By now, you’ve probably noticed the unstoppable craze of slapping the word “smart” in front of a product name and adding wireless connectivity. Not only are many of these products a waste of money, they can cause privacy and security issues, and make you look foolish too.
Welcome to the Internet of Things That Should Never Be Connected to The Internet.
Remember the guy who spent 11 hours trying to make tea using his new internet-connected kettle? He eventually turned to port scanning his network after he couldn’t find the Wi-Fi base station. While his story might be an exception to the rule, there are better ways of spending $120 that don’t involve controlling a kettle with a smartphone.
— Keir (@Keir) October 11, 2016
Smarter claims that “hanging around the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil is a thing of the past” and includes features like remote water level monitoring. You’ll still need to be present to fill the kettle in the first place though, and return shortly after to make your tea.
The concept behind Ring has some merit, but it’s essentially just a glorified VoIP device that costs $200.
Ring talks up the convenience of telling the mail man to leave your package in the porch, but ignores the fact that many couriers still require a signature. A TV advert I saw recently showed a mother and two children arriving home, using Ring to let dad know they’re safe, when they could just call, Skype, or FaceTime using their smartphones instead.
Furthermore, Ring fell victim to a major vulnerability in January 2016. Though no hacks are said to have taken place, Ring and other such products (SkyBell, DoorBird) could still be vulnerable to other attacks in the future, and offer very few benefits to the user that justify $200 of expense. Combine Ring with smart locks to make your home even more vulnerable to attack.
3. Touchscreen Connected Fridges
At Berlin’s IFA consumer electronics show in September 2016, LG showed off a fridge that featured a 29-inch touchscreen and Windows 10. It uses an Intel Atom processor and 2 GB of RAM, with LG’s own Windows 10 apps alongside Microsoft mainstays like Paint.
Samsung isn’t innocent in this department either, having unveiled a 1080p fridge that uses the Tizen operating system earlier in the year. Smart fridges have already been hacked and used in DDoS attacks, and many of their top features (e.g. calendars, reminders, music playback) can already be found on smartphones, tablets, and other dedicated devices.
If you’re desperate for a fridge with a touchscreen, why not use something like the FridgePad and your existing tablet instead?
Laurastar is a Swiss company that specializes in high-end ironing systems, and their contribution to last year’s IFA electronics show was a new smart iron with an entry price of $1,400. The “smart” component uses an app to provide tutorials and real-time guides to improve your ironing technique, and provide detailes about your equipment.
— LAURASTAR (@Laurastar) September 5, 2016
With such an eye-watering price tag it’s clear that Laurastar don’t make average consumer-grade irons, and that’s reflected in the rest of their line up: their current most expensive “ironing system” retails at $3,699. Depressingly though, smart irons are now a thing, so expect to see more of them in the future.
In July 2016 dogs and cats around the world went hungry when their PetNet smart feeders didn’t actually do any feeding. That’s right, you too can starve your feline friend for only $150.
Rather than buffering feeding data for a sensible period of time and querying servers for changes to said schedule, PetNet decided to rely solely on the network to trigger feeding times. When the service stopped working, dinner never arrived. It’s not clear whether PetNet’s methodology has been changed to avoid future issues, but it’s also not hard to feed your dog “manually” instead.
The Prepd lunchbox isn’t technically a smart device, save for the accompanying recipe app which provides meal plans designed to fit in the included containers. Beyond being a lunchbox with magnetic containers that can be arranged in a few different ways, Prepd doesn’t really do anything new.
I’d probably have left it off this list were it not for the nauseating level of Kickstarter-speak, like the claim that it “redefines the whole experience of taking lunch.”
7. So Many Smart Buttons
We don’t have Amazon in Australia, so maybe I’m just bitter about the arrival of Dash buttons. Is this a step too far in simplifying online shopping? Maybe. I doubt the house of the future is covered in buttons with name brand labels on every surface.
