Consumers need to consider the worth of smart technologies

The biggest tech showcase of the year, known as the International Consumer Electronics Show, took place this past week and instead of one device stealing the spotlight, the “Internet of Things” was the topic of discussion. This futuristic concept, where everyday appliances are connected to the Internet and are controlled with apps, will be the theme for a lot of major tech companies in 2015.

The idea seems like it would be beneficial, but tech companies should pump the brakes before investing millions into the IoT. There are many causes for concern that come along with placing mini-computers in everything around us and this new product line may not be worth the hype.

The most glaring concern is privacy. Depending on which devices developers choose to work with, personal information will be shared and stored on a server.

It may be hard for companies to market the idea of syncing your information into a cloud, given the recent history of hackings. Also, a person’s tendencies could end up being used for advertising purposes since the information is all connected and users may begin to feel like they are being watched.

On one hand being able to control your entire house with your phone is cool, but knowing that all of your everyday habits are being tracked and saved is actually creepy.

Another issue with Internet of Things is finding practical reasons for turning inanimate objects into smart objects. I understand that innovation is the backbone of technology but do we really need a Bluetooth toothbrush — an actual product presented at CES.

There were some creative applications such as a device that senses when plants are dry and subsequently waters them and pet feeders that can be managed from your phone. There were also some applications that just didn’t seem necessary.

Inventions that save us from getting off of the couch are great, but products that look cool and don’t provide any real value will have a hard time selling.

Prices of these smart products will fluctuate once they hit the market, but the starting prices will definitely be on the more expensive side.

Consumers will have to decide how much the convenience is really worth when they are deciding between regular $5 lightbulbs or $100 Wi-Fi lightbulbs that can be controlled with a smartphone.

There could also be a battle of brands if manufacturers choose to make these smart objects only compatible with certain smartphones. Samsung is one of the leaders in this new wave of technology and could potentially make their smart products only manageable from Samsung phones to help out their own sales and make Apple-lovers jealous.

The concept of connecting our devices is a great idea and is the next natural step in technology. However, there are still many kinks to work out before we see an average person adapting to complete smart homes.

The only way to find out if this will be success or a flop is to let the consumers decide. It looks like we’re going to get our first real taste of the Internet of Things this year, but it might not be what we’ve been waiting for.

Aarick Knighton is a junior information management and technology major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at adknight@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @aarickurban.


Originally published at www.dailyorange.com on January 14, 2015.

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