THE INTERNET OF THINGS, SMART APPLIANCES

Posted: 2/17/2016


By: Ian Hill, C-Level Technology Executive

What will the Internet of Things mean for you? If you work in technology, it should mean you're about to have a fascinating time for a few years as this boom is going to be fun. And if you don't work in technology, you'll still get to play in a world where technology is able to help you even more than it does today.

So then, to the Internet of Things, or IoT. We are surrounded by the things we have built to make our lives easier. The ability to connect them to each other will make them even more useful, and will create another technology explosion, one perhaps even more significant than the mobile boom of the last eight or nine years.

Leave aside the security implications for now - that's a different discussion and one I'll address in another post. For now, just consider the implications of interconnected Things. Once you start to mull this over and join the dots, it becomes apparent just how exciting it is to be in technology today.

Let's consider Amazon's Dash buttons. If you're not familiar with them, they're wi-fi connected buttons that allow you to generate an instant re-order of your favorite products - Tide, Gillette razors, Bounty, Ziplock bags, Huggies diapers - the list is extensive.

This article suggests that they're not particularly useful, but I think a point has been missed, and that is that Amazon is in a position to get the Dash to market quicker than Samsung can create an arrangement with Tide for their product.

I'd go further and propose that these buttons are almost instantly obsolete. In fact, some of the offerings on show at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2016) in Las Vegas are proving exactly that.

Consider Samsung and their washing machines. Imagine Samsung launched a partnership with Proctor & Gamble for Tide (the most popular laundry detergent brand in the US). You can see that the next generation of Samsung washing machines might have the functionality of the Dash button already built in. The washing machine knows how many wash loads you've performed in a month, and whether they were small, medium or large loads, and can thus approximate the amount of Tide detergent you used.

It's only a small jump to realizing that the washing machine itself could be connected to your home network (again, we'll consider the security implications in a future discussion), the same way as your Dash button. The difference being, you don't even have to remember to hit the button (as daft as this sounds, and it certainly invokes memories of the state of humanity in the Wall-E movie, perhaps yet another more philosophical discussion).

Now let's refine the idea; Samsung don't create relationship with Tide at all - this isn't about a Coke vs Pepsi showdown. Instead they partner with a company that has been a technology leader over the past twenty years. Amazon.

Your Samsung washing machine interacts with your Amazon account like the Dash button. But in your Account Preferences you have already told Amazon what your favorite detergent is, and your preferred unit of measure (e.g., 12 oz box, 24 oz box). Of course Amazon already knows this today, or can at least make an educated guess based on your purchase history. But in future you won't have to press a button to place an order - you'll simply use your washing machine and the IoT handles the rest.

In fact at CES 2016 Whirlpool announced last month a new "smart" washer and dryer range that do exactly this. Their newest appliances have integration to Amazon's Dash Replenishment feature, taking a first step via Whirlpool's mobile app to fully automated re-ordering. Perhaps early adoption will require a confirmation via your mobile device, but it's becoming clearer that more automated houses, "smarter" houses, are becoming a reality.

The possibilities are going to be endless.

In the next part of this discussion, I'll discuss the inevitable next step in this line of thought - the data implications.

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