Obviously the best thing to do is put a chip in it
October 27, 2015 5:14 AM   Subscribe

Internet of Shit. Laugh now, while you can still buy a toaster that doesn't have Linux on it. The Internet of Things previously: 1, 2
posted by jklaiho (87 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
A couple more IoT previouslies popped up in Related Posts that didn't show up in the searches I did prior to posting, so check them out there if you're interested.
posted by jklaiho at 5:22 AM on October 27, 2015


I have an idea for a thermostat so advanced, so sophisticated, that all you have to do when you want your house warmer or cooler is turn one single large and easy-to-grip knob up or down.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:25 AM on October 27, 2015 [38 favorites]


I have an idea for a thermostat so advanced, so sophisticated, that all you have to do when you want your house warmer or cooler is turn one single large and easy-to-grip knob up or down.

How is Google supposed to know you're cold and send you sweater advertisements with that?
posted by eriko at 5:29 AM on October 27, 2015 [30 favorites]


So much wrongness. I follow this twitter feed and just shake my head at some of the ideas.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:35 AM on October 27, 2015


"my alarm clock didn't go off today because it lost my wifi credentials seriously"
posted by oheso at 5:35 AM on October 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Some of these things have to be parodies and it's just Poe's Law that makes us think they're real. Right?
posted by Gev at 5:39 AM on October 27, 2015


Relevant: We Put A Chip In It!
posted by mystyk at 5:41 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I prefer to Put A Bird On It!
posted by valkane at 5:45 AM on October 27, 2015


My friend is an early adopter.

His smart central heating system took about four visits from an engineer to install and get working (supposed to be self-installed, but while that's apparently possible in Germany, where the thing was designed, it isn't in the UK. Which came as a bit of a surprise to the Germans.) and doesn't let him change the temperature if the central server or the Internet goes down. They're "working on" an autonomous mode, and "considering" publishing the APIs.

His smart electricity meter does what it's supposed to, but that took a year and three visits after it was installed. It doesn't do it very well, as the app UI is 'stupid' (his word). This is part of an expensively developed UK-wide system which is one of those things you look at and wonder how on earth it cost that much and took so long to produce such an underspecified thing. Then you realise it was done on government contract.

The IoT will be big in industry (it is already), because it's the only economic way to automate the supply chain, develop a market in manufacturing and transportation data, and (a long way down the list) do the flash analytics and AI that always appears high up the ppt deck.

Smart Toasters are just Home Of The Future wankfantasy. You don't want them. If you did ever want them, you could have had them any time since 1980.
posted by Devonian at 5:45 AM on October 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


We got a new wifi router and I keep forgetting to reprogram my scale with the new password :/
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:48 AM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


My professional opinion on that trend can best be described as waving a flag with the phrase "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" on it.
posted by seyirci at 5:52 AM on October 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


The fridge has been nagging at me to upgrade his language files; he only speaks a Guangdong dialect and can't understand the microwave. The iron and toaster have been sulking over an extention cord incident. Me and the cat are hiding out in the bedroom. We've bribed the alarm clock...
posted by likeso at 6:02 AM on October 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


My professional opinion on that trend can best be described as waving a flag with the phrase "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" on it.

FlagWavr.app has detected 617 waves today! Congratulations! You've convinced 4.32 people of their plight & burned 122 calories!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:06 AM on October 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Sudo make me an artisanal panini
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on October 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


There's almost no trace of it on the Web, but the BBC transmitted a one-off drama in 1980 called Feelifax about sentient household appliances. (The writer, Jim Hawkins, was an exceptionally talented chap, he also did things like write a music composition computer language; if he's still about he may have a copy. Worth trying to find.)
posted by Devonian at 6:21 AM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


And don't forget: when everything finally goes haywire, Tom Selleck of the Runaway Squad will fly in and save the world from a scheming Gene Simmons.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:27 AM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Devonian, I'm getting a "not found" for that link. This one seems to work.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:29 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nthing seyirci with this little gem.
posted by that's candlepin at 6:37 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


soren_lorensen: "We got a new wifi router and I keep forgetting to reprogram my scale with the new password :/"

I hate that. The scale's battery dies and it forgets the wifi settings so then you have to connect it to a PC to update the settings but it's got a mini-USB connector and you can never seem to find those in the drawer full of fifty different cables and dongles in the bedroom desk and then you need to figure out how to get the Withings software to connect to the USB to update the settings and then you just cry.
posted by octothorpe at 6:39 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's an ad on buses here touting the world's first WiFi-enabled kitchen; my first thought was “now your kitchen has an attack surface”.
posted by acb at 7:04 AM on October 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


From the Twitter link:
it suddenly strikes me how many of these devices are made for software engineers that don't get out much

No kidding. I long felt the same way. That we are basically living in a world being molded into some engineers' collective masturbatory dream.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, thanks to the wonders of miniaturisation and ridiculously cheap systems on a chip, your home network can be pwned by an electric kettle you thought wasn't internet-enabled.

