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Just what the world needs: Android in the rice cooker

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Less than a fortnight into 2013, we have a candidate for the year’s silliest product: a networked, Android-sporting rice cooker.

Readers will remember some chilling demonstrations during 2012: the vulnerability of pacemakers to outside attack, for example (insulin pumps were already compromised in 2011), while McAfee (the company, not the nominative fugitive) maintained its long campaign to try and anticipate attacks against systems in cars.

And they’ll remember 2012 for a procession of Android bugs and vulnerabilities (including this and this).

However: with CES on the go, appliance makers pursue their belief that the world’s Jetsons-like future is best reached by turning formerly harmless devices into Android monsters – as noted in this Bloomberg BusinessWeek piece, all the way down to the rice cooker.

“Panasonic’s Android-controlled SR-SX2 rice cooker lets users search for recipes on their Android phones and then transmit them to the cooker. It also provides information such as how much electricity it has used,” the article notes.

Now, keep in mind that this is a rice cooker: one of the simplest appliances possible, since its entire function is to apply heat to a pot containing rice and water (with whatever additives the owner wants to try) for a given amount of time. With the addition of sensors and “fuzzy logic”, even premium kitchen gadget brand Cuisinart charged just $US150 for the sadly discontinued Rice Plus™ Multi-Cooker with Fuzzy Logic Technology.

With Android added, Panasonic is asking $US600 for its extravaganza.

It’s the cognitive dissonance, however, that I find most difficult to reconcile. The world knows that software is attackable – Android is not unique here – and we know that the will and desire exist to find and exploit vulnerabilities.

And a rice-cooker is a product designed to operate a heating element, unattended.

What could possibly go wrong? ®

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