The Internet of Shit has an ominous message for us all:
Now the same is happening with your every day gadgets, but in a slightly more sinister, under the surface way. Companies want to internet-connect your entire house in order to collect more data on you.
The opportunities are delicious for bloated internet companies: now a software company could know how warm your home is, what times of day are noisy, whether you have a pet, when you turn on your lights or if you listen to music while having sex.
Smart devices are sold as a way to improve your life — and in many ways, they do to an extent — but it also means those gadgets are incredible troves of data that could eventually turn into Software-as-a-Service money makers, just like Nespresso did to coffee.
The problem with the Internet of Things is that the hardware is only one aspect. The makers need to keep servers running to support them, keep APIs up to date, keep security up to date and, well, pay employees.
That, eventually, costs more than it does to actually sell you the device. Probably in less than the first twelve months of you using it. That’s not sustainable, and no Internet of Things company has found a better way yet.
If Nest wanted to increase profits it could sell your home’s environment data to advertisers. Too cold? Amazon ads for blankets. Too hot? A banner ad for an air conditioner. Too humid? Dehumidifiers up in your Facebook.
To be clear, that hasn’t happened yet but Nest already shares “anonymous” data with “partners” and Google just happens to be in the business of showing you ads for things. It’s something that will eventuate.
I find myself somewhat less spooked than IoS does about the prospect of such “partners.” My main problem with targeted ads is that the targeting is usually pretty bad. I buy a mattress, suddenly every ad on every site is trying to sell me a mattress. Hey, guys, I just bought one. But when it works, it works. I purchased a couple t-shirts the other day, but there were a couple in the same column that I couldn’t find. Until, that is, a targeted ad just popped up on an unrelated site. Cool!
It’s commonly argued that we should worry more about corporations accumulating data than the government, but it’s just not something I really see for the most part. Corporations are usually trying to figure out the best way to offer me a product at a price that I am willing to pay. I do worry a little bit about increased discriminatory pricing, wherein the listed price is quietly dependent on stuff I’ve purchased and how cost-savvy I am. That seems mostly like an issue that can be addressed independently, though, and I sort of expect the blowback to be worse than any gains they have that over the current system (which price-discriminates based on sales, coupons, etc).
In any event, I found IoS’s comments here odd:
Ten years ago, if you had told people they could make millions off a specific coffee machine that would only take one type of pods, made by the creator of the machine, they might have laughed at you — but then Nespresso came along and ate the world of drink-at-home coffee.
They might have laughed at you… unless they owned a printer. You know, where you pay a pretty decent price for the printer and then have paid for it again two-times over the next five times you replace your ink cartridge? Seriously, such proprietary expenses are pretty old hat. Corporations have been taken to court over it. When I found out about the coffee thing, I didn’t bat an eye. Why would I?
One of the subjects of the piece, Nest, isn’t even doing all that well yet:
A few years ago, Nest was widely viewed as one of Silicon Valley’s brightest stars. Founded by Tony Fadell, a key figure in Apple’s iPod team, Nest aimed to produce a line of user-friendly, connected home appliances. Given Fadell’s Apple background and Nest’s focus on hardware, many people wondered if Nest would become the new Apple.
The company’s first product, the Nest Learning Thermostat, got rave reviews when it was introduced in 2011. Nest added a smoke detector to its product line in 2013. Google was so impressed by the company that it paid $3.2 billion for it in 2014.
But since then, Nest has struggled. It acquired Dropcam in 2014 and rebranded Dropcam’s flagship security camera as the Nest Cam in 2015. Beyond that, Nest hasn’t introduced a single new hardware product, and it looks increasingly unlikely that it can justify that lofty acquisition price. That’s less because of specific problems with the company’s management than because the entire category of internet-connected home devices doesn’t seem that promising.
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