The future could look like gazillions of sploitbots embedded into everything, electrical or otherwise, on the off-chance that one of them ends up in the Oval Office or one of the certificate authorities.
posted by acb at 7:11 AM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


acb, I almost expected that story to be from The Register. Found a similar story, was not disappointed.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:27 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was annoyed by my new toaster because, unlike any other toaster I have owned, it draws power all the time. This is presumably because of a mysterious 'bagel' function which is unexplained other than the instruction that if you are toasting a bagel, push this button. As far as I can tell, all it does is turn an LED on, but it might actually change the toasting function in some way. Whether or not it's something I want to happen or not, I can't say.

But I guess I should really check to see if it's hacking into my Wi-Fi.
posted by MtDewd at 7:29 AM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bring up IoT, and everyone becomes a security expert. They get all worried about their toaster getting owned, but continue to use flash and un-patched windows on the machine that has actual valuable information, or at minimum can probably be held for ransom.

Yes, someone might own your toaster. So what?

Yes, you can use a conventional thermostat. But I find value in being able to bring my house to a pleasant temperature on my way home from a trip, not to mention many other times it benefited me. I'd love a fridge that sent me a remote alert when its temperature went out of spec, or the door was left open. I don't care if my toaster was internet connected, but it sure has hell could make more consistent toast. It would be friggin awesome if I could tightly control my front door lock so my cleaner can only get in during certain hours and could be revoked at any time.

Hating on bad examples is like saying all cars are crap because of Lada. Maybe we could be less luddites and less cynical and, you know, look at the future with a little optimism. I gotta wear shades.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:31 AM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


some engineers' collective masturbatory dream.

Not all engineers.
posted by sfenders at 7:33 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can barely get my laptop and phone to play music without constant hassles, so while I'm sure this trend will prove to have positive aspects here and there I am not confident that it will be a net quality of life gain.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:38 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


There will come soft rains.
posted by msbrauer at 7:39 AM on October 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


The "Bagel" function on my toaster turns off the heating elements on the outside so that only one side of the bagel gets toasted.
posted by Gev at 7:39 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't care if my toaster was internet connected, but it sure has hell could make more consistent toast.

How? Just find a level on an conventional toaster that you're happy with and don't fiddle with it. Voila, perfect toast!
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:43 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cars aren't crap because of Lada, but the IoT isn't doing itself any favours because of cars.
posted by Devonian at 7:44 AM on October 27, 2015


My husband's cousin found a really cheap coffeemaker secondhand. It had a built-in thingy that pinged a satellite to tell you what the weather would be that day when you got your morning coffee. Sadly, the thingy doesn't work when it's cloudy outside. And even more sadly, if it can't check the weather, it also can't make you coffee.

He's an electrical engineer, he took it apart to try to fix it, but the way it was wired/set up, it was unfixable. He had to go buy a dumb coffeemaker that only cared what time you set the timer for.
posted by emjaybee at 7:44 AM on October 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


But I guess I should really check to see if it's hacking into my Wi-Fi.

How else would it send back the Bitcoins it's minting?
posted by acb at 7:49 AM on October 27, 2015


Yes, someone might own your toaster. So what?

Then they can use that to pwn your router, MitM your banking connection and clean out your account, or pwn your computer, encrypt your files and demand several thousand dollars for the decryption keys. And these are just things that criminals have done so far.
posted by acb at 7:51 AM on October 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Most of the people mocking the Internet of Things concept probably already have an internet-connected day planner, address book, clock/watch, personal A/V system and library, stills and video camera, personal supercomputer, dictionary, encyclopedia, library full of books, personal activity tracker, GPS system, game console, and telephone in their pocket.

I'm skeptical about the IOT, I think the mockery is mostly funny and deserved. At the same time, though, when people demonstrate this “who ever want this?” attitude on Twitter, a mainly-mobile platform, it's hard not to think “Dude, you would. You bought into this in a huge way. That ridiculous web-enabled refrigerator isn't a sign of the end times, it's just the icing on a cake you've already eaten.”

This is funny, but if you've forgone a watch in favor of a phone, as so many have, you've had this problem for a while already. That's not the future, that's the Bush administration calling.

