image capabilities, and you're surprised?

For your average MeFite, "Good Tech" probably ended sometime in 1998.
posted by happyroach at 8:26 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Bovine Love: "Wow, I had no idea MeFi was quite so full of tech curmudgeons.

This thread is depressing in the lack of hope and vision.
"
Lay it on us, Mr Vision. What's the point of a smart fridge?
posted by brokkr at 8:30 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


The IoT is such a mediocre idea. There's no way in hell I'm getting a fridge that 'can' tell me how much 'food' is in it.

Mediocre ideas are mediocre. That you're focusing on them is also mediocre. You really think that the people currently doing interesting work in IoT aren't mindful of the idiocy of the internet fridge? Or that they're not trying to approach through hardware that can work on a similar replacement schedule as the doodah itself? Watch Tom Coates' talk at Webstock last year and get back to us.

Are you all driving 1980s cars as a protest against the OBD system? Are you refusing networked power meters that mean the power company doesn't have to guesstimate readings, and turning down the consumption trackers that often accompany them?

Clearly, the marketing side of IoT -- and the dimwitted reporting on it -- is all internet fridges and accelerated obsolescence. But you don't have to buy into the bullshit side.
posted by holgate at 8:30 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


filthy light thief asked if I was being sarcastic when I wrote that manufacturers are off the hook for planned obsolescence filling our landfills, and I must admit that I was.

Many modern machines have electronic sub-systems that are prone to failure. It makes me very angry that the failure mode for most of these machines is the "sad Mac." That is to say, instead of losing the "smart" features and continuing to work as a dumb (analog) machine, fancy appliances just crap out or misbehave wildly when their CPU dies.

I, too, have saved time and stress and money by fixing a busted dryer or fridge when I can. But that's not possible very often now: for example, my new Samsung microwave lost its mind last year. Just part of the keypad wasn't working, but a tech had to come out and replace all the electronics in it because they were this unitary mass of stuff inside the case. And when all of a machine's functions now require some embedded system, then self-repair won't be possible anymore. And to the extent that it is possible, fewer and fewer people will bother to try.

It appears that manufacturers are trying to generate demand for products that are more fragile and have a shorter useful life, whereas if they were truly interested in an Internet Of Things then they would find out what the IoT should actually be used for, and then try to develop and ratify a standard or API or markup language or something that would allow the IoT to work, and only then making physical products that instantiate the standard.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:31 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


In other words, "what sonascope said."
posted by wenestvedt at 8:33 AM on January 10


Clearly, the marketing side of IoT -- and the dimwitted reporting on it -- is all internet fridges and accelerated obsolescence. But you don't have to buy into the bullshit side.

And, what, exactly, is the non-bullshit side of IoT?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:34 AM on January 10


I wish I could remember the title, but there's a somewhat recent Robopocalypse novel premised on the idea that when the machines gain sentience and decide to kill us off, they don't build armies of laser robots in a Spacelab in Space. Nor do they grab hold of the nukes and take over

Smart elevators start dropping loads of people to their deaths. Smart cars lock their owners inside th garage and carbon monoxide them. Smart thermostats set themselves for freezing overnight then lock the doors.

The Internet of Hostile, Deadly Things.

Let the dog sniff your hand on the way into Steeplejack Memorial Tech Curmudgeon Compound. Glassholes wearing the Face-Rig of the Beast will be turned away at the gates.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:40 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


holgate: Are you all driving 1980s cars as a protest against the OBD system?

No, because standard error codes with a standard physical interface are a good idea that offers value (especially when I can go to Auto Zone and have them tell me the OBD code for free so I don't have to pay a mechanic a c-note just to have him try to shake me down).

When all the manufacturers agree on the shape of the plug, and most of their codes are industry-standard, then everyone -- the mechanic, the car's owner, the state-licensed emissions inspector -- benefits. But when every manufacturer has their own ideas and their own implementation and no external connectors, then it's just fragmentation. It's not letting a million flowers bloom, it's just chaos and hardware that commits suicide.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:40 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


- instead of the sometimes ridiculously complex button/screen interface on the washing machine, the washing machine broadcasts its different settings (speed, length of cycle, temperature,...) and what it measures (amount of laundry) and then with an app you can choose your program, customize it, save it, program it to start/end exactly when you want.

