A Mobile Controlled Life

The Internet of Things (IOT) sounds like a magical idea, but is it really a technological solution in search of a problem? All the benefits, the complexity, privacy and security issues involved mean it may appeal only to the tech-savvy.

The IOT is simply the concept of household items, other than the usual computers, phones and tablets, being connected to the internet. It has allowed for some creative tech solutions, though how useful they really are is debatable.

Take, for example, Amazon’s Dash. It’s a program that started out with a series of branded push-buttons to stick on household appliances and press whenever supplies such as washing powder or razor blades were running low. The buttons connected to a local Wi-Fi network and automatically reordered supplies.

Now it’s gone a step further, and the technology is built directly into washing machines and printers which track your use of consumables and reorder when you’re running low. All very neat, but how many people really find it problematic to remember to pick up a new pack from the shop (or just press the one-click button on Amazon’s site)? And do people really trust the button to get the best prices on consumables?

Meanwhile, Google owns companies which offer a range of smart devices from smoke alarms to thermostats, which automatically switch the heating on when the user (or rather their phone) is on the way home, or send a daily text to confirm the battery is still working. It seems like a small amount of added convenience weighed against the hassle of having one more app to keep track of on a phone.

Above all, big security and privacy questions remain. The smarter the home, the more detail there is about the smallest aspects of our daily lives, from when people are out of the house to when they burn the toast. It could be argued that it’s a toss-up of what’s worse: data intentionally being made available to advertisers who try to get people interested in a new brand of washing powder, or the risk of data being stolen by criminals who are naturally keen to know exactly when people have left their homes unattended.

For people who’ve never known life without a smartphone, the IOT probably sounds like a useful, even perfectly normal, prospect. For everyone else, it may well seem that the more technology’s involved, the greater the risk of something going wrong.