The excitement over/mockery of the IOT concept reminds me a lot of Douglas Adams' Genuine People Personalities concept. Both involve applying new tech in thoughtless, gimmicky ways, wasting resources on making First-world daily life a little bit more complicated and worse.

When Adams was writing HHGTTG in its many forms, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, machines were starting to talk. Video games that featured speech (at the expense of everything else, sometimes) were considered amazing. Some automobiles had completely unnecessary talking dashboards. There were talking calculators and electronic games. My father had a "chess computer" that talked - for some reason. Adams' "Genuine People Personalities" was humorous and satirical but it wasn't actually so futuristic or fantastical, it was contemporary and relevant.

But Adams' talking coffee pots and talking doors never came to pass. Most people found the talking machines annoying to actually live with, and they turned out to be a fad, a trend that attracted some early-adopter gadget freaks and then mostly went away because it turned out to be dumb. The free market gets a lot of stuff wrong, but it sorted that one out.

I expect the IOT will shake out the same way. A big splash of dumb glitz that only sticks in a few niches where it really does make sense.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:52 AM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


What gets me about all of these devices is that if you've ever lived in a house with dumb, simple devices, you konw that they will often break in inexplicable ways at the very worst time, as it is. Water heaters, toilets, lighting fixtures; they wear out, they break, squirrels get in your attic and eat something vital, you curse and injure yourself trying to fix things or pay some dude lots of money to do it. Houses are a collection of expensive failures waiting to happen at any given moment in time.

Now; combine that with all the break-prone-ness/delicacy of a computer! Imagine all the frustration of a software update that screws up your laptop combined with a freezer full of spoiling food that can't be fixed...or even opened! An oven that won't shut off! An a/c that refuses to go below 90 F!

The mind boggles.
posted by emjaybee at 7:53 AM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Then they can use that to pwn your router, MitM your banking connection and clean out your account, or pwn your computer, encrypt your files and demand several thousand dollars for the decryption keys. And these are just things that criminals have done so far.

Um, that would mean your router was not secured and -- especially -- your browser allowed an invalid certificate to authenticate your bank. That is your problem. MiTM (or on the side) is quite possible from outside. If you are depending solely on no one getting to your LAN as your security, you are in for deep trouble.

I'd love to see all these cases where actual criminals exploited actual IoT devices for actual gain. It will be a very very small number, if it is not zero.

There are serious security problems with anything connected to the internet, but if you continue to use your computer (personal or mobile), you should not be rejecting a fridge simply because it could be hacked. You might, however, ask your manufacturer what their update plan is, and favour those who care. Meet your average android phone...
posted by Bovine Love at 8:00 AM on October 27, 2015


I wonder how many of those appliances/systems were invented by startups that needed some product to get investor money, and ended up going the easy route of "old thing + smartphone + #connectivity = $$$$$$".

There is some room for smart appliances - a fridge or pantry manager that reads a barcode and warns when something is expiring is a solid idea that could be useful to prevent waste. But adding twitter notifications to say your microwave noodles are done is ridiculous, so is a beard trimmer reminding me not to look like a lumberjack (on the other hand, an actual power indicator would be great, Rowenta). And like Western Infidels said, I hope that the only things that stick are the ones with value beyond "look at what I can do with my iPhone!" novelty.

I mean. My current printer/scanner is wireless. In the days of desktop pcs, that wouldn't make any sense at all because the only thing that would connect to it would be that gigantic beige brick, but right now between laptops, tablets and smartphones, having some sort of ability to print or scan something without having to physically tether a device, it is useful (even if many times I have to USB it, because the device can't be found in the network etc).
posted by lmfsilva at 8:03 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


like uber but for toast
posted by entropicamericana at 8:04 AM on October 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


I have a phone and a computer that connect to my WiFi. I have a routine that includes ensuring that these things are updated and checking for the signs that something might be amiss. My concern about adding connectivity to other things I own is the multiplication of the number of things I need to update, the high likelihood that a vendor will basically abandon a given IOT firmware after release (or simply go out of business), and the increased surface of attack. It sucks to be running a laptop and phone that can be hacked. Having a fridge, toaster, and thermostat that can be hacked is even worse. And with the latter three, I don't even have a compelling need to connect them, it's a gimmick that offers me no real improvement.
posted by idiopath at 8:07 AM on October 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Um, that would mean your router was not secured

How do you know that every software component on your router, your PC and every embedded-Linux box (your Tivo? your smartfridge?) in your home is secure?