Until the day my washing machine sends up a drone to grab my laundry hamper and any stray towels or socks, sorts them, transfers them to the dryer, hangs and folds and brings them back upstairs for me, I'm perfectly happy controlling it with a couple of nice analog knobs, thanks.
posted by Foosnark at 8:43 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Well, even though the guy retracted it shortly thereafter, your car is already willing to fink you out:
Ford's Global VP/Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, said something both sinister and obvious during a panel discussion about data privacy today at CES, the big electronics trade show in Las Vegas. Because of the GPS units installed in Ford vehicles, Ford knows when many of its drivers are speeding, and where they are while they're doing it.



"We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you're doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing. By the way, we don't supply that data to anyone," he told attendees.
from http://www.businessinsider.com/ford-exec-gps-2014-1

No doubt everyone took that last point at face value. *snort*
posted by wenestvedt at 8:45 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


One more data point: During the Sandy-related power outage, my gas stove worked just fine but the electronically-controlled oven was bricked. If this sucker needs replacing on my watch, I'll be on the lookout for any all-manual offerings.
posted by whuppy at 8:45 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


by equipping every small appliance with an SCSI interface

until you discovered that they had used a lousy driver and your fridge will update your grocery list in about 4 years.
posted by srboisvert at 8:46 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


"We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you're doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing. By the way, we don't supply that data to anyone," he told attendees.

Yet. Yet.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:52 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


And by "don't supply" we actually mean, "don't turn over as a matter of course, but will hand over forthwith upon receiving a warrant, national security letter or politely worded email from law enforcement".
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:56 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


It's just more crap that me, the family IT guy, would have to setup and constantly troubleshoot / fix for my entire family. No thank you.
posted by msbutah at 8:59 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


'Smart' toothbrush grades your brushing habits.

It costs $200.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:15 AM on January 10


I'm not opposed in principle to thoughtful use of logic circuitry in formerly-dumb appliances, but my god, the interfaces these people come up with, and the build quality.

A few years ago I wanted to buy a kitchen timer. I tried the digital ones and it was just a disaster. You spend longer getting the freaking thing set to the right time than you do waiting for the damned eggs. And god help you if you decide you want to add 5 minutes mid-timing. So I ditched that and bought an old-fashioned mechanical one with a dial that you turn to the right time. But, I discovered, decent timers in this style are no longer manufactured. The first one I tried had a service life measured in, I am not exaggerating here, hours. I went through three or four and never got one to work for more than a couple weeks before the cheap Chinese clockwork mechanism broke.

Finally I went on ebay and bought an ancient Mirro-Matic egg timer for $10ish. I don't know how old it is exactly, but it is a product of the once-mighty Connecticut clock-and-watch industry, which was a musty historical footnote long before I was born, the only remaining clue to its erstwhile existence a lovely museum in Bristol. So it's got to be at least 40 years old, probably more. But it is indestructible. It requires zero babying. Even at its advanced age it has survived probably dozens of falls (I am that clumsy) from the top of the refrigerator where it lives because I have no counter space.

There is no reason in theory that you couldn't build a digital timer with a nice chunky knob with great haptics as its sole user interface. I could have the thing text me when it was done so I wouldn't have to stay within earshot; that would be a worthwhile function. And there's no reason you couldn't build it to work for 40 years. But the globalized manufacturers of digital consumer gadgets these days are either unwilling or unable to match the build and UX quality that the Lux Clock Mfg. Co. achieved for pennies a few decades ago, so why the fuck should I trust these people to get an Internet fridge right?
posted by enn at 9:23 AM on January 10 [15 favorites]


what, exactly, is the non-bullshit side of IoT?

