So I'm not the only one that thinks this idea of turning everything into a bit of internet is a bad idea then.
I recently gave the Internet of Things (IoT) a good look. I talked about geofencing and the communications technologies of the IoT, but now I think it's time to talk about nightmares. Specifically, I want to talk about my wife's "you need Lastpass for your smart house" IoT nightmare. It's the reason I'm not allowed to buy a …
One small but signficant - to me - detail is that sometimes I need to be able to adjust the heating in my house even when the internet connection is not working.
In fact, nobody is allowed to have internet connectivity for the first two weeks in a new house ( as far as I can tell ) ( or make that six to nine weeks if you somehow sign up with BT ) so presumably no IoT home furnishings can work in that period either.
It just doesn't seem to add much convenience.
I once lived, briefly, in Belgium. Don't know if it's still the case, but you couldn't get electricity until you had proof of residence - which meant you had to register with the local Commune and then wait several days for the police to drop by your cold and dark house to confirm you were living where you claimed and then give you a piece of paper you could take to the electricity company. Apparently, Belgians thought it was quite normal that there lives were micro-controlled by an army of bureaucrats to whom whey should be grateful for any concession.
As far as I can tell, "Internet of Things" is basically a synonym for "Belgium Everywhere" -
The same here when I first moved to Antwerp. I waited for the appointed hour for the police to come by and, more or less on time two of them did.
They sat down, got out a folder from a briefcase and started to ask me questions. It was pleasant enough but it didn't take me long to think that, really, in front of me weren't too policemen but two clerical workers just taking notes. They were clearly in a department which did this day in and day out and all that they did was to turn up at people's apartments and ask them questions.
I then considered the fact that they were armed. I have no idea what they would expect in their day to day duties and what hazards they were likely to face other than the occasional paper cut or a stabbing from a paperclip that warranted them to be tooled up.
Futuristic Home Owner's Diary from about 20 years ago, doesn't seem too far from today's futuristic home predictions just without wifi, and replace the Usenet reference with Facebook & Bittorrent.
I’d also love smart heating, as long as I’m in control.
Sometimes it feels like I’m surrounded by idiots. Earlier this week, some people came in earlier than they normally do, and they felt cold, so they turned on the heater. By the time I came in, it was toasty, and I had to turn the heat off. They had set the thermostat to 26°C. No, you morons, you don’t really want the temperature to be 26°C.
Other days, they’ll feel hot, so they set the thermostat to 16°. No! Stop wasting electricity! Why does the thermostat even go this low?
The problem is that this building has an irregular schedule that changes without notice, so I can’t just program the thermostats and lock them up. I think an ideal non-connected thermostat would have just 4 buttons: Go hotter, go colder, run the fan, turn off. Pressing Hotter or Colder would set it to change the temperature by like 2°, and it would turn off automatically after 2 hours. Then I wouldn’t have to fix moronic mistakes like trying to heat the building to 26°C.
"Other days, they’ll feel hot, so they set the thermostat to 16°"
People treat thermostats as a "volume" knob and reason that the further they turn it, the faster the temperature will change. No amount of telling them otherwise will convince 'em.
Under "normal" circumstances it would be a good idea to only allow a 1 degree change per minute, but if it's a knob people will break it and if it's a button they'll smash it.
On the other hand, when my "smart" thermostat is set to 5C (daytime, noone's home normally so the heating's effectively off) and I want to set it to 17C, I don't want to wait 10 minutes to achieve that setting.
"People treat thermostats as a "volume" knob and reason that the further they turn it, the faster the temperature will change. No amount of telling them otherwise will convince 'em."
"my "smart" thermostat"
*My* smart thermostat (a readily available £50 non-networked battery powered plugin replacement for a conventional one) *is* designed to do exactly what you describe. It will run the boiler less if the temperature difference between requested and actual is small. In other words, "the further they turn it the faster the temperature will change" (after a fashion).
It's a standard technique in the control business when something a bit more sensible than "is the house hot enough? No? Then run the boiler till it is." (aka "bang bang control") is needed.