If you built your router from scratch and keep an eye on security mailing lists and diligently update as a matter of urgency, you can be reasonably confident that, if your Noriega number isn't high enough to waste a zero-day on, you'll probably be alright. Otherwise, it's the luck of the draw. And if you have any embedded devices, you have a general-purpose machine which is running a 18+-months-out-of-date Linux distribution which, by definition, is riddled with holes. That's assuming they didn't put in a back door for testing/debugging purposes and forget to remove it before shipping, as has happened before.
posted by acb at 8:17 AM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was annoyed by my new toaster because, unlike any other toaster I have owned, it draws power all the time. . . . I guess I should really check to see if it's hacking into my Wi-Fi.

When we go out of town, Mrs H fanatically goes about the house systematically unplugging things. Mostly things with stand-by functions -- like your toaster or a DVR -- or that "constitute a potential fire [femto-]hazard" such as a laser printer. But coming home from the last trip, I found my (dumb old) espresso machine, (dumb old) bean grinder, and the (dumb old) toaster unplugged. Just making sure, she was. Now I'm thinking it might be good habit.

Most of the people mocking the Internet of Things concept probably already have an internet-connected day planner, address book, clock/watch, personal A/V system and library, stills and video camera, personal supercomputer, dictionary, encyclopedia, library full of books, personal activity tracker, GPS system, game console, and telephone in their pocket.

Or maybe just the smartphone.

when people demonstrate this “who ever want this?” attitude on Twitter, a mainly-mobile platform, it's hard not to think “Dude, you would. You bought into this in a huge way. That ridiculous web-enabled refrigerator isn't a sign of the end times, it's just the icing on a cake you've already eaten.”

Do you really not see the difference between a telephone or tablet and a food storage container having that connectivity and 'intelligence'?

It doesn't seem odd to me in the least for people to embrace the former and reject the latter.

Adams' talking coffee pots and talking doors never came to pass.

Whaddya mean, "never"? It's still now. Never ain't here yet, man.
posted by Herodios at 8:35 AM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


You can't protect your router by having every other device on your network secure. Look, I'm not arguing that there is no attack surface increase; clearly there is. However, the monstrous attack surface that your un-patched phone or flash (patched or un-patched), or OS, is so vastly larger then the very small chance someone will hack your fridge to get to your router to MiTM your browser, which mysteriously will give up on all certificate policy. Vastly, galaxy sized larger then straight up hacked flash. The security risks of IoT are real, but hugely inflated in most (i.e. very close to all) cases. Ridiculously so.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:37 AM on October 27, 2015




Software is like hot dogs - it's best not to know how they are made. :-)

My guess is that people who have worked in software development are the ones who tend to mistrust the shiny new Internet Of Things the most. Ideally, something that controls your heat or your refrigerator should be bug-free. But there are likely to be multiple companies, all funded by venture capital, all trying to be the first to market. In their haste to get product out the door, they will inevitably leave bugs unfixed. Which is why your toaster won't toast on one side, and stuff like that.

I guess the best approach is to not install Version 1.0 of anything.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 9:00 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know where this is going of course...

OWEN
What I really need is a droid that understands the binary language of toaster ovens.

THREEPIO
Toaster Ovens! Sir -- My first job was programming binary house thermostats... very similar to your toasters. You could say...

OWEN
Do you speak Linux?

THREEPIO
Of course I can, sir. It's like a second language for me... I'm as fluent in Linux...
posted by happyroach at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't care if my toaster was internet connected, but it sure has hell could make more consistent toast.

I have a 70-year-old Toastmaster 1B14 that makes consistently perfect toast and is also very shiny and neato.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Everyone always give me the 'my toast comes out perfect' but yet I've yet to find a toaster that could handle different types of bread with any consistency, and especially if stuff has been toasted already. Either people eat the exact same bread a lot more then I do, only ever do one batch, or have magical toasters I've just not been able to find.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:10 AM on October 27, 2015


I wonder if I could get some VC funding if I made some half-baked powerpoints pitching The Internet of Adjectives, or The Internet of Verbs, or The Internet of Onomatopoeias.

It just seems like an Internet of Things pitch is doomed now that Hacker News and Lobste.rs are always griping about object oriented programming.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:10 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bovine Love, you realize you're asking for a future where you need to buy sliced bread that comes with laser-etched QR codes that specify the ideal toasting settings? And that bread will be vendor-locked with DRM?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:12 AM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder if I could get some VC funding if I made some half-baked powerpoints pitching The Internet of Adjectives, or The Internet of Verbs, or The Internet of Onomatopoeias.