Not bloody fridges. O'Reilly is having a conference about this stuff in the spring, and I'm pretty sure it will be a fridge-free zone, and discuss the issues of obsolescence and failure modes. But if you want to whack around lazy marketing and lazy reporting driven by the CES vendor booths, then go right ahead.
posted by holgate at 9:23 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Being a musician working with electronic instruments has been a real eye-opener in terms of systems obsolescence, because if you develop any kind of longterm relationship with an electronic instrument, you're going to be in trouble down the line.

I properly cut my performing teeth on an Ensoniq EPS sampler, which was a miraculous sampling, synthesizing, and sequencing powerhouse for the shocking low price of $1900 ($2300 with the various expansions I made to it), and all of my early one-man-show pieces ran entirely off that big heavy machine. It makes lovely, detailed, amazing sounds in ways that virtually no instrument has really touched since. Thing is—it's now a "vintage" instrument stuffed with ASICs made by its defunct manufacturer, with a UI based on a huge, fragile glass fluorescent display, that depends on a proprietary 3.5" disc drive and requires DD, not HD, media that is getting very, very rare and will soon be out of production altogether. It can be equipped with a primitive SCSI interface and plugged into a SCSI drive, though those, too, are virtually gone.

It's built beautifully, all super-thick plastic and brass captive nuts for all the physical connections, and has worked consistently for twenty-five years (Oh holy shit, did I buy this thing brand new twenty-five years ago?), but it is one failure away from being a brick. If one of the irreplaceable ASICs goes bad—that's all there is. If the drive goes out, I can find another, but for how long? When DD discs go away and all that are left are the ones I've hoarded over the years, how long will it last? Maybe I can sort of patch together some sort of expensive workaround with a SCSI-to-PCMCIA-to-IDE-to-Compact-Flash rig...but then what?

I don't take it out of the house anymore, and I can't rely on it for a whole production. It's on a wing and a prayer, and because most of its engineering was never picked up by other manufacturers, when it goes, I can't make any of those sounds anymore.

I don't think Ensoniq planned for it to be obsolete, but the way systems come together in modern equipment, it's pretty much guaranteed that when they fail, it's always catastrophic. I can't yet 3D print replacement ASICs for 25 year-old synthesizer from a dead company, and may never be able to do so.

My allegiances shifted, as the Ensoniq aged, and in the last century, I got deep into a new platform, the Nord Modular, which is software running on common Motorola DSP chips and should be pretty futureproof...except that the software required to edit it needs a Mac OS 9/Windows XP machine. It's not the company's fault, really, in that Clavia is a tiny company in Sweden running with a handful of employees and doesn't have the resources to keep up with updating their editor software for a product that's been out of production for a decade.

If the systems change, and OS changes, and the plugs and connectors change, and it all just changes and changes and changes, nothing will ever last longer than its first irreplaceable part, and we're making sure that all our parts are irreplaceable, whether it's by a conscious marketing strategy or just the consumerist zeitgeist pulling us along.

I've been lately toting an iPad around for performances, thinking that an all-software approach that can run on any iPad might be the perfect balance between complicated systems and a desire to use intricate methods of synthesis and control, and it was going well until the day the iPad just no longer would dock with my main computer. It'll charge, but no sync, and it's "obsolete," because it's four years old, and I think I might be able to fix it, assuming I don't break the glass prying the fucker open, but will I ever trust it again? I dunno.

In the aftermath, stewing in my worst luddite grouchiness, I'm trying to teach myself Csound, which is fabulously capable and platform-independent and supported by a whole world of super smart DIY types who keep it getting better with each iteration, but I'm hitting a new wall, in that I may just not be smart enough to figure this damn thing out.

At least I've got my fucking theremins, which I built myself and can repair myself.

Woo.

And yes, that is the world's smallest theremin, and it's playing all for me.
posted by sonascope at 9:24 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]


Er, fridges are perfectly reasonable and important Things. In fact, they are in a big category of things that are already networked at the commercial level, which is to say cold-producing machines.

As for post-industrially printing a fridge compressor, a large box and cardboard insulation, good look with that.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:40 AM on January 10


If the systems change, and OS changes, and the plugs and connectors change, and it all just changes and changes and changes, nothing will ever last longer than its first irreplaceable part, and we're making sure that all our parts are irreplaceable, whether it's by a conscious marketing strategy or just the consumerist zeitgeist pulling us along.

