+Rehabstudio, a digital marketing company, took notice of a number of useless gadgets at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and dubbed the new category of dumb “smart” objects as the Internet of Useless Things.
The Internet of Useless things can be seen in sites such as Gizmodo and Kickstarter. These sites parade many novel gadgets that leave many visitors scratching their heads with confusion.
The Actual Purpose of The Internet of Useless Things
The IoT revolution represents new unchartered territory of entrepreneurial opportunity for many inventors. But not all IoT devices are created equally useful. The creative exploitation of IoT will not always generate gadgets that help improve our productivity. Nonetheless, they’re lively experiments that will provide the necessary feedback needed for us to embark into the future world of automation.
We’ve analyzed 6 useless IoT devices whose low ranking IQ scores actually contribute to the overall advancement of IoT.
[Though we’ve categorized these IoT devices as useless, we’ll refrain from underestimating the potential impact of the new technology. In our Top 5 Embarrassing Tech Predictions, we immortalized the follies of tech experts such as Bob Metcalfe and Bill Gates for having a lack of imagination when encountering new technology.]
These dumb smart objects, gives us a sneak peek into a future of more advanced technology that will truly qualify the Internet of Things (IoT) as revolutionary.
What does the Internet of Useless Things Look Like?
The Internet of Useless things can be characterized as redundant in nature, impractical, clumsy or quite simply, useless. For example, BeatTweeter is a hypothetical device that monitors your heart rate and sends a final tweet when it detects that its user’s heart has stopped beating. The mockup, featured as part of +Rehabstudio’s satiric collection of useless smart objects, pokes fun at modern society’s insistence to over-share personal details of their lives via social media. BeatTweeter fails to specify what happens if a user’s heart resumes beating (#JK?) but there are plenty of actual real-world examples of smart devices that will leave you equally baffled.
Intel débuted the adrenaline dress which can sense stress levels based on skin conductivity at the 2016 Consumer Electronic Show. The smart dress expands when it senses an increase in stress levels in similar fashion to a bug’s defensive mechanism when it senses danger. Though the dress scores a total utilitarian value of zero, it represents a primitive precursor of future smart fabric applications. Intelligent fashion prototypes such as these showcase smart fabric’s ability to monitor internal biological states such as body heat, perspiration, and respiration. Users can utilize these data points to improve their health and lifestyle.
Vessyl is a digital cup that can detect the amount of calories, caffeine, and sugar in a beverage. The smart cup is paired with an app that can also estimate a user’s hydration levels based on their water intake and sends them reminders to stay hydrated. The media has taken notice of this smart cup in a not-so-favorable way. Stephen Colbert mocked the useless nature of the product pointing out that store-bought beverages already feature nutritional labels. Nonetheless, Vessyl is on to something. Vessyl can track the nutritional contents of home-made beverages, without requiring user input. This feature enables users to gather personal data points without disrupting their day-to-day routine.
The smart cup is capitalizing on the growing trend of the ‘quantified self’. The ‘quantified self’ refers to the digital self-tracking of personal stats such as amount of food intake and quality of sleep to improve one’s performance and emotional well-being. The unit represents just one sample of smart objects hoping to embed themselves in the daily routine of their users to help bio-optimize their bodies.
Amazon’s plastic wireless pods lets customers conveniently order frequently used household supplies from specific brands with a push of a button. In theory, the pods promise convenient access to frequently purchased household items, but in practice, the system provides a clunky solution that relies on brand loyalty to generate sales. CNET’s review of the item questions the necessity of having a “Mac and Cheese panic button” on hand. Since household items on Amazon are more expensive than other competitor stores such as Walmart, it’s difficult to anticipate consumers adopting the dash button in lieu of visiting their grocery store to purchase household supplies.
But beyond providing convenience to consumers, Amazon’s dash button is experimenting with another marketing principle — product positioning. In grocery stores, brands pay a premium price to feature their items in the “bulls-eye zone”, the shelving space located directly at eye-level. According to BizShifts-Trends, “Shelf space may very well be the most precious real estate in the consumer-retail value chain; in some categories, as much as 80% of all purchase decisions are made at the point of sale.” But Amazon, is taking the concept one step further, hoping to occupy the sweet-spot shelf-space of your own household.
The smart refrigerator has been on the market as early the year 2000, and due to its high costs and lack of utility, is an IoT example that quite hasn’t figured out how to be useful. The smart refrigerator can be reduced to a non-revolutionary touch panel LCD display that can stream tv, display the weather, and perhaps act as a messaging portal— all features that an Ipad can efficiently accomplish.
Samsung’s new Family Hub Refrigerator is hoping to re-capture the missed opportunity. Its new line of refrigerators feature internal cameras that can feed live surveillance footage of food contents directly to an user’s phone. With the ability to capitalize on food delivery services and the ability to control other IoT smart home features such as lighting, Samsung might just crack the intelligent refrigerator market.
The internet is already distracting as it is, so why not utilize distraction to get you to do something productive? That’s exactly what Oral B is attempting to do with its newest Smart Series Bluetooth Toothbrush. For a whopping $200, you can now ensure that you spend the right amount of time and apply the right amount of pressure to your daily oral hygiene routine. Users can read distracting articles on their smart phone while they brush their teeth to ensure that they bring their routine to completion.
Even though a large portion of the IoT market sector will consist of healthcare, enterprises, and factories, Oral B’s Bluetooth Toothbrush represents B2C manufacturers seeking to participate in the IoT hype. Manufacturers interested in participating in IoT will lead to many similar exploits that will re-vamp mundane, non-sexy objects with internet connectivity.
IoT is in the Midst of the Hype Cycle
Taking into consideration that IoT is still a fledgling technology, similar contributions to the Internet of Useless Things can be expected. IoT is currently riding the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” wave in Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” which tracks the peaks and troughs of expectations associated with new technology. The visual representation helps differentiate “hype from…commercially viab[ility].”
Countless sources are deeply excited about the possibility of a connected “smart” world ruled by automation. But the visible impact that IoT has on productivity might not emerge until IoT technology fully matures.
The Productivity Paradox
IoT inventions such as smart adrenaline dresses and Bluetooth toothbrushes, however useless, represent necessary experiments that will provide feedback and inform us of the true utilitarian value of IoT. New technology does not always correlate with increased productivity levels. This effect is known as the productivity paradox. It took two decades before investments in Information Technology showed any measurable productivity gains. If the productivity paradox proves true for IoT objects, it might take a while before IoT manufacturers and users to learn how to use the new technology to its fullest productive potential.
Some Smart Guidelines to Follow
The digital marketers at +Rehabstudio outlined a few principles to help inventors avoid creating dumb “smart” objects. We’ve rephrased the principles in the following infographic. Visit http://www.internetofuselessthings.io/ for the original outline.
Truly “smart” objects should fulfill the following conditions:
1. Smart and Adaptable
IoT objects need to be able to learn behavior of their users to the extent that they should be able to make decisions without their input.
2. Designed For Humans
User interfaces need to be able to provide information in a way that’s simple to interpret. No rocket-science degrees needed.
3. Secure and Trustworthy
Smart objects can provide access to homes, medical information and even automobiles. Preserving security is paramount.
4. Invent or Improve
Smart devices need to add utile value to existing products. This is where some smart devices fall astray. “Value added” can be a matter of subjective opinion.
5. Apt and Appropriate
Sometimes, emerging protocols are chosen by the market. Manufacturers will need to pair their IoT objects with the appropriate technology.
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