Well if you could set the temp to 19c and it actually lowered the temperature to 19c it would be great..
I can't remember the amount of times I've stayed in a hotel and turned the thermostat down to 19c, which is usually as low as they go, yet the room is still so hot I can't get to sleep...
And so many companies I've worked at with air con that chills one person yet another roasts...
Others with 'central' air that is so useless i've seen employees opening the ducts to let more air flow out! (quite funny walking down an isle and all the floor vents are removed so its full of large holes....)
As I've said many times, it'll be a cold day in hell before I let my fridge order my milk.
Or for that matter WASTE my money on preheating my house. What soft, pampered 1st world people we are that we couldn't possibly be even slighttly chilly for the few minutes it takes the house to heat up once we get home and up the thermostat.
Or actually set fire to the turf.
The Thermostat only adds the upstairs radiators to the solid fuel stove. But the system still heats one one room and the water if there is no electricity.
What does all this IoT stuff do in a power cut. Or a digger where the broadband cables are. Or a small disaster.
If we're really going to be pedantic here, before electric pumps, auto-ignition, and ion flame flame sensors, GFCH would run from a manual, piezo lit pilot and a thermocouple, and heated the house through convection. (see gravity feed heating).
That said, even though I know they were made, I've never come across a boiler with a mechanical gas valve, so there goes my argument...
Mine's the one with the flux stains...
"As I've said many times, it'll be a cold day in hell before I let my fridge order my milk."
Ditto. A couple of things I've never understood about this 'your fridge will re-order for you' tripe. A) do people really eat/drink the same things week in, week out? And b) if you're going on holiday you wouldn't want it to re-order until the day before you get back, so presumably there'd be some 'I'm going on holiday from [date] to [date]' setting - which your friendly neighbourhood hacker/burglar will detect and store for later use.
If anyone hasn't yet read the winning entry in the BBC's recent kiddie short story competition, I'd highly recommend you do so - it's an even better take on a potential IoT future than this Reg. article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-32927550
"Apparently, this is a cellphone that has no physical button to allow you to return to the home screen. And, of course, all Android app designers will remember to put a digital version of the home button in every app, won't they? (Hint: no.)"
Umm, hint - they don't have to. The bar with the soft home button is always visible, unless you fullscreen an app e.g. while watching video, in which case a simple touch on the screen makes it visible again. At least that's definitively the case on my Nexus 5. App designers don't have to do anything to achieve that, it's part of the OS, so I'm confused about your complaint.
Makes me wonder about the rest of your points, I have to say.
That doesn’t always work. Android has serious UI problems.
For reference, the official way to get out of full-screen is to swipe down from the top. This makes both the status bar and the navigation buttons reappear. It also sends a downward motion into whatever app is on the screen, so your e-book ends up scrolled in some new position, or worse.
good to hear from you boyo...
I think it is called "progress", it never ceases to amaze me about:
- How much 'airplay' ideas can get that are pretty much fundamentally shit, pointless and useless for most people for most of the time
- How some (clearly) very clever folks can convince other (not so clever), but cash-rich to fund their whizzy doo-dah ideas...
Ah yes, my favourite occupation. Every time (this applies to everywhere I've worked) a new marketing manager/CEO/receptionist/etc comes in, it's ooh, we need to change the website. Even better, it's then - ooh, we need to change our application UI to reflect the new branding. Then of course, one customer will ask for a new feature, to which Sales will say, "Oh, that's not a problem". Cue another change to the UI. Then of course, every release will have new features (whether useful or not) and the UI design will be changed (whether necessary or not).
Of course, now everyone is all cloudy, the changes are pushed out to the unsuspecting users and they'll find their familiar UI has changed literally overnight, whether they want it or not. On the upside, I've got a job for eternity (well, it sure as hell seems like it).
Hear bloody hear.
I have a Logitech Harmony Touch controller.
I recently replaced my amplifier, so I had to reprogram it. Not a problem - except that it decided it would also change the user interface to the latest greatest version. It's now somewhat worse to use that it used to be - and the first few times we used it, it was a serious pain in the arse until we found out where everything was.
