Many of the "improvements" to ordinary household objects promised by SmartThings, a software company just acquired by Samsung, are already available elsewhere or seem like overkill.
and security. And electronics product makers such as Belkin, Kwikset, Honeywell, Logitech, and Philips are all selling appliances they hope will be part of this network.
Blame consultancies like McKinsey Global Institute, which in a report last year projected the IoT could have an economic impact of between $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.
But just because "smart" can be added to any noun doesn't make it so. IoT is two letters shy of "idiot." In other words, just because something can be programmed doesn't make it clever.
There are compelling reasons to network things, and most of them have to do with business. Car-sharing companies such as ZipCar show what can be done when you track cars over the network. Industrial control systems should provide sensor data and report failures. Sensors are already everywhere in manufacturing and logistics. Coincidentally, businesses budget for security.
When "smart" meets "home," however, start running.
SmartThings actually looks like one of the better ways to implement the Internet of Things at home because it doesn't require a subscription fee or try to convince you to store video in the cloud. Its products appear to be genuinely useful for home security. But there are a lot of home security services and devices.
Peace of mind The benefits attributed to the company's products beyond security are questionable. There are its "peace of mind" notifications, for instance. Let's look at some of those.
— "Monitor movement, temperature, and activity throughout your home." Properly categorized as security concerns.
— "Get notifications when family members arrive and leave home." If you really want this, you could use smartphone-finding services or iOS 8's Family Sharing service.
— "Know if you remembered to close the garage, windows, and the front door." Barring memory-related medical issues, how often does this happen to you? Just pay attention.
— "Rest easy knowing valuable, dangerous, and off-limits items are secured." Again, security. Or perhaps security theater. Alerts about a security breach are notification, not prevention. Awareness of a break-in might not prevent an intruder from escaping with stolen goods.
— "Receive alerts when HVAC, electricity, or other important systems break down." How often is this likely to happen? HVAC systems often go a decade or more without breaking down. And if there's a power outage, are you really going to be running a cellular transmitter on backup power to send the alert your powerless WiFi router won't send?
— "Trigger A/C units, portable heaters, thermostats, and other electronics and appliances to automatically turn off when you leave." Many thermostats can be programmed independently on a schedule.
— "Get early warnings to prevent leaks from causing floods and structural damage." Why not buy insurance against falling satellite parts while you're at it? If a leak is likely, fix the problem. And if it's not, you probably don't need to monitor for an unlikely event.
"Limitless" possibilities After security and peace of mind, SmartThings insists there are "limitless possibilities." The company manages to count eight.
— "Leave your keys at home–you won't need 'em anymore." True, until your smartphone battery or your electronic lock runs out of power, which is probably more likely than losing your keys.
— "Automatically start the coffee machine when you wake up." You don't need an app for that. Many coffee machines can be set to brew coffee at a specific time. Or you could do it yourself and smugly
Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio
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