back to article What's the point of the Internet of Things?

Smart-homes are not designed for the young, fit 20-something. Instead, smart-homes have been absorbed into the Internet of Things (IoT), a broader form of connectivity worship that seemingly aims to unify fridge and washing machine, automobile and heart monitor. The purpose of all of this technology isn't readily apparent …


  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    No convinced

    That might well be your idea of a 'purpose, but we'll see airboure bacon before those trying to foist IoT on us give it an instant's thought - no huge pots of money in it see.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: No convinced

      Is there no room for optimism at all? Life is all dour? We will die alone and unremembered after a brief period of despair and suffering that was our lives?

      How sad. :(

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: No convinced

        No, yes, yes, dry yer eyes!

        Then again, if my fridge can remind me it's Friday night and I have no beer in, that'd help*.

        Steven R

        *I'm just kidding, I never forget to buy beer on a Friday night...

      2. dogged

        Cheer up, Trev.

        The central locking house would be an absolute boon for everyone.

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: Cheer up, Trev.

          I moved house recently, and my front door key (and my only door key, natch) is on the same keyring as my car keys.

          Still, four months on, I occasionally try to 'bip' the house locked when I leave, or open when I get back.

          A central locking system is something I'd definitely buy on the IoT, but only if it works on a local, heavily encrypted hidden SSID - and at the same time it WOLs my main workstation and boils the kettle for my post-work cuppa.

          Steven R

      3. Jim 59

        Re: No convinced

        I don't know if IOT will improve the character of citizens in the way described in the later parts of the article. The internet so far hasn't exactly brought out the best in us (?). But it could indeed be a boon for the old or infirm or disabled, and maybe those who look after them.

        Technically though, once your house has, say, 50 connected devices, it will have some admin overhead. Oops - time to update the firmware in that cat litter monitor. It fixes a bug where the data has the wrong urine Ph level for your breed of cat, then on to the automatic curtains, dammit they are on the wrong timezone again I am sitting in the dark here...

      4. Mark 65

        Re: No convinced

        I think those of us in the IT industry already know this has clusterfuck written all over it. More likely your TV will report you for watching a pirate movie and your fridge will inform the authorities you're an alcoholic. The IoT is the internet of big brother

    2. DropBear

      Re: No convinced

      I'm quite unconvinced too. In my experience, any technology thrown at this sort of "problem" invariably does exactly one of three things:

      - utterly fails to solve the original problem, or

      - kinda solves it but creates a brand new one, or

      - kinda solves it but creates a bunch of new ones...

      1. Zack Mollusc

        Re: No convinced

        I'm quite unconvinced too. You forgot :

        - utterly fails to solve the original problem, but creates a bunch of new ones...

  2. Someone Else Silver badge

    No, Trevor...

    The point of IoT is to further fatten various already-too-fat fatasses who would just love to productize all of us ever further.

    1. VinceH

      Re: No, Trevor...

      Exactly that.

      Trevor, It's pure wishful thinking that this fabled smart-house will be some kind of panacea for the spectrums you mention.

      Instead it'll be a security nightmare, with a multitude of incompatibilities between different installations within, not to mention buggy, badly written software, be that in the main computer that controls it all, or in individual devices.

      It'll advertise at you at the most inconvenient times - because those are the times you're most likely to see the advertisements - such as the cooking instructions; you walk into the kitchen, expecting a meal suggestion based on what you have and like, but before you get that, you'll be shown an advert for a restaurant or take-away (so, rather than no more trips out for fast food, it'll be encouraging exactly that).

      Perhaps it could help me by reminding me to take my tablets... except that I already have an alarm set to remind me because I tend to forget - and I'd guesstimate one time in four, I still manage to forget, even with an alarm. That'll happen even if the alarm is rounded up to the size of a damned house. Seriously, what's it going to do? Keep me awake nagging me if I haven't taken the evening one by the time I go to bed?

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: No, Trevor...

        I have an alarm clock that leaps of the table and drives across the room to make me chase it. So yeah. Technology can help, even with hard problems.

        1. VinceH

          Re: No, Trevor...

          I think a person would be more useful. Rather than remind me, plonk the tablets in front of me, so that I don't have to interrupt what I'm watching/writing/whatever to take them. Reminders are a waste of time.

          Speaking of which, it's apparently tablet time. Being on the subject makes this pair a little harder to not take. :)

          1. TheOtherHobbes

            Re: No, Trevor...