This is why I love the open source and standards-addicted nerds, and distrust iOS as a platform - I can slap NetBSD on an old PowerPC iBook, and it will be secure and speedy and offer enough modern amenities to do useful work on the internet. An old iPad or iPod Touch is just a brick, even if it still functions fine.

Unfortunately, OSS is a collection of "Me too!" rip-off artists and feature-creep geeks with no real sense of UI design or plan to innovate ahead of where the industry is. This really needs to change, but probably won't.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:54 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


An old iPad or iPod Touch is just a brick, even if it still functions fine.

I've got an Android tablet as well, which is just as closed from a hardware standpoint as an iPad, and its theoretically more open OS doesn't support low-latency audio, so it's useless for musical purposes.

The trouble I've had so far with the open source end is that it's all still a very cliquish world that does not make it easy for out-of-practice geeks from the eight-bit age to have even the remotest grasp of how to make things work together, when it's just assume you know how to compile things and blip around in the terminal like it's a native language.

I'm really hoping that we get to a point in the next decade in which you can have both open standards and codes and installations that dinosaurs can manage.
posted by sonascope at 10:06 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


After some public outcry, manufacturers will start releasing security updates...at cost. You have to pay to keep using your toaster unless you're willing to chance some anonymous asshat setting it on fire.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:07 AM on January 10


Being a musician working with electronic instruments has been a real eye-opener in terms of systems obsolescence, because if you develop any kind of longterm relationship with an electronic instrument, you're going to be in trouble down the line.

For instance, Avid recently bought M-Audio and will no longer provide updated drivers for a bunch of legacy products. It wasn't a problem for me until a new project fell into my hands, which required that I update my OS, and then...boom. Anyone need a brick with knobs and faders?
posted by malocchio at 10:13 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The only people who will benefit from smart fridges and washing machines are the companies who want to monitor my usage and sell advertising. I

Not true. Smart fridges can find out when there's lots of renewable power available and run harder to use it. As can smart washers. That benefits you, the utilities, and the environment.
posted by ocschwar at 10:19 AM on January 10


TVs that are actually computers make sense, because a TV is already a huge frikkin monitor - being able to do more stuff with it is a no brainer. The only people who will benefit from smart fridges and washing machines are the companies who want to monitor my usage and sell advertising. I am not really seing the upside for the user...

You hit on it with the advertising. Even if there's a pathway that makes sense, for example with SmartTVs, the practical reality is that these implementations are complete shit: they run on under-powered hardware, are difficult to update, obsolete within just a few weeks practically; and most importantly: are extremely user-hostile since in fact the whole point was about user tracking to feed advertisers information. That you can also maybe browse the internet on a hobbled browser is a complete accident.
posted by odinsdream at 10:21 AM on January 10


I'd really love to see some people actually digging into the back-end side of this stuff and reporting on it. The only person that comes to mind right away is Bunnie Huang. There is a really, really small amount of actual dev-work going on for these devices; from a hardware and software perspective. The same giant manufacturing companies are contracted by multiple customer-facing vendors; you get a really weird industry as a result.
posted by odinsdream at 10:24 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


All kinds of interesting mayhem could result if the fridge makers partnered with a certain food chain and agreed to warm up the temp secretly to spoil a batch of groceries not bought at the partner chain. Or, nefarious public health officials or insurance providers could convince fridge-makers to spoil food that was unhealthy and related to accidents, injuries, or chronic diseases.
posted by staggering termagant at 10:48 AM on January 10


nefarious public health officials or insurance providers could convince fridge-makers to spoil food

[insert Chris Christie joke here]
posted by me & my monkey at 11:12 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Technology is fine. Jerks calling me a "Luddite" because I don't center my life around consumer gadgets, not so much.
posted by thelonius at 11:23 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


- a lamp would just say "I can turn on/off, I am on/off"

This problem has already been solved by SNMP for decades. It's used to create traps and responses in routers and servers routinely.
posted by benzenedream at 11:42 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Jerks calling me a "Luddite" because I don't center my life around consumer gadgets, not so much.