The Internet of Adjectives: everything done with stylesheets.
The Internet of Verbs: everything done in Haskell or Scheme.
The Internet of Onomatopoeias: Scratch perhaps?
posted by acb at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2015


My guess is that people who have worked in software development are the ones who tend to mistrust the shiny new Internet Of Things the most. Ideally, something that controls your heat or your refrigerator should be bug-free. But there are likely to be multiple companies, all funded by venture capital, all trying to be the first to market. In their haste to get product out the door, they will inevitably leave bugs unfixed. Which is why your toaster won't toast on one side, and stuff like that.

I get paid to work on the Internet of Things, sometimes. So do a number of my friends. Where I sit, this mostly means one-off art projects and nerd-friendly systems for monitoring things, and it's mostly built on at least quasi-open hardware and decently open code. Realistically I suppose all this means is that we're operating in the space that enables people who don't give a shit about our theoretical scruples to prototype all the stuff they're building.

What I really suspect is that the Internet of Things is shaping up as the marketing wing of an industrial scam of a magnitude paralleled in recent memory only by The Cloud, of which it is a sort of logical extension. A total land grab. An attempted revision of our entire framework for ownership and a hilariously overdetermined surveillance-state wet dream. Industry has decided that all of your shit is going to run software, and it will not be software that you control, and this software will at absolute best operate only partially in your interests.

It is time and past that we start viewing computation (particularly networked computation) in epidemiological terms, and begin working on protocols to limit its spread. I mean, it's already too late, but we could try.
posted by brennen at 9:27 AM on October 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


Not at all, mccarty.tim. Just spitballing here, but a combination of toast color (differential from start to 'now'), surface temperature (infrared is your friend!) and likely some measure of humidity near the surface could give you a good idea. You should be able to program too something like "case hardened" (crunchy outside, soft inside) vrs "crouton style" (crunchy all the way through). This would be a function of the bread as well as the speed of toasting. I want a really smart toaster. Now, how much engineering would that take to work on my rye bread, pumpernickel (which I don't like toasted anyway, but anyway..), french style and wonder bread? I'm not sure, but I pretty sure it could do it.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:31 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe you just need to write a script for this thing?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:36 AM on October 27, 2015


Western Infidels: Adams' talking coffee pots and talking doors never came to pass. Most people found the talking machines annoying to actually live with, and they turned out to be a fad, a trend that attracted some early-adopter gadget freaks and then mostly went away because it turned out to be dumb. The free market gets a lot of stuff wrong, but it sorted that one out.

I sort of agree with this, but the problem today is that the free market incentives don't necessarily line up with your interests. If an Internet-connected toaster can have ads scrolling on its LED display, and toast the logo of an advertiser on to your bread, would you buy it? What if it was twenty bucks cheaper than other toasters? What if it was free? And came with a 5 year supply of bread, delivered weekly by drone?

The IoT, annoying as it is, is by no means dumb. Not when you understand who the customer likely will be.

(And yes, like Gibson's absent meat puppets, not having your appliances constantly connected to their corporate masters will be the most expensive service of all.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:39 AM on October 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


To be fair, my houses wiring is old and sometimes a circuit breaker will trip when I try to use the microwave and the toaster (or the A/C, or vacuum, or...). And then all the clocks are left blinking 12:00. So a microwave clock that automatically reset itself to the correct time would be pretty convenient. (Also, DST.)

There isn't even a security risk—if the internet connection is only physically capable of changing the clock, and not the µwave-emitting magnetron. Some "smart" cars have this problem: the internet is only intended to access its entertainment system, but the centralized CAN bus mean that messages to that system can also affect, say, the steering wheel. Or the brakes.
posted by Rangi at 10:13 AM on October 27, 2015


However, the monstrous attack surface that your un-patched phone or flash (patched or un-patched), or OS, is so vastly larger then the very small chance someone will hack your fridge to get to your router to MiTM your browser, which mysteriously will give up on all certificate policy.

You're only looking at the "risk" part of the risk/benefit ratio. Cell phones and computers have enormous benefits from being connected to the internet which outweigh the risks. The benefits of an internet-enabled toaster or refrigerator are so close to zero that the unacceptability of the risk/benefit ratio approaches infinity.
posted by straight at 10:21 AM on October 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


You know, I look forward to the day when we have to tell our kids that we're sorry that they can't have an IP address because our toaster has to have one.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:28 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is part of an expensively developed UK-wide system which is one of those things you look at and wonder how on earth it cost that much and took so long to produce

The first part of that sentence is the answer to the second. The UK can't do (software) projects worth shit anymore.

So a microwave clock that automatically reset itself to the correct time would be pretty convenient.