            >I think a person would be more useful.

            They're called domestics. Maids, butlers, housekeepers, etc. Rich people have them.

            And this is the killer app. Combine it with robotics, and everyone gets a personal servant for those boring chores - cleaning, cooking, shopping, walking the dog, terrorising the neighbours, that kind of thing.

            The first few generations will bump into things and fall over a lot. But as long as none of the current big names in technology try to make this happen (Microsoft - I'm looking at *you*) the potential is, as they say, there.

            Also sitcoms/dramas in an upstairs/downstairs way. (Dyson Abbey?)

            1. strum

              Re: No, Trevor...

              >They're called domestics. Maids, butlers, housekeepers, etc. Rich people have them.

              It would be possible to have a neighbourhood 'maid', enabled to intevene when a Thing reported a problem the householder couldn't handle. Indeed, that's how many sheltered accomodation scemes work - and could work much better with internetified Things.

            2. VinceH

              Re: No, Trevor...

              " >I think a person would be more useful.

              They're called domestics. Maids, butlers, housekeepers, etc. Rich people have them."

              I was thinking a girlfriend... preferably one who (given I was talking about my ability to forget to take my tablets, even with an alarm to remind me) would be willing to dress up in a sexy nurse's outfit.

            3. Vic

              Re: No, Trevor...

              > Dyson Abbey?

              "All My Circuits".


        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: No, Trevor...

          Technology can help, even with hard problems.

          Indeed, but that doesn't require an IoT.

          I have an alarm on my freezer that will tell me if it gets too warm, and a max.min thermometer on it that will even let me see if it got too warm (extended power outage?) while I was away. I can check that when I get home.

          Would I want it to send me an SMS when I'm lying on a Caribbean beach, to tell me that my garage will be stinking of rotten meat when I get home because the freezer fuse blew? No way, why run my holiday for something I can't change?

          So much of the suggestions for IoT seem to relate to "after the event" problems. Call me at the airport to say I left the gas on, email me at work to say that someone rang the doorbell when I was out, etc. Technology has its advantages, but I neither need nor want to be permanently connected to all aspects of my life at all times. I don't think I'm alone in that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No, Trevor...

            "I have an alarm on my freezer that will tell me if it gets too warm, and a max.min thermometer on it that will even let me see if it got too warm (extended power outage?) while I was away. I can check that when I get home".

            Precisely. As the great Abraham Maslow put it, when your only tool is a hammer everything starts to look like a nail. And when you are deeply committed to Internet technology...

          2. Alfred

            Re: No, Trevor...

            How about some kind of middle ground? Instead of you cutting your holiday short to replace the fuse, ask a friend/neighbour/family member to pop round and replace the fuse for you.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: No, Trevor...

              ask a friend/neighbour/family member to pop round and replace the fuse for you.

              And when it blows again straight away, then what? Leave the poor sod feeling obliged to cram all the stuff in his freezer to "save" it, or to call a repair tech and have to take a day off work so he can wait in?

              Life's too short to expect other people to deal with my problems. The freezer's insured.

        3. Fungus Bob

          Re: No, Trevor...

          "I have an alarm clock that leaps of the table and drives across the room to make me chase it."

          A dog performs much the same function, albeit by jumping _on_ the bed and washing your face.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Well that's one solid customer made.

    Now what about the other several hundred million needed to fund an actual company?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not convinced, but can see potential

    Wife and I are both in our sixties with multiple health conditions. I could see a smart pill box that can be programmed to remind us when to take the appropriate rx's, perhaps even request refills as needed?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: not convinced, but can see potential

      Aye. And not just you. Lots of people take pills, even when they are young, for a variety of ailments. Do you know how hard it is for someone with ADHD to remember to take their meds in the morning?

      And what about something that took your blood pressure before dispensing a dose of stimulant (again, common for ADHD folks) so that it knew when it was safe, and when not?

      A pill box that could track what Alzheimer's (or, for that matter others) patients took, and then either report that back to the doctor, or at least track it in aggregate to help us design better pills?

      Something that tracks what we eat, and when, as well as what pills we take - and when - so that we can correlate symptoms for various things with these sorts of events and are better able to detect patterns? (For example, this would be really useful in helping to diagnose Celiac patients, IBS and a few other things.)

      Hell, a toilet with an automated excretion analyser to help determine things like "are my organs shutting down" or "do I have a gall bladder infection", etc.

      There are a lot of possibilities. Not all have to be internet connected. Some are better if they are.

