[Part 4] Confessions of a Consumer IoT Skeptic: The future...

Introduction: What do I want to see?

I’ve spent most of this series, in Parts 12, and 3, describing why I’m disappointed in the current state of Consumer IoT devices. It might seem that there is nothing that the Consumer IoT companies can do to make me happy. But there are several products or improvements that can be made that would persuade me into purchasing some of these devices.

Cheaper “Smart” electrical

I want to see the price of outlets and switches come WAY down. If the price of these devices could come down to even $10 each, instead of $30-60, then it would be more affordable for way more people. The manufacturers would be able to make up any loses in cost on the volume of devices that they would sell. The goal with these devices is to save money by reducing power consumption. At current prices, consumers like me are not able to get a timely return on their investment.

Certain “Smart” appliances

First, stop trying to make the “Smart” fridge happen. Seriously, it’s stupid. What I do want to see is a microwave that can tell me that my food is done. It would also be great if it can remind me every few minutes if I don’t get my food out in a timely manner. This type of “smart” would be very useful in an environment with a shared microwave, such as an office or college dormitory.

An oven that I can pre-heat without having to get up would also be nice. I want to see an oven that will tell me when it’s done preheating. I want an oven that will alert me if it is still on after the timer has gone off. What I don’t need is a camera that can “see” what I’m cooking, because what advantage does that really have? I don’t even need a thermometer that tells me when my food is done, although that is a feature I might actually use.

While an inexpensive appliance that will fold my clothes would be awesome, I’ll settle for a washer and/or dryer that will at least alert me when it's done. I don’t mean a stupid, annoying buzzer. I want a real notification on my mobile device that will tell me that it’s time to move my clothes to the dryer or when my clothes are done drying. It might be cool if they could talk to each other too so that the washer doesn’t alert me if the dryer is still running -- but I would be okay if this wasn’t included in the initial devices.

For most of these, I don’t want to see a whole new product built from the ground up. I want these features to being to be included in devices from companies that already make great products. Why would I want a microwave alert me that it’s done if I just have to put my food in for another 30 seconds anyway? What good is a “smart” oven, if the stand-alone, counter-top, glorified toaster-oven doesn’t even fit a full-sized cookie sheet? Why would I want a washer to alert me that it’s done when the washing machine motor burns out in the first year?

More RFID or NFC integration

Many of us already use RFID cards or fobs to access our offices, and most modern smartphones support NFC. I want the ability to use these technologies to unlock the door to my house, or to provide authentication to many other Consumer IoT devices. A lot of the current Consumer IoT devices use bluetooth for authentication, but that requires me to re-pair my smartphone with every IoT device every few years when I get a new phone.

One cool thing about RFID is that the whole family would have RFID tags after a visit to Disney World, since the Disney MagicBand has an RFID tag built into it. If more devices took advantage of RFID technology, we could use the MagicBands for all kinds of things.

“Smart” watch with Amazon Alexa built-in

I must admit that I was a huge fan of Dick Tracy more than 25 years ago, so it’s been exciting to watch the smartwatch evolve. (Do you see what I did there?) In Part 2 of this series, I talked about how the Amazon Alexa service is one of the keys to making Consumer IoT finally reach the mainstream. One of the downsides that I mentioned in that post is the lack of portability. Having Amazon Alexa in a smartwatch will solve the portability problem.

Self driving electric vehicles

Automakers have been slowly adding automated driving and all-electric features to their high-end cars since Tesla Motors developed the Roadster in the mid-2000’s. Google was working on a self-driving car, but shifted focus to providing their technology to existing automakers. Many new cars being sold today have some kind of automated assistive technology. Most commonly lane-assist and adaptive cruise control. Tesla’s Autopilot feature is being emulated by many automakers, as there seems to be a race to introduce the first completely autonomous vehicle.

Connected technology in these self driving cars might make parking lots obsolete. We’ll be able to send the car back home after arriving at work and schedule the car to return after work is done. This will open up this land for all kinds of things from parks to playgrounds.

Series Summary

This series was meant to take a critical, but optimistic view of the state of Consumer IoT. Even though I’m currently a skeptic, I still see the potential for connected devices to disrupt products that haven’t seen true innovation in a long time. Once Consumer IoT companies can start building partnerships with existing manufacturers to bring Consumer IoT into existing products, we will finally get the devices that we know can drive mass adoption of Consumer IoT technologies.