Kids love things changing all the time - they are used to it. We old farts like to be able to pick something up and it works the same today as it did yesterday. Is that so much to ask?
I was on hospital visiting duty this week. The doctor wanted to insert a canula in my extremely ill relative's arm - using an ultrasound scanner to find the otherwise invisible large vein, "Done it lots of times" he said "you can stay and watch if you wish". He had a trainee doctor with him who was getting his first introduction the to the procedure.
So they start off with the trainee unwrapping various sterile bits on the doctor's instructions. They finally reached the point where the ultrasound probe was to be sheathed in what can only be described as a very long sterile condom.
At this point the doctor started to look a bit puzzled. After failing to get the sheath to go over over the probe's hammer-shaped head - he started to read the instruction sheet that came with it. He tried again with some optimism that it was only a matter of familiarity. As it became obvious there was a basic incompatibility he decided that the risk was too great and aborted the whole procedure.
It was clear that someone had supplied a different sheath than the doctor had used previously - and it was incompatible with the hospital's ultrasound probe - or at least the ones that appeared to be the ward's standard equipment.
To his trainee he said "That's why we unwrap the sterile things only as we use them - we haven't wasted the really expensive one". He apologised to my relative - and to me. I assured him - "experience is knowing when to stop when somebody has unexpectedly changed something you thought you knew".
I can see it now. You arrive home and wish to turn on the oven, crank up the heating, switch on the TV.
Except your Internet Equipped House tells you that first of all you must do a non-negotiable upgrade to "House (TM) Software". 10 minutes later it finally finishes downloading, and then leads you through a convoluted installation process, asking you a series of questions to install a new piece of bloatware that you didn't ask for, and won't understand unless you spend half an hour reading the read-me. Meanwhile your meal is still uncooked, the house is freezing, and you're missing a TV show you wanted to see and can't tell it to record.
Once the new POS is installed, you will never ever need to use its new functionality, ever. Also, some git has redesigned the menu system to include a fancy transition effect that your 2 year-old hardware crawls to a halt attempting, and moved all the menu functions around. The oven controls have vanished from "Kitchen" to who-knows-where, and the "Heating" has a new set of snazzy, but incomprehensible, icons. It currently says "Puzzled Happy Face with Eye Twitch."
Your TV isn't compatible with the new software, it's stuck on "The One Show" and you can't change channel. You're still hungry and cold.
just to nitpick a bit, you don't absolutely need a hard button to return home,
but you need something handled by the underlying OS and not by the overlying apps.
for example on a Jolla phone (SailfishOS), a swip from left will always return you to the main interface, whatever the app you were using.
"UI experience" made ergonomics a forgotten discipline. Because buttons and knobs are more expensive than an icon on a display, more and more companies try to remove them as far as they can. And most naive users attracted like moths by fancy coloured icons, believe they are better than plain old black knobs and buttons.
Just, we are still physical beings living in a physical world, and we have other senses than just sight - once I could answer a damned phone without looking at it, now you can't, usually you have to swipe, look for the answer "button" on the screen (which usually change color, position and size with every OS release...) - that's why I prefer an earphone with a physical button...
The same is happening, for example, with cameras - companies are trying to replace buttons, dials and knobs with a cheaper touch interface, which unluckily 1) requires to look at it while I can find and use physical buttons and dials without looking at them (especially, because they don't move when a firmware update is installed...) 2) Gets in the way because they are shown over the image I'm trying to capture... and I hope I'll never see a voice commanded camera "set 1/200s, f/8!" - "Are you sure?
'Children playing in a summer day at sea with some clouds in the sky' automatically selected program suggests a different setting - I identified two children in the image, the clock says it's a summer day, and image analysis suggests there are a sea and some clouds" - "Ignore your program, set 1/200 f8!" - "May I suggest you a different program for images analysis? New ones are available for download' - "No, set 1/200 f8!" - "Are you sure?" - "Yes! Yes!" - "Settings applied" (photo lost....)