At least Amazon’s buttons are cheap. Logitech’s POP home switch will cost you $99 for a starter pack that includes two buttons. You can use them to perform revolutionary tasks like control lights, play music, and other things that would take 10 seconds longer to complete if you hadn’t wasted one-hundo on a smart switch system.
If you experienced a momentary lapse in judgement and actually bought some Amazon Dash buttons, you might be pleased to know you can hack them to do other things instead.
The Juicero is an internet-connected juicer that is designed to prop-up its own subscription-based business model. It doesn’t juice regular old fruit and vegetables like a standard juicer, instead it relies on sachets of prepared flavors like a Keurig or Nespresso coffee machine.
This man needs help. He thinks he's Steve jobs Making the Mac but he made a $700 juicer. Call his family pic.twitter.com/itoLNdmcl0
— Ed Zitron (@edzitron) August 19, 2016
Unlike a Keurig, the juicer will only work with sachets that use Juicero’s own QR code. It’s always connected to the internet, and the use of sachets instead of raw organic material generates additional unnecessary waste. In case you weren’t completely convinced, juice packs cost a further $5–8 each on top of the $700 initial expenditure.
Finally! A toaster that prints the day’s weather on your breakfast, removing the need to glance out of the window or swipe right on your phone. You can also use the Toasteroid app to burn messages or drawings onto bread, allowing you to literally eat your own words.
I feel like I should cut Toasteroid some slack for at least being fun, but that $85 price tag is likely to go up once it leaves the crowdfunding stage.
Regardless of how useful Bowflex’s product is, I’m docking points for missing the opportunity to call its Bluetooth-connected weights “smartbells.” And the system does have some merit: select your weight and the ST560 will configure itself to your preferences.
But at $499 (not including the weight rack) for a pair, the entry price is eye-wateringly steep. Unless you’re made of money you might as well pay for a regular gym membership, and use all of the equipment you want.
When a regular skipping rope just won’t do, try Tangram’s smart rope. It monitors your progress and displays it in mid-air as you workout, provided you can keep skipping long enough to make it worthwhile.
While it might not be the most expensive smart exercise accessory, it’s still a needlessly connected device. The accompanying app collects all your skipping data, allowing you to compete against others on leaderboards — quite the revolution in skipping rope technology.
This product probably makes sense if you’re meticulous about the way your house smells, but I’m an open-the-windows, “Oh God there’s cat hair everywhere” kinda guy. I’m also depressingly cynical about these (and many other) things, so I see this product as more of a gimmick to get you to buy more Febreeze than anything else.
Using the remote spray you can add fragrance to rooms, monitor “freshness” levels (whatever that means) and get notifications when its time to buy more. You can then order more with your Febreeze-branded Amazon Dash button, because you’re just so-damn-connected.
The Pryme Vessyl is a smart water container, designed to help you stay hydrated by tracking what you drink. The problem is that we already have a device for this: our bodies. The idea that you need eight glasses of water a day is outdated, with much of our daily H2O coming from the food we eat — something Vessyl doesn’t track.
remember Vessyl? they finally released it but it doesn't sense what's in it and it leaks and has connection issues https://t.co/HGAcIYS9R9
— GEORGE SOREASS (@PREMIUMPONCHO) September 27, 2016
Vessyl also can’t tell the difference between the different liquids you may place in it. Many reviews suggest the product leaks and often loses connection. Needless connectivity, dubious hydration marketing, and leaky product means you’ll likely want to avoid this one.
Hot on the heels of Vessyl is LVL, a wearable hydration monitor and fitness tracker that gives you an at-a-glance look at your current thirst. I can maybe see a valid use for LVL for athletes or those exercising in hot climates, but among such professionals the importance of replacing fluids is well understood.
The real market for LVL is consumers drawn in by the science of hydration, and while staying hydrated is good for you, you don’t need to spend $200 and wear this thing to do so. Just drink water often and send me your $200 instead.
Do You Own Any of These?
What’s the worst smart device you’ve ever come across? How many of these would you put in your home? Is privacy and security something that concerns you about the internet of Things?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!