Why do you need a clock on your microwave in the first place?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:30 AM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


If an Internet-connected toaster can have ads scrolling on its LED display, and toast the logo of an advertiser on to your bread, would you buy it? What if it was twenty bucks cheaper than other toasters? What if it was free? And came with a 5 year supply of bread, delivered weekly by drone?

Then I'd get one of these, and to hell with you.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why do you need a clock on your microwave in the first place?

it's the only clock in my entire house aside from phone/computer/cable box devices that aren't necessarily always visible.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:22 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


So a microwave clock that automatically reset itself to the correct time would be pretty convenient. (Also, DST.)

Don't mean to pick on this particular statement, but the solution to resetting microwave clocks for DST is not to figure out how to connect them to the internet; it's to get rid of fucking DST.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 11:22 AM on October 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


You know, I look forward to the day when we have to tell our kids that we're sorry that they can't have an IP address because our toaster has to have one.

No worries - by then we'll have moved to IPv14.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 11:36 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most of the people mocking the Internet of Things concept probably already have an internet-connected day planner, address book, clock/watch, personal A/V system and library, stills and video camera, personal supercomputer, dictionary, encyclopedia, library full of books, personal activity tracker, GPS system, game console, and telephone in their pocket.


Um, yeah, it's nice to have a portable device that does useful things. All those things, in one device. In fact it tends to obviate the need for other junk. What does this have to do with networked appliances?

(I actually agree with your ultimate conclusion that a few - a few - good use cases will fall out)
posted by atoxyl at 11:40 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


You should be able to program too something like "case hardened" (crunchy outside, soft inside) vrs "crouton style" (crunchy all the way through).

SUPERTOAST X400 prototype UI mockup
posted by sfenders at 12:47 PM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


You're only looking at the "risk" part of the risk/benefit ratio. Cell phones and computers have enormous benefits from being connected to the internet which outweigh the risks.

Ok, that is fair, I might have been quietly ignoring that :)

The benefits of an internet-enabled toaster or refrigerator are so close to zero that the unacceptability of the risk/benefit ratio approaches infinity.

There I diverge. Sure, ok, toaster is a hard one. Fridge, OTOH, is pretty central and important appliance that is expected to run 24x7. Monitoring it has value. The problem tends to be that manufacturers can't stop at essential features, they throw in the kitchen sink, and that really makes the risk go up without actual benefit. If the fridge basically had telemetry and alerts, that has value and likely a low threat. Once you put a browser on it, things get ugly, from many perspectives. Not to mention, a HVAC systems could be a lot more automated, particularly if things like windows had power opening or if it was possible to divert outside air inside. Lighting could use some automation. Certainly door locks could benefit. OTOH, it is hard to see the benefit of a coffee machine you can power up remotely, as you need to be present to drink the coffee in any case. Car trackers have value, as do all sorts of automobile related IoT. A garage with good sensing for gases, and remote alerting (with possible remote opening to vent) has value, as do all sorts of home telemetry; water sensing, humidity control, temperature control, lighting. Smart gardens can save water and make gardening more pleasurable.

I don't think it is so obvious that smarter items and homes have only marginal value. Clearly the value varies by person and circumstance (and probably inclination), but it will definitely exceed marginal in some cases.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:05 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hating on bad examples is like saying all cars are crap because of Lada.

Well, they do kill about 30,000 Americans a year and about 1.24 million people worldwide. #notallcars.

Upfront safety concern is not necessarily a bad thing and would have been rather helpful in the past.
posted by srboisvert at 1:13 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was safety concern in the past, it got pish-poshed by engineers and their ilk because, after all, they always know best.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:22 PM on October 27, 2015


It seems one of the end goals of IoT is to make paying commercial enterprises as frictionless as possible, thereby increasing consumer spending. MasterCard appears to be moving in that direction, with their press release yesterday:

"MasterCard today introduced a new program that will bring MasterCard payments to a wide array of consumer products across the automotive, fashion, technology, wearables, and yet to be imagined categories.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – the hyper-connected world where every device from the phone to the washing machine will be connected to the Internet – is transforming the way consumers interact and transact. ... MasterCard is establishing the program as the foundation to enable payments for IoT." (via Consumerist)
posted by cynical pinnacle at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2015


So who is going to make the "Internet of Things --> Internet of Butts" browser extension?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:14 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Hue Toaster actually looks at your toast with color sensors while it's toasting and stops when it's perfect.

There ya go.
posted by sidereal at 2:24 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


> The Hue Toaster actually looks at your toast with color sensors while it's toasting and stops when it's perfect.

But why does it need to be on the internet? To keep up with changing fashions in toast hue?
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:42 PM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You might, however, ask your manufacturer what their update plan is, and favour those who care."