      But that was really my point in the article. It's not going to be "selling billions of units of an individual product" so much as "selling millions or tens of millions of an individual product" to meet niches.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Trevor_Pott: Re: not convinced, but can see potential

        Insurance companies and advertising companies are seeing the potential. Oh, and there are billions to be made!

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: @Trevor_Pott: not convinced, but can see potential

          I believe I've had THAT conversation already.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not convinced, but can see potential


        Please start swearing again.

        It somehow seems wrong to see you holding back. Whomever told you to do so, be that editor, pixie or a new drugs regime, are badly wrong. You need to vent your spleen or the consequences could be damaging. No one can go from 20+ highly offensive expletives per comment to zero without serious long term health issues.

        It looks like a lack of passion about the subject you are writing on to those familiar with your previous missives.


        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: not convinced, but can see potential

          I don't generally swear, or even write long comments, due to passion. I do it to achieve a very selective, targeted effect in the reader. There have only been - to my knowledge - about 10 comments where I have "snapped", and truly just core dumped my emotions without some form of careful linguistic selection.

          That said, I don't see anything in this thread worthy of a good riposte. People are pretty tame, even the trolls. It's like a quiet Saturday night on the lake, in forum form.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: smart pill box

      It would be nice if the bloody chemist (or the pharmaceuticals manufacturers) could be persuaded to dispense the same pills in the same format every time. I wonder how many people shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely because last weeks "3x Pill X, 4 times daily" happens to be the same colour/packet/shape as this weeks "1x Pill Y, once daily"?

  5. All names Taken

    Maybe IoT is indefinable as it is a new way of doing things and it may takes providers, users and the public, say, 5 years to appreciate its awesomeness?

    I mean, what thought might have airy planes like those now when Wright brothers first flew?

    Or traffic monitoring from DOS all those years ago?

    Human endeavour and all that?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The point of Internet of Things is ...

    ... Silicon Valley has run out of Bullshit, and this was the best they could desperately come up with.

  7. Charles Manning

    Huge spin-offs

    While IoT is bollocks of itself, there are some huge spin-offs.

    I'm currently doing some development with Bluetooth LE devices that can run off a coin cell for over a year. The parts are cheap: a 32-bit ARM CPU + Bluetooth baseband onchip + various peripherals, flash and RAM. All that for less than $3.

    These open up amazing potential for new devices. I just hope these component manufacturers are profitable enough to stay in business.

  8. oldtaku Silver badge

    The point of the Internet of things is to collect more salable data on you, push more ads at you everywhere you look, and monitor every aspect of your life for productization and law enforcement purposes.

    Google isn't doing this for your benefit.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The wife and I would dearly love a widget in the kitchen that knew what we had in the cupboards ..."

    I'd dearly love a widget that told me if my girlfriend had once again buried my Melton Mowbray in a random bottom corner of the so-called 'salad crisper' (is 'crisp' a good thing for salads in some cultures?), meaning I forget whether I've eaten it and end up having to play use by date russian roulette.

    On the other hand an SEP field generator specific to pork products and french cheeses might equally solve the problem without providing tracking data.

    1. dogged

      I sympathize regarding your pork pie pie issue but tell your girlfriend she's mental, will you?

      I've worked as a chef and fridges have very sensible rules. All the raw meat goes in the bottom (actually, it SHOULD go in a separate fridge but most households do not have this capacity) because you don't want blood dripped on the rest of your stuff. Fruit and salad goes on top, dairy on second shelf, cold meats (and pies) on shelf three.

      Bottles go in the door. if you have a bottle rack in your fridge, take it out because all it does is waste space.

  10. Denarius
    Thumb Up

    Trevor has a point

    IOT could be useful. True it will probably be used to increase surveillance instead until the new praetorian guard and their blackmailed clients are brought into line. (Spooks and their tame pollies for those insufficiently distrustful) It is possible that some useful stuff will sneak through, built by enthusiasts for special needs people they know.

    Trevors point on decision fatigue relief is novel for IOT. Too many choices is stressing as is keeping track of a lot of things.. eg As one wag put it, how many cola brands do you need ? Perhaps the moral policemen might be usefully focussed on firms flogging the same common product under 20 names in supermarket to give the delusion of choice. In the case of a intelligent reminder list, I think he has made the first believable argument for IOT I have heard. Talk/PowerPoint slides of self stacking fridges was always foolishness to me.