Love the article. I have experimented with remote control things, and the first pain with a smartphone is that you will always have it locked to prevent it from inadvertently dialing someone, so before you can use it you have to unlock it.
Then you have to start the app. Which needs to connect, which again takes a while. At which point you discover it's clung on to some public or FON access point name so it's not even on your own network, and by the time you have fixed that its battery has finally run out because it's the end of the day.
I'll stick with normal switches. Just because you CAN remote control things doesn't mean you actually have to. It also ensure I still occasionally physically see the devices I use..
In our crazy rush to the future it's should never be about "can we do something". Rather it should be "should we do something". In the case of constantly changing UIs, the answer is a resounding No.
However because marketing is currently in control of the horizontal and vertical, it will only get worse. Further, there is no way in hell I'll install another "smart" device in my house. My Samsung "smart" TV is a steaming pile of crap which can't even get the fast forward and rewind buttons to work consistently. Nor can it keep the audio sync'd and I have to reboot the TV whenever I switch from netflix to amazon.
So, no thank you. I won't be buying an IoT fridge, thermostat or whatever else. The old school stuff just works better in every conceivable way - and I say this as an owner of an IT company.
People get confused about me. I'm supposed to still be a whizz-kid after 50 years in the IT industry - but still use many things that are considered very low-tech. I explain to people that I am willing to experiment with new ideas - but I only adopt new technology that I find actually serves a useful purpose for me.
I don't think they are trying to sell anything to us jaded old register readers who have toilets inside their houses. Back in the early 20th century it was a hard sell to the older folks trying to get them to install a "disgusting smelly" WC inside their homes.
They will lie in wait for the kids of today who are seeing less and less proper knobs and switches and more touch screen and web UI controls. The controls of a car are a good example battleground for all this change. Look at air-con versus climate control - whizz round a knob towards blue or red versus repeatedly poking the same button to reach a particular number - or worse still having to navigate through menus on a tft panel that you can barely see when the sun is shining on it because you paid extra for the option.
However, part of the workflow for changing them should involve a life-threatening beating for the 5 top officers/wage earners in the company. If the need surpasses their unwillingness to be beat within an inch of their life, then the change is necessary and should go in.
You don't have to look much further than an iPod for an example of over-convergence in the control design. No separate volume control means that you have to hope the on-board computer figures out that your frantic anticlockwise scrolling means "turn the fucking radio volume down, my eardrums are bursting" and not the half-dozen other things it does. (The iPod radio volume levels are usually many times higher than the mp3 playback volume for a given setting, so switching from, say, Led Zeppelin IV to the BBC World Service without first either dialing down the volume or removing the earbuds usually results in a similar experience to being flashbanged in a telephone box).
Or even car radios that cannot be turned off if the ignition is off. That idiocy is over a decade in the market and still going strong.
My new 12v amplifier initially seemed very clever. If there is no USB memory stick - it selects its inbuilt FM radio. With a USB stick MP3 file - when it is powered up it remembers which track and position it had reached previously.
However - the order in which it plays the tracks is non-deterministic - and there doesn't appear to be any way to influence it.
If you plug an external MP3 player into the AUX socket - playing music - it selects the FM radio instead. You have to cycle through the "mode" switch if you want the AUX input - and it has forgotten the mode the next time it is powered up.
However - the order in which it plays the tracks is non-deterministic - and there doesn't appear to be any way to influence it.
If it's anything like the piece of crap I use in the van, it will play tracks in the order tey were transferred to the medium. The only way to get the playlist in the right order is to erase them, then re-transfer them in the correct order. I wrote a bit of perl to do that...
As it happens, in the hour or s since this thread started i got round to trying the "Find my Phone" function.
Duly went to the website. Logged-in ( and got the password right - which is a bonus).
And tried one of the functions.
I let the website ring my phone.
And it failed.
It said it couldn't locate my phone.
And no amount of shouting "I'm holding it here next to the computer you f***ing great bag of sh***"" helped at all.
So if the IoT can't even connect the computer to the phone when it's meant to I have little faith that it will connect either of these to the heating.
