Samsung’s consumer IoT vision – stupid, desperate, creepy

So, just like everyone else's, in fact

IFA Sketch While the business side of the Internet of Things looks in good nick, and isn’t actually anything new, the consumer prospects look remote. Samsung is one of the few global companies that’s able to project a vision of consumer IoT: it does technology as well as consumer electronics and white goods.

And it tried to give us a “vision thing” at IFA in Berlin. The next big thing?

But, sadly, no. Samsung promised that consumer IoT would lead to "smarter cities, smarter nations and ultimately a smarter world". But its use cases for “connected everything” are just as contrived as everyone else’s.

They either infantilise the user – which is the opposite of smarter – or are just plain weird.

Samsung demonstrated how a father could spy on his student daughter, with notifications updating him on his phone and car dashboard where she was. And he could also keep tabs on his wife, as a notification popped up telling him she’d arrived home.

The daughter pictured seemed to be aged about 25 – surely father is able to trust her by now, without getting constant updates? And the two words that came to mind on “wife whereabouts notifications” were “Phil” and “Spector”. Every wife can be Ronnie Spector in the Internet of Things!

In another example, a Samsung exec told us how if you fell asleep on the sofa watching TV late at night, Samsung’s IoT home would eventually put all the lights on and brew you coffee – “so you’re fresh to go.”

Wait, what? It assumes you want to stay dozing in yesterday’s clothes all night? I’m sure a lot of people fall asleep watching TV on the sofa. Why stop there?

Others were pointless: like an audio system for shouting at the kids to tell them when their dinner’s ready. Or the inevitable “knows when you’re near home and puts on the microwave”. Every idea for connected consumer IT seems to have come from the same brainstorming session years ago – what a crazy offsite that must have been.

We’ve heard these a million times. Some of them are even on the market, and they don’t exactly sell like hot cakes.

A couple of significant developments in consumer IoT recently are a growing awareness of the vulnerabilities and general ridicule. Both are health developments – but neither was acknowledged here. Security barely got a mention (while the word “open” got a dozen) and the scenarios almost seem designed to invite ridicule.

I thought it interesting that “save the planet” isn’t a sales pitch any more – it clearly didn’t work beyond the guilt-ridden Grauniadista demographic. But without an apocalypse handy, the marketing departments seem stuck.

This isn’t to say that the logic behind adding secure internet connections to business supply chains, and M2M communications, is unsound. It’s a continuous part of business. In our Soviet-style NHS, doctors still communicate vital referrals by postal mail. But these aren’t anything new, or even internet-y.

It will be trusted suppliers who’ll engage in these initiatives, and the benefits can be more easily measured. The whole point of consumer IoT though remains elusive.

Perhaps next year the @internetofshit Twitter account ought to be given a keynote – to concentrate minds. ®


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