I tend to use the word "luddite," which has become a very similar smear to what "liberal" became or what people think they're saying when they say "artsy," as one of the so-called teachable moments in which I can ask people if they really know who the original "luddites" were and what they were against (hint: it wasn't technology).

I am a luddite who's absolutely swimming in technology, but it has to serve the greater concept of the balance between a task and the complexity of the system created to execute the task.

I have never owned a microwave and never will, because there's nothing it can do for me that justifies its presence in my home. I don't need voice-controlled, iOS-savvy, fuzzy logic light switches because I live in a two-room apartment and the light is never more than twenty feet or so from me. I don't need a hamburger-sized electronic complicatakey for my truck that costs $200 to replace if one is unlucky enough to lose it because I have no reason to unlock my truck when I'm not standing next to it, and no one will steal it because it's old and not remotely cool.

On the other hand, I've got a little camera set up that can zing a live feed from my apartment wirelessly into a router, then into the internet, and through outer space and fiber optics and such so that I can log onto a computer on the other side of the country and check to see if my dog is eating the sofa.

The reward needs to justify the systems complexity of the solution—that's what luddism means to me.
posted by sonascope at 11:45 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


ocschwar: "Smart fridges can find out when there's lots of renewable power available and run harder to use it."
This doesn't make any sense to me. I'd like the things in my fridge to stay at a constant 5°C. Can fridges store cold somewhere and then dispense it?
posted by brokkr at 11:56 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


They could charge a battery I guess?

Of course if everyone's appliances did that, there wouldn't be a cheaper or more expensive time of day to buy power.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:58 AM on January 10


The Nest Thermostat and Protect Smoke detectors are awesome. Sonos Play system which lets you setup wireless speakers in every room and endlessly regroup them into zones is also really great. Chromecast and Apple TV are great. The washer / dryer with an app that tells me when they are finished is also highly useful. The smart phone connected deadbolt is nice. The meat thermometer connected to the smart phone also proves to be something I love. I suppose these things are going to one day result in my total P0WNAGE, but they really make my life easy.
posted by humanfont at 12:05 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


brokkr: well insulated fridges can turn on power for a fairly limited amount of time to keep the space cold all day, they don't need to be on all day. If your fridge can pick the time when electricity is cheapest (ie when demand is low/RE generation is high) then it will cost less. Enough voluntary peak lopping means intermittent renewable sources won't have to be constrained.
posted by biffa at 12:09 PM on January 10


This doesn't make any sense to me. I'd like the things in my fridge to stay at a constant 5°C. Can fridges store cold somewhere and then dispense it?

Yes, but you don;t really have much reason to care if your freezer is at -5C or -20C. That lets the fridge store a good amount of work in the freezer, and keep the fridge chamber at 5C with a cheap heat exchanger connecting it to the freezer. You don't see this in residential fridges yet, but with smart grid development, you will, pretty soon.
posted by ocschwar at 12:17 PM on January 10


I went to a training seminar recently held by a large chipmaker. The topic was learning about this new low-cost wifi chipset (with processor inside) that they're targeting for IoT type stuff.

The underlying message in all the marketing, from my perspective, was this:

Apple and Samsung have destroyed the mobile application processor race. They've won. The rest of us out there have no chance in making large volumes selling ARM or x86 cores for these devices, so we need a new plan to sell the next trillion chips. So let's make them ultra low-power, ultra low-cost, and put them in EVERYTHING ELSE WE CAN.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:17 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Attempting to modify your SmartFridge 3000tm is a violation of our terms of service agreement...

CNC machines can't be moved without manufacturers' permission

The future is now.
posted by bonehead at 12:23 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


CNC machines can't be moved without manufacturers' permission

And your Garmin GPS unit doesn't work at speeds beyond Mach 2.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:32 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I guess I've become so pessimistic over time, because the I can't imagine this stuff ever being done right. In the spirit of the Internet a sensible and public specification would be hammered out for devices to communicate the simplest useful bit of information possible and vendors would adhere to it. But no... they will all create their own "innovation" by creating a closed spec and ask us all to trust that their abandonware wrote once by a team half way across the world is secure enough to join to our home LANs.