But don't worry. I have a solution.
I have these newfangled little boxes on the wall. One is in the kitchen and tells my heating when to go on and off, each day.
The other is in the hall and tells the boiler when the house is warm enough. And it does all this without any internet connection.
What will they think of next?!
Yeah, WiFi clocks at 40Mb d/l 10 u/l on the lappy. (150Mb on the wired PC)
4G on the phone with a strong signal (all bars lit)
And if this doesn't give me a connected service the IoT is going to be about as reliable as an igloo in the desert.
And since the lappy was logged in to the site, and my phone's details recorded correctly there the problem has to be the site talking to the phone. Which in IoT terms amounts to a critical fail, whatever the reason.
Most real Zigbee based HA systems use encryption to secure the network, so it's not going to talk to the neighbors router unless you've specifically joined both networks. You've got to enable the joining session and ID the device to be added specifically before the system will exchange keys for crypto so it's not happening without the network owner's permission.
Will there be issues with the IoT?
Sure, will those issues outweigh the benefits, probably not.
Just like Spam doesn't keep you from using email.
That all depends upon how much spam you get, doesn't it?
Frankly, I'm still at the stage of getting up and toddling over to the gas fire to turn it on / up if it's a bit chilly. I'm sitting in the bloody living room. Why do I need to cook the rest of the house?
I'd like to see an internet connected toaster ot whatever talk to my ancient gas fire!
Yes I know all about radiator thermostats etc - amongst other things I'm a heating engineer. But:
(a) I like the comfort of a radiant point source of heat.
(b) That means I get nice and comfy without cooking the whole room let alone the whole house.
(c) In spite of the fact that the boiler is far more efficient than the gas fire I'm still saving loads of gas. The CH system is for when it gets really cold.
And - forget the IOT - most of my customers prefer OLD FASHIONED ANALOGUE CONTROLS - they are far easier to set up AND TO REMEMBER HOW TO in the first place.
How about cheap, shit, badly configured zigbee devices installed by the previous home owner that have never had a firmware update in their lifetime, and never will, regardless of the severity of any discovered security flaw?
Because that is the kind of crap people will have to deal with if this stuff takes off..
What is wrong with you people, the IOT (or BE) is a boon for techy types, it is ill defined, non-compatible horse manure for sure but we're the target market.
There are plenty of gullible people with sufficient liquidity to buy into this paradigm and they are going to need help analysing, specifying, building, installing, supporting and upgrading this shit.
I can see at least 30 years work that will take me well into a luxury retirement.
This is the gift horse that keeps giving, an all-encompassing solution to everything and nothing, one that gives so much promise but always requires new hardware/software/support.
Belgium Everywhere has the unique intangibility of always being better if you (the target sucker) spend a bit more.
IoT is SLOW AS HELL.
My thermostat and other IoT things are of course very small resource-starved computers. This means when my phone app simply asks it how hot it is, and what's the current setpoint, it takes FOREVER to process the overly complicated protocol (JSON over HTTP) and return an answer.
So just turning the A/C down a degree takes about half a minute at least.
Wrong way round.
My phone app shouldn't gaf about what the current setting is, all it should do is identify that I've walked into a room, that I like it a nice 19C and as long as her phone isn't in the vicinity, set the temp (no extra inteligence rqd in boiler) the decision work is done by my personal computing device, the Belgian in the boiler just follows orders.
Because I've hacked her phone to set the temp to 4 degrees below what the app tells her the setpoint is, if she sets the temp to above 26 it turns the boiler off ('it's a bug in the software' I tells her, 'they will probably fix it in the next release')
And there you have the single most powerful argument against IoT of "Smart Everything" as far as I'm concerned - it will be nothing but the new kingdom of petty control freaks where the person with the admin password or 1337est hacker skillz rules unchallenged over everybody else. No thanks...
"A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive -- you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program."
"For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive "
Was that really written in the mid 1970s? How?
More importantly, people have had forty years to wise up to this insanity. And still it continues.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021