The other week our big boss came to visit, and brought a presentation he’d been taking around the various companies. In it, amongst his predictions for the future was a fridge that could automatically order your milk for you via the internet. At which point I failed to control myself and asked if he couldn’t please find a better example. He suggested we have a bet that in 5 years he’d be able to get such a fridge. I replied that I thought you already could and that I thought that there were much better connected technology/sensor based technology that he could use to make his point. My immediate suggestion was cars and their multitude of processors and sensors, but something like the Nest thermostat would have worked just as well.
I know that the internet fridge is a thing used out of irony in technical presentations. But this wasn’t how it was being used here. This was a serious use of an internet fridge as the way of the future. Quite frankly if that’s all we’ve got to look forward to I might as well give up all hope now.
In a talk I saw Tom Coates give at Mind the Product last year he pointed out that the average lifespan of a fridge is 15 years. Fridge technology isn’t evolving that speedily (or at least not that I’ve noticed). But computing and networking technology still is. This makes these two kinds of technology a bad match.
I also know that I’m very fortunate to live in the centre of a city which means that within a 5 minute walk from my house I can get to probably a dozen, if not more, different places where I can buy milk. Running short of milk is not a problem that I can get that excited about someone/something solving for me.
Also, whilst we’re on the subject, I don’t need an internet controlled washing machine either. Or at least not unless it comes with an internet enabled person to put dirty clothes and detergent into it, and to remove and hang up the load when it’s finished. If all I’m being offered is effectively a timer switch, then I’d far rather buy something like the WeMo switch which I could then use for different appliances as the fancy takes me.
Listen, appliance manufacturers: We don’t NEED a dishwasher that we can communicate with from afar. If you want to improve our dishwashers, give us one that senses when people leave dirty dishes on the kitchen counter, and shouts at them: “PUT THOSE DISHES IN THE DISHWASHER RIGHT NOW OR I’LL LEAK ALL OVER YOUR SHOES!”
I just don’t currently have a need for internet controlled white goods and they don’t fill me with delight or excitement. To be fair, I can’t really get excited about any form of kitchen appliance. I may, however, be interested in something like an electric toothbrush with some form of health sensor in it (which a quick google failed to turn up) - something on this scale seems like a much better option, in our house we generally get a couple of years use out of them before the battery stops holding any charge, which means we’ll be upgrading/replacing on a semi-regular basis.
This is just me pulling together my more reasoned response than the one I made at the time. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked to leave my job for questioning the big boss. Phew!