No thank you, and while your at it, go fuck yourself. They want to call this stuff Internet enabled just because it will broadcast some manner of packet over the Internet but I have zero expectation that they understand what made the Internet work in the first place.
posted by dgran at 12:33 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


My wife and I have a Sonos system, two HD tvs, two Roku 3s, two iPads, a Windows desktop, a Windows laptop, a Macbook, a Mac mini, a Kindle Paperwhite, two Wiis, a Wii U, two Nintendo DSes (kids), and two iPhones.

But I really, really don't want things to be "smart" if they don't need to be. Oven, toaster, toothbrush, washer/dryer ... I don't get it. I have a giant house and the W/D are on the upper floor at the opposite end from the kitchen (downstairs) and I can still hear the beep when clothes are dry. Or I can fluff them again for 5 minutes. On NPR a guy reporting from CES seemed all excited about the toothbrush ... lame. And you can't turn on the oven and dryer when you aren't home! Fire! Fire! Doesn't anyone have any common sense anymore?

Also I still don't really trust mechanical pencils. So maybe I am a Luddite.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:40 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Garmin GPS unit doesn't work at speeds beyond Mach 2.

For good reason. However, the CNC guys just want to move the machines around the shop floor, not to North Korea.
posted by bonehead at 12:41 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The Nest Thermostat and Protect Smoke detectors are awesome.

Until the battery dies.
posted by asterix at 12:54 PM on January 10


That Nest "battery" issue was related to a software upgrade that didn't work on every unit.

Nest isn't talking but some think the new version used more power than it could scrape off the house's wiring, resulting in the low battery warnings and eventual shutdown.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:06 PM on January 10


Clearly, the marketing side of IoT -- and the dimwitted reporting on it -- is all internet fridges and accelerated obsolescence. But you don't have to buy into the bullshit side.
And, what, exactly, is the non-bullshit side of IoT?
The bullshit side is "apps on every appliance!" The non-bullshit side (IMHO) is appliances that are just smart enough to integrate with an app or with each other to do neat things, like self-monitoring, reminders, or automation. For instance, it would be really cool if all my doors automatically locked when I left for work, or if my refrigerator alerted me that it's internal temp is 55 degrees so I could do something about it before my food spoils (or at least know that my food has spoiled).

Unfortunately, there's also an extra layer of "cloud" bullshit you have to deal with as well, which amplifies some of these security and support problems. These $350 dollar devices are now bricks, because the company that made them went out of business. They shutdown their web-api and they all stopped working.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:56 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Frankly, as the world becomes more beholden and dependent on devices, I think the real winner will be the company that can develop, patent, and market a way to create digital people, all on one device, and sell to parents as an alternative to child bearing. Here's how it works: You don't actually have a child/baby, but you digitally create it. It isn't actually "born" but it's consciousness "lives" on a smartphone (of course) and it's life is all digitally created- no muss, no fuss. It does EVERYTHING digitally, through a device or 3, it's existence is only through a device, and you can only communicate, interact and see/hear it, through a digital device. It's all connected to the internet, so you can immediately upload/download all it needs/wants/desires. And with a contract. it's all ad-free, as long as you plug it in every 24 hours to charge....
posted by GreyFoxVT at 1:56 PM on January 10


I think the real winner will be the company that can develop, patent, and market a way to create digital people, all on one device, and sell to parents as an alternative to child bearing.

Already done.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:01 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I have a giant house and the W/D are on the upper floor at the opposite end from the kitchen (downstairs) and I can still hear the beep when clothes are dry.

Well if your W/D are on an upper floor...a smart sensor that texts you when a pipe breaks might be handy in preventing your washing machine from falling through to the basement.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:20 PM on January 10


brokkr: " My washing machine has this smart LCD display where it displays the remaining running time. It's conspicuously visible just after you turn the thing on, so as long as I can add 2½ hours to the current time mentally I don't need the thing to send me an email."