    In case you think this is trivial, flight management human factors decision fatigue is a significant subject. After 4+ hours flight making appropriate choices in a difficult or worse situation can be fatal instead of trivial. For recreational pilots it can be worse as there are no automatics and often less experience. For people with various disabilities I know, something that did gentle reliable reminders would assist them to live better lives with reduced care needs and more autonomy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trevor has a point

      Trevor said "The purpose of all of this technology isn't readily apparent those of us in peak physical and mental condition." In translation this means you have to be sick or insane to see the benefit of IoT.

      Decision fatigue for looking in my fridge!! Holly crap, if there are 20 varieties of one product then pick one and see if it fits you, that's all. If somebody finds this too difficult then maybe it is time for him to consider retiring into a mental institution. Once inside, he will never have to make any decision, ever. And all this with no IoT at all.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Trevor has a point


        There are people in this world who can't remember faces. They can remember voices, name objects and generally function exactly as anyone else. They can identify someone by features and traits that, on the surface, would seem no less difficult to remember than a face.

        I, personally, am unable to even imagine this. I can talk about it, know about it intellectually, but I can't quite put myself in the same position. It's like looking at writing and seeing only meaningless squiggles rather than an alphabet.

        But it is a real condition.

        "Holly crap, if there are 20 varieties of one product then pick one and see if it fits you, that's all."

        All I can say to that is that you simply don't understand. I, well, understand that. I know that even those closest to me don't understand the barriers I face in my life. They can make themselves aware of what that means - what I can do easily, what I need help with; what type of instructions to give me or what situations to avoid - and can even accept what that means. But they don't really understand. It is alien to them, just as the inability to remember faces is alien to me.

        What you have said is the same as telling someone with chronic depression: "just cheer up/come out - you'll have fun/it's not that bad" or someone with OCD: "just stop; you're hands are clean/the piles are even/the lights are all off/the coaster doesn't need to be aligned with the table edges". You are telling someone with Asperger's to "just tell me what's wrong" or someone with bi-polar disorder to "just calm down"

        "Once inside, he will never have to make any decision, ever."

        And this happens. Some people voluntarily admit themselves to mental facilities when the stress and anxiety that comes from dealing with life becomes so overwhelming that they can't function adequately any more.

        Not all people are that strongly affected, however, or at least not continually and those people generally try to do the best they can with the tools they have available. That means medication, usually, but also understanding yourself and learning mechanisms for trying to cope with the world and reduce the possibility of being in a situation that causes whatever problem you are trying to avoid. Sometimes that means avoiding all but the smallest social situations, changing jobs, stocking your freezer with identical meals, setting yourself a schedule or assigning a shirt for each day of the week. Maybe it's something as simple as keeping your desk clean of anything unnecessary so as to avoid the endless positioning and re-positioning of pens and paperclips in line with the keyboard, notepads squared against desk edges and mugs centred on coasters.

        In short, it's about accepting who you are and trying to make your own life as anxiety-free as you are able. It's not about avoiding every possible trigger (that's institute or hermit time) but about minimising those things that are in your control so you are better able to deal with other things. that you can't control.

        I think that's what Trevor is talking about. If you've never experienced that then you should be glad, but you should also at least try to accept it and not judge people whose circumstances you evidently do not understand.

    2. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Trevor has a point

      "Decision fatigue" is pure anti-capitalistic bullshit, designed to get us proles used to the state deciding what we are allowed to have...

      1. Denarius

        Re: Trevor has a point

        @SundogUK. Still in junior high school ? Please do some real world living before making a twit of yourself. Its not even 10% of a decent flame. As for earlier commentard who sneered at excessive decision stress, have you taken a Downs sufferer shopping ? Thought not. Now the rest of you with strong opinions and little knowledge please mind your manners and read the posts before exploding. You don't have to be as bad as the politicians we all deride. ElReg, can the Adminstratix be called back ? I miss Sarah, even when I disagreed.

        1. Turtle


          "As for earlier commentard who sneered at excessive decision stress, have you taken a Downs sufferer shopping ?"

          Okay, so we're going to construct a societal infrastructure based on the assumption that everyone has Downs' Syndrome.

          Uh, sounds great. How can I sabotage it?

      2. dan1980

        Re: Trevor has a point


        As with the AC I responded to, above, your ignorance is a luxury, but it is ignorance all the same.

        That is not to say that many of the diagnoses these days seem to be erring, perhaps, to the benefit of drug companies, but that does not mean that that these problems do not exist.

