The Internet of Things and Simplicity

For the past few years, the tech world has been abuzz with the latest acronym in the long list of acronyms: IOT, ‘the internet of things’.

It got me thinking: as a lover of tech, how do I reconcile my need for simplicity with the every growing proliferation of devices? The advent of the internet of things puts this in perspective. The tech utopia of the future is that everything becomes smart; in our house, at the store, at work, in our car. More importantly, everything is connected: the light switch speaks to the thermostat, the door speaks to the intercom, the vacuum cleaner speaks to the carpet (hey, it could happen). It’s a dream world where everything is automated. If you look at it from one perspective, it could lead to a simpler life, where human intervention is rarely needed and computers take care of 90% of the work for us.

But on the other hand, all this entails is more stuff to own. Stuff that I’ve been trying to whittle down on in the past year. It’s already a hassle to own a smartphone and computer, especially if you travel a lot. (I dream of the day it’ll be possible to do development work straight on the phone without having to resort to a laptop, but I digress).

What about the day when everything becomes smart? Will I be required to get special hubs that will connect my washing machine to my fridge? What about maintenance and security? Do I need to worry about upgrading my lightbulbs? Will different devices need special remotes to work? What about separate screens? A screen on your fridge, one for the speakers, another for the intercom, etc, etc. Unless everything is going to run off the phone already in your pocket, I feel that we’re taking a step back from the dream of one device for everything in your life.

Still, all of this could go either way, and it will depend on what becomes the standard in the future. If everything is a dumb hub that runs off the phone, then I could see it working out. But if the future is going to be a fractured mess, with 20 different interfaces and special equipment needed to operate, then the future is not going to be the tech utopia many have dreamt of.

As it is now, though, the internet of things seems like the antithesis of simplicity. There’s nothing out there yet that solves a real need or simplifies life in a meaningfulway. And if it’s not doing that, then why have it in the first place? I guess I’ll just have to continue dealing with my dumb lightbulbs.

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