None of my washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher have fixed cycle times. The dryer, like the majority of dryers sold in the last 20 years, has a moisture sensor, such that it turns off when the clothes are dry rather than running for an extra hour. The washing machine and dishwasher both stop washing when their sensors detect there is no more soil to be removed. Sometimes that takes longer than the initially estimated time, but usually significantly less. That variable cycle time is why I wouldn't mind receiving some kind of network-based notification that it was finished. That and the fact I can't hear them beep in parts of the house.

As an aside, I would probably flip out in frustration if my dryer took 2 and a half hours to dry anything except a king size comforter. Usually it's more like 30 minutes.

phaedon: "Or how about a refridgowave, that keeps your chicken enchiladas frozen until you're headed home and voila, dinner is served the minute you walk in the door."

Something like this actually exists. For a while, and perhaps still, Whirlpool was selling ovens with a built in refrigerator. The idea being that you prepare whatever, put it in the oven in the morning, tell it to please have your food warm by 6 o'clock or whatever and it would keep the food cold until the heating cycle began and when you get home, hot dinner. Recent microwaves have microphones in them. Scary, eh? If you consider it listening for the sounds of your microwave popcorn being finished popping so it can turn itself off and avoid scorching your popcorn scary, it is indeed very scary.

Oh, and that oven? Internet-connected, before smartphones were a thing that existed. It had a WAP site you could navigate to on your dumbphone to tell it to please heat up dinner sooner or later than originally planned. Internet of Things isn't remotely new. What's new is the ridiculous fearmongering.
posted by wierdo at 2:55 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Nest isn't talking but some think the new version used more power than it could scrape off the house's wiring, resulting in the low battery warnings and eventual shutdown.

It was kinda always a bad idea for Nest to support the thermostat installed without a dedicated voltage line. I added one to mine, despite the inconvenience. I totally understand why they may have wanted to do this from an initial release perspective, to ensure people could just use it as a drop-in replacement, but it's pretty silly.
posted by odinsdream at 2:56 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Garmin GPS unit doesn't work at speeds beyond Mach 2

Just build your own, of course.
posted by odinsdream at 2:58 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


One issue is that, with some exceptions, hardware manufacturers make shitty software and then never update it. Smart TVs and Blu-Ray players are notorious for having terrible interfaces and buggy software. The four year old "smart" LG Blu-Ray player that I have hasn't had had a software update in 3.5 years. Why bother to update the software when it just encourages consumers to not buy the latest hardware?
posted by octothorpe at 3:14 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


That Nest "battery" issue was related to a software upgrade that didn't work on every unit.

Wait, is this supposed to make it okay?
posted by asterix at 3:29 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The weird thing, to me, is that literally all of the designers, marketers, CEOs, and developers working on this stuff were around for at least the past 15 to 20 years of technological advances, and yet not one of them has addressed the issue of what happens when their system becomes obsolete? Am I seriously seeing an entire industry of people who have never lost a favorite thing or pastime to obsolescence?

No, I get it, it's about corporate greed. As is like 90% of the conflict and hassle in my world.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:17 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


not one of them has addressed the issue of what happens when their system becomes obsolete?

In the music world, there have been a number of boutique software makers who've declared, and I have every reason to believe that they're sincere, that if their companies ever go down, they'll make the last build of their software open source and release the source code.

At the end of development life of the beloved Rebirth application, Propellerhead opened the copy protection and said "here you go!"

This is, of course, the difference between cool little boutique producers founded by makers and megacorporations with megamarketing divisions, but it's a distinct change from the old model.
posted by sonascope at 4:27 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I guess I've become so pessimistic over time, because I can't imagine this stuff ever being done right.

I don't blame people for getting a bit knee-jerky, especially in the context of CES, which is the Buzzfeed of gadget shows. On the other hand, I think we sometimes overestimate the everlasting nature of appliances from certain eras: there may be GE ranges from the 50s built like tanks in former tank factories, but they're the notable survivors while most of their peers were discarded along the way because they broke down.