      3. DropBear

        Re: Trevor has a point

        "Decision fatigue" is pure anti-capitalistic bullshit...

        So, ummm, I take it you don't go out very often shopping for clothes with the missus, do you...?

  11. dan1980

    Deep breath . . .

    It seems we are more alike than I first thought, Trevor. How about that. I would not, however, be caught dead with a goatee. Apologies if you no longer have it. Doubly-so if you still do . . .

    There is a part of me that can be found staring blankly at shelves of bread because the one I already decided to buy before I left home is not available and I can't get hold of my partner to ask what I should get instead. That same part of me fills my head with thoughts of walking into oncoming traffic when I continue (with a still-empty basket) to the dairy section and find that the supermarket no longer stocks the brand of yoghurt I usually buy.

    It leads me to buying the same shoes and earphones over and over, even though I know both only last about 3-6 months due to poor manufacturing quality (with the welt and the jack respectively). Even if I have to trek all over a shopping centre to find them, it's still quicker and less stressful than choosing a different product*.

    When I do go outside of known items, it is usually accompanied by crippling buyer's remorse - sometimes leading me to leave a product unopened or unused. I have a half-dozen pairs of jeans with the tags still on sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe.

    Organising an evening out is a minefield and travelling brings anxiety to near-unmanageable levels.

    But yet, that part of me is only one of many and is opposed in this by the part of me that is still looking for a satisfactory way to make foil breathable while still providing adequate protection from the government's thought-reading and mind-control.

    It is even more strongly opposed by the part of me that feels that all these decisions we make (or avoid) - the foods we eat, the places we go, the brand of deodorant we buy, the people we talk to, the TV shows we watch, when we take the bins out - are windows into our personalities, our very identities. One of the points of 'big data' is getting enough of this information, both in depth, per-individual and in breadth, across a large population, that who we are can be inferred from what we do.

    And, while it can be quite accurate, it also tends to flatten all the important differences and things that make us unique. Despite what credit card advertisements might have you believe, unique is not useful for marketers. Far better to put people in boxes that can be dealt with efficiently by applying some rules. Slap on some sliders for a few dozen criteria - brand loyalty: 6; sale responsiveness: 4; price sensitivity: 3 - and there you have it - a quantified marketing unit. (Or, somewhat archaically: 'a customer'.)

    It's what gives us the NSA classing Linux users as more of a risk than Windows users, which is functionally identical to moving seats on the train when someone with tattoos sits down near you, or having police 'randomly' stop a black person driving an expensive car.

    It's profiling.

    A bit of a diversion, sure, but I never claimed there was a part of me that is a coherent thinker or writer.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Deep breath . . .

      "I would not, however, be caught dead with a goatee."

      Noone here accused you of having taste... :P

      1. dan1980

        Re: Deep breath . . .

        No accounting for it, I suppose.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Deep Breathing . . . for Diving into Dark Web Pools

      A bit of a diversion, sure, but I never claimed there was a part of me that is a coherent thinker or writer. .... dan1980

      On the clear evidence of the previous two posts above, coherent thinking and writing be quite obviously in your gift, dan1980, and I like to imagine the revelation to others of the reality of their unique existences in the mass company of both frightened and frightening strangers, who would not be thinking at all of the condition and situation of countless others in similar environments, would be both enlightening and encouraging. Methinks though the intelligence they possess and deploy to process the gracious freely shared information, and which be needed, is totally inadequate to the task. And how wonderful it would be to be proven comprehensively wrong.

      Take an upvote for a job brilliantly done. And thanks for all the info, Trevor Pott. ProgramMING will be tweaked for Better AI and Beta Greater IntelAIgent Games Play Purpose accordingly. And is that a possible practicality and future virtual reality in an expanded El Reg raison d'être? ....... which is a rhetorical question, isn't it, because there is no physical and valid barrier to the radical fundamental actuality.

      Misinformed and malformed thoughts and disinforming opinions from a whole host of dark shadows and secretive dodgy organisation spokespersons be the only probable hindrance and computer glitch to expect, and be only as calming measure speed bumps to fly over and crash into.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Deep Breathing . . . for Diving into Dark Web Pools

        @ amanfromMars 1 cease this coherence immediately. It's disconcerting.

      2. Rich 11

        Re: Deep Breathing . . . for Diving into Dark Web Pools

        I can't believe I just upvoted an amanfromMars comment for what it actually said rather than how it was expressed...


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