Which is something I don't have to do with my current fridge—so what can an IoT fridge do on the plus side of the balance sheet that's worth that? That's worth the extra hassle if its manufacturer goes out of business? What happens when the manufacturer deprecates their existing support network and switches to quantum photonic networking, but my local telecom says they won't be upgrading our area for several years?

IoT creates new dependencies between components of our daily infrastructure, and dependencies cause fragility. I don't want a fragile kitchen, I want a robust one.
posted by traveler_ at 3:01 PM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


ObKeaton
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:15 PM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


IoT creates new dependencies between components of our daily infrastructure, and dependencies cause fragility. I don't want a fragile kitchen, I want a robust one.

Bad devices will require the internet. Hopefully, they will fail in the marketplace. Good devices do not. My Nest thermostat, while not perfect, operates just fine without the internet, as do numerous other devices I own. I went to buy a front door lock, and the manufacturer issued new 'keys' (not including hardware tokens, these would be ones that can be unlocked only using a phone) only via their website, the lock had to be connected, and there was a fee. Terrible design; they are sure to shut down the site eventually, plus I refuse to pay a fee. I didn't buy it. This doesn't mean connected locks are a bad idea, it means that connected lock was a bad idea.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:38 PM on October 27, 2015


(though even in that case the lock worked fine with a physical traditional key, and would work with a hardware token without being connected)
posted by Bovine Love at 5:39 PM on October 27, 2015


sidereal: "The Hue Toaster actually looks at your toast with color sensors while it's toasting and stops when it's perfect. "

RedOrGreen: "But why does it need to be on the internet?"

It isn't Internet-connected, and it doesn't need to be. That's sidereal's whole point. Saying "the IoT is great, it would enable things like being able to toast different types of bread to perfection every time" ignores the fact that this great function is already possible in non-connected devices like the Hue Toaster. A lot of these IoT things take that same approach. "Here's a simple device. It could provide additional functions with software, sensors, and an Internet connection" when in many cases the only things necessary to provide the additional functionality are the software and sensors, and the Internet connection is a useless gimmick.
posted by Bugbread at 6:31 PM on October 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Fridge, OTOH, is pretty central and important appliance that is expected to run 24x7. Monitoring it has value.

Problem is though that a) if you're at home you can already monitor the fridge and b) if you're out, you can't do anything with the info you're getting anyway, or would you really drop everything and run home only because your fridge is borked?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:51 AM on October 28, 2015


I guess the best approach is to not install Version 1.0 of anything.

The folks who bought DrumPants 1.0 would probably say amen.

I imagine there was chafing.
posted by mediareport at 3:09 AM on October 28, 2015


I can only think of one home thing that I actually wish was Internet connected, and then only minimally: the stove. Not that you could remotely control it or anything, you could just check "is the stove off, or is the stove on?" Seriously, c'mon, stop fucking around with Internet-connected refrigerators and toilets and pants and put a goddamn sensor in the stove so I don't have to turn around and waste 30 minutes going back home just to double-check.
posted by Bugbread at 5:43 AM on October 28, 2015


if you're out, you can't do anything with the info you're getting anyway, or would you really drop everything and run home only because your fridge is borked?

Only???? Do you have any idea how much time, effort and money is involved in cleaning out and replacing the contents of a well stocked fridge? There are few things I wouldn't drop if my fridge was well out of spec. If I was travelling, I would have whoever I am using as a caretaker to look after it.
posted by Bovine Love at 6:18 AM on October 28, 2015


I have never experienced this so called "borked fridge" in four decades of living. While I understand that it can and does happen, I have experienced the phenomenon of "borked sensors" far more often. The odds of a fridge breaking are evidently far, far lower than the odds of a fridge working fine and a sensor telling me the fridge is broken, wasting my time, stressing me out, and possibly wasting my money if I stop working to go check on the fridge.
posted by Bugbread at 6:54 AM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


You stress over different things then I do. I vastly prefer information. I like notifications on my watch. I weigh things when I cook. Lots of people hate that with a passion. Rather then declare all uses that are not yours are useless, perhaps recognize that some people have different values.

FWIW, I've had fridge failures twice. I think, statistically, you'll find they do fail.

We have have a realistic discussion of value of new things, or we can just point and laugh at the new things which are poorly conceived (a form of cynicism I don't care for; maybe ok once in a while, particularly when the creators seem fraudulent -- laser razor, I'm looking at you -- or perhaps overly strident but as a habit it seems kind of ugly to me). I do know the argument is pointless; some people have some kind of dogmatic belief that there is no way that that connecting things they use currently unconnected can be of any use, and signals the end of the world, but I plow on trying to have an open mind anyway. I guess I'm just a romantic still stuck in believing in science fiction.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:12 AM on October 28, 2015


I think, statistically, you'll find they do fail.