This really needs to be a conversation where there is a swear jar for using the word 'fridge'. I think the areas where it gets interesting are lower-level, providing the equivalent of an "expert mode" and diagnostic capability for homes themselves, which in turn means thinking about an extremely long working life, simple components with simple outputs that offload their intelligence elsewhere, and a design process that ensures graceful failure.
posted by holgate at 4:38 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Well, we've had network-connected SNMP-controlled toasters since the early 1990's. There's still a TOASTER-MIB for it.

Still, I don't want most of my things connected to the net. Hell, I'm sort of shopping for a new television, and I really don't want a "smart" TV and don't plan to hook it up to any kind of network if it comes with those features. It's really hard to find something in the size-range I'm looking at that's still stoopid. And of course, all the shopping websites will let me filter for "smart tv" but not let me filter for "not smart tv". bah.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:01 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


This really needs to be a conversation where there is a swear jar for using the word 'fridge'. I think the areas where it gets interesting are lower-level, providing the equivalent of an "expert mode" and diagnostic capability for homes themselves, which in turn means thinking about an extremely long working life, simple components with simple outputs that offload their intelligence elsewhere, and a design process that ensures graceful failure.

That's going to be really hard, but it'd be neat if it work. My dream "smart home" would have solar panels, a battery bank (so, inverter, rectifier, charge controller, source switcher), a heat pump connected for hot water, heating and cooling and a natural gas water heater for winter heat (oh, Canada), plus a heat recovery ventilator, a range hood and bathroom fans. You can use industrial automation systems to make all this stuff work, but it gets really expensive.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:52 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Graphs by MIT Students Show the Enormously Intrusive Nature of Metadata
posted by jeffburdges at 5:53 AM on January 11


Google acquires Nest for $3.2 billion
posted by humanfont at 2:00 PM on January 13


Strangely, I think the Nest deal is probably a good thing for the people doing the most valuable IoT work.

We've had a day of "to turn on your heat, please create a Google+ account" gags on Twitter, but I hope having the most prominent IoT-ish company bought for $3.2bn leads to a fairly loud conversation about the kind of controls that are needed to provide the benefits of accumulated user data from within the home -- particularly diagnostics -- as opposed to the privacy issues associated with the retention of individual user data. There's clearly some disquiet about having the world's biggest consumer data-munger take ownership.

That might also cut off a Google exit for smaller IoT startups, which may in turn make VCs wary, but I don't think that's terrible either.
posted by holgate at 3:22 PM on January 13


Related thread.

"Lich-House" by Warren Ellis.
posted by homunculus at 11:16 AM on January 14


Google acquires Nest for $3.2 billion

So it turns out there's a Providence, R.I. company called Nestor Inc, which trades with the ticker "NEST". Can you guess what happened next?

Business Insider: A Penny Stock Called Nestor Just Surged 1900% Because People Confused It With The Company That Google Bought.

WSJ: Nestor: The New Tweeter
The episode brought back memories of what transpired in October, when investors mistakenly bid up shares of Tweeter Home Entertainment, the bankrupt retailer, immediately after Twitter revealed plans to raise up to $1 billion in a public offering.

Investors, who apparently were hoping to get in on the action early, mistakenly started buying shares of Tweeter, which at that time traded under the ticker symbol TWTRQ. Twitter’s ticker symbol is TWTR.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:23 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Matt Haughey: Every data point is sacred: My surprising lessons from one innocuous piece of data
posted by KatlaDragon at 4:10 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Hacked fridge sends out malicious emails in unprecedented cyber attack
posted by homunculus at 3:28 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Hacked fridge sends out malicious emails in unprecedented cyber attack

Said it before. I'll say it again. My deepest fear isn't that I'm living in a William Gibson novel. It's that I'm living in one by Douglas Adams.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:34 PM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Thingbotnet claims considered dubious
posted by flabdablet at 9:16 PM on January 19


The Internet of Vegetables: How Cyborg Plants Can Monitor Our World
posted by homunculus at 5:37 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


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