All washed up
In short, the fridge that orders its own food might sound like a good idea, but it needs changes to product packaging, to supply chains and, perhaps most difficult of all, to the way we stagger round the kitchen half asleep making breakfast. And who’s going to do that, just to please a household appliance?
Another appliance that’s been made internet aware – and like the fridge, Korean company LG Electronics is a key player in this area – is the washing machine. A machine that’s never going to let you mix clothes with colours that run is boon to the careless, but like the fridge, it suffers from a key problem: to identify what’s being put in the drum, clothes need to be RFID tagged.
The other key feature – an ability to download updated wash programmes from the internet – is less revolutionary. Online firmware updates are common now for TVs, disc players and many other devices. And, short of a new wonder-fabric taking the world by storm, it’s hard to see much call for it. Yes, you can customise programmes online – but I can’t help feeling that for most users, buttons like ‘quick’ or ‘extra rinse’ will offer all the tweaks they want.
Jura's Impressa F-90: nice coffee, poor internet security
High-end coffee machine maker Jura had a go at the IP appliance game too, with the F-90, which allows you to program your coffee requirements over the network. It unfortunately achieved more attention for a security flaw than for anything else, and the connectivity kit is now no longer available.
Read it and weep There are areas in which connectivity can be useful – but they’re not exactly new technology. Telemetry has been around for ages, and using the internet to transmit readings is just the next logical step from dedicated modems or GSM units.
Readers who have oil delivered for their heating may well already have wireless meters, which can be used to trigger an automatic order when the supply is running low.
Home energy meters, too, are increasing in popularity, allowing you to monitor usage online and, when you strip away the hype, LG’s own latest “THINQ” generation of connected appliances, unveiled at CES this past January are, ultimately, much more about telemetry than anything else, with the focus more on saving energy and money than on fridges that shop for themselves.
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This stuff always reminds me of Sirius Cybernetics' GPP feature (Genuine People Personality, thank you, Douglas Adams). As I told one "ambient intelligence" guru at a conference, I don't want chatty (and smug) doors, fridges that order beer for me (and thus have access to my bank account!!) and least of all a Nutrimatic Machine (which, despite its intelligence, only makes cups filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea). A system that automatically puts on "my favourite" music when I get home is likely to get a reprogramming it will never forget (with a very large ax) if it gets it wrong (yet again).
Town Called Eureka
This will only end badly, I can remember an episode of the TV series "a Town Called Eureka" where the main characters house computer (with a suitably feminine voice and persona) locks him out of his house because he didn't come home in time when "she" had cooked him dinner and informed him earlier when it was going to be ready.
Last thing we need is our appliances throwing hissy fits.
Come to think of it "Talkie the Toaster" from Red Dwarf should also serve as a warning
Sell by, use by, best before . . .
If there is a tiny weeny chance of the product looking slightly not at its best, an ingredient that may have changed a bit, the smallest possibility of a change in taste -- bin the fucker!
Then go and buy a replacement that will sit in the fridge until it's chucked out.
How come I don't think that this idea of 'intelligent (pah!) fridges' has the interests of the consumer at heart? I doubt if it even has anything to do with litigation.
And at the same time people are being prosecuted for rescuing perfectly good food from bins - a £4 sandwich that has yesterday's date on it or even today's date but it's late afternoon and the lunch rush is over -- bin it.
Michael Marshall Smith had the right idea with Stark who sympathises with the household appliances so they don't rat on him when he breaks in to places.
"Why not have lightbulbs that have customised usage patterns, so they will fade during the day and brighten at night, and capable of detecting smart phones in a room to turn the light off when a smart phone leaves customisable from a web UI"
Grown too lazy to flick a switch?
"Why not have WIFI/IR/bluetooth/NFC whatever connected hinges on doors that are capable of opening or closing doors, have the door tied to your smart phone, you approach the door smartphone in pocket it opens"
b) so any neverdowell can knock you out and use your smartphone to lead him to your house and open the doors for him?
"Why not have connected, windows/blinds allowing you to adjust the light in a room according to the time of day"
Hint: you can do it now - just pull the bloody cord!
"Why not have web connected showers/baths allowing you to fill the tub ready for when you're home"
Presumably you are normally in such a rush that you jump into the bath fully dressed? Because if not, there is usually plenty of time for the bath to fill while you undress, pick your book, make a drink, etc.
"Why not have some bloody vision, we're living in the most exciting time in the history of man"
You call *that* vision?
"your house in 10 years would be like the fucking Enterprise-E"
I bet it won't. It will just be filled with pointless electronics which will constantly fail, no one will remember one 10th of its functions or how to program them and it won't do neither impulse nor warp speed.
I thought everybody had this in their house already?
It's called a Building Management System (BMS)
I have a BMS in my home that controls all those things - PIR occupancy sensors, light sensors, the TV remote can adjust the lights and heating, and there's touchscreens around if the remote is lost down the sofa.
Plus some spare capacity for some fun christmas lights when I get around to it.
(I don't have atuomatic doors because I don't want them)
Of course, my job is to design and commission these systems - we drive lights, blinds, SmartGlass-style windows, video projectors, projection screens and interface to HVAC among other things.
The reason you don't have this yourself is probably down to the cost of the expertise to design and commission these systems. They are extremely powerful and flexible, so it takes a while to learn both waht they'll do and how to make them do it.