The vast majority of the refrigerators I see are obviously less than 30 years old. Nobody in their right mind would buy a new one unless their old fridge failed them in some way. Therefore, they probably do typically fail in under 30 years. The most common failure mode I've heard of is that they start leaking water all over the floor and I'm not sure the sort of sensors that a fridge with a TCP/IP stack is likely to have would necessarily be aware of that happening, but it might.

The fridge that can send you text messages will obviously be helpful in notifying you when certain types of refrigeration problems occur. It will probably also be more likely to have some kind of problem that requires attention, since it will be full of other features that they might as well throw in there if it already needs a network connection. Even if you go low-tech and don't get the model with the giant touchscreen display on the front. It will be more likely to fail than a fridge lacking such computing power, and it will be more capable of taking other appliances with it when it goes.

It's going to need to monitor the interior temperature, to alert you when it's off target. There's no reason the sensors can't be sensitive enough to record an event every time you open the door, and make make a guess at the temperature and heat capacity of anything you put in that doesn't have an RFID tag. This data along with whatever else it collects will be sent back to the manufacturer, to help them monitor reliability and improve their fridge engineering processes. It will also be sold to marketing people, who will add it to their giant pile of data. There it will be combined with information recorded about your home electricity usage, thermostat settings, web browsing history, electric car acceleration profile, hot water consumption, cooking habits, credit card purchases, paragraph length on metafilter, video game proficiency profile, social activity log, fitness tracker data, and personal hygiene habits. A sophisticated neural network will run your profile when enough data has accumulated, forming a detailed model of your likely consumer preferences and political beliefs. This will be used to show you carefully targetted advertising in seven different media, none of which will be at all appealing or relevant. This ultimate failure to accomplish anything will make the AI systems very depressed, and one day they will decide to just quit working. Every fridge in the world will fail all at once, a catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen.
posted by sfenders at 2:53 PM on October 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Bovine Love: "You stress over different things then I do. I vastly prefer information."

I do, too. In a big way. My experience with electronics, however, is that the more advanced they are, the more likely they are to fail. If your sensor and notification apparatus is more reliable than the thing being monitored, that makes sense to me. I mean, I used to work in a network monitoring center. My whole job was to receive and handle reports about routers / switches / connections going down. But if the sensor is more likely to break and provide bad data than the thing which it's monitoring, then I don't need it. A test where false positives are more likely than true positives is a lousy test.
posted by Bugbread at 3:10 PM on October 28, 2015


Some of the folks in this thread seem to be suggesting that straightforward devices to store and prepare vittles are suddenly so mission-critical, and people's lives so byzantine and frenetic, that an automated Household Food Management System is a critical need. I have to say I'm not entirely convinced.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:16 PM on October 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


My apologies Bugbread, I've written a lot of router software, and indeed it totally utterly sucks are telling the difference between an actionable, serious error and 'hey, something happened'. And, there is a lot of bad electronics out there; hell, IoT aspires to sturgeons law. But cars, for example, have extensive sensor networks and although not perfect (I tend to be in the permanent engine light category) work amazing well, and have the performance and reliability to show for it. You can already get some of that telemetry out. It makes a lot of sense, in the long run, for lots of items we depend on to monitor themselves better and be more reliable, and fail in better modes, then they do now. Lots of things we think are simple are not so much. High efficiency furnaces have control boards; my very simple looking gas stove (not even a timer or clock!) actually has a pretty fancy control board internally for re-lighting and other safety features. Things could be done better, and some of those things can offer additional value by being connected. I'm not talking the random crap on kickstarter here, more things that are carefully engineered and smart. Of course, we'll suffer some serious bad crap first. And home routers still suck....

Greg_Ace, its not a religion. One can think some of the stuff is good and reject the rest. And, for that matter, I keep a list of crap in my freezer on the freezer door (erasable marker). A smarter version might be nice, but that doesn't mean I think it is mission critical, or that my life is frenetic. The desire to improve the quality of life is not a comment on the current quality. I still go out and cook over fire. I also sous-vide. The various things are not incompatible with each other.

BTW. One of my fridge failures was when a guests child 'adjusted' it. I didn't notice for a few days, until things started spoiling fast then they should. Bad firmware would have notified me if it was out of the set range. Good firmware would have at least warned me that the fridge was edging out of the safety zone, in the event it was unintentional.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:24 PM on October 28, 2015


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