CES 2015: Internet Of Things Not All Shiny - InformationWeek

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1/6/2015
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CES 2015: Internet Of Things Not All Shiny

As CES 2015 gets underway, the Internet of Things takes center stage. Or should we say the Internet of Monitoring?

CES 2015 Preview: 8 Hot Trends
CES 2015 Preview: 8 Hot Trends
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Around 160,000 people have come to CES 2015 in Las Vegas to get a glimpse of a world where everything connects with everything else. What began as a trade show to showcase televisions, turntables, and other consumer gadgets has become a nexus for the exchange of data.

Connections allow the exchange of data. CES has always been about personal connections and business connections. But in the past few years, as mobile devices have become ubiquitous and cloud services have matured, it has shone a spotlight on the appeal of connecting devices, for device makers and possibly device buyers.

Our devices allow the interchange of data about people, about us. And such data turns out to be hugely valuable to companies that aspire to build ongoing relationships with customers. It allows companies to understand how their products are being used and to sell more products and services.

[Want to learn more about the coming "Internet of Me"? See CES 2015: Big Data A Quiet Star.]

At Panasonic's media conference on Monday, Julie Bauer, president of Panasonic's consumer sales division, described her group's goal as "expanding touch-points with consumers." The company announced upcoming products including a line of TVs with a Firefox OS interface, a Home Monitoring & Control Kit with no monthly fee, and a virtual mirror that will help cosmetics companies offer makeup recommendations to clients.

These products fit into the Internet of Things, the growing network of connections between computer-enabled objects. But the Internet of Things is a problematic term because it emphasizes the things rather than the people using them. Really, it is the Monitoring of People and Their Property. The Internet of Things connects our stuff to us, for better or worse. The privacy and security concerns that accompany the Internet of Things seldom get discussed in detail at product launch events, but they should be, before the discussion moves to hacker conferences like Black Hat.

Chris Allen, founder and CEO of iDevices, a maker of connected cooking thermometers and soon connected outlets, said that the most exciting aspect of the Internet of Things is "the analytics you can garner, the way you can service the customer and understand how the customer uses the product."

iDevices' connected outlet.
iDevices' connected outlet.

iDevices held its press conference with Schlage and Chamberlain. The presence of a 95-year-old lock company and a 61-year-old maker of garage door openers at a home automation-themed event attests to the fact that there's change in the air, that established industrial brands see an opportunity to redefine the scope of their business and the way they interact with customers.

Cory Sorice, VP of marketing for connected products and commerce at Chamberlain, observed that his company interacted with its customers about once every 15 years. That's how long the company's garage door openers generally last. But with Chamberlain's MyQ Garage, customer interactions become daily events through push notifications. And these interactions can be important: As Sorice put it, when you receive notification that your daughter came home through the garage at 3:00 a.m., or didn't, that matters.

Samsung media conference at CES 2015.
Samsung media conference at CES 2015.

At Samsung's press conference, the Internet of Things was mentioned only in passing, because it was to be the subject of Samsung Electronics CEO Boo-Keun Yoon's keynote on Monday evening. Still, Tim Baxter, president and COO of Samsung Electronics USA, underscored his company's interest in the Internet of Things by citing Samsung's acquisition of Smart Things last summer. He also noted that roughly a third of Americans say they're interested in smart-home technology, but less than 2% have actually deployed it. "We believe this represents a huge opportunity for Samsung," he said.

Samsung didn't announce any noteworthy mobile products beyond a small, wireless 1-TB SSD, unless you consider its planned robotic vacuum, dubbed PowerBot, a mobile device. It announced that its cloud music and video services, Milk Music and Milk Video, will be coming to PCs and Samsung Smart TVs (which henceforth will run the Tizen operating system). It also announced Milk VR, to provide branded VR content to its Gear VR headset, and the UHD Alliance, a group of companies hoping to standardize the ultra-high definition TV ecosystem.

While introducing Phase II of the company's Chef Collection home appliances, Samsung Electronics USA VP John Herrington underscored the company's commitment to the Internet of Things. "Home appliances are now a major pillar for us, alongside mobile and TV," he said.

Every "thing" now is a technology product, though not necessarily a very compelling one. As iDevices' Allen remarked earlier in the day, "The consumer has to see true value. It can't just be an [Internet-enabled] on/off light switch."

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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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ArsalanAKhan
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ArsalanAKhan,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/8/2015 | 5:05:28 PM
Not new
Internet of Things (IoT) is just beginning to see the light of day for some organizations but some have been using it without much fanfare for a while.
raimudinho4
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50%
raimudinho4,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2015 | 11:41:37 PM
ideas
science term can help to have new ideas
Charlie Babcock
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50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2015 | 8:39:44 PM
Why not connected diapers?
In a learned post, Rafe Needleman asks why not connected baby diapers? Indeed, why not? An app could replace the mother's sensitive nose. https://www.yahoo.com/tech/the-6-most-ridiculous-connected-devices-except-107239764774.html
Charlie Babcock
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50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2015 | 7:36:43 PM
Does not vacuuming make you smarter?
Everyone I know who has a vacuum robot feels a lot smarter, whether they are or not. What is it about vacuuming?
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/7/2015 | 12:34:27 PM
Re: Samsung Smart TV Is not so Smart
In many cases, the term "smart" should not have been used. It sounds good, but I've seen devices like the Smart TV that aren't. They connect, but the AI that is designed to make things more convenient for me just isn't there.
Laurianne
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50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2015 | 3:46:16 PM
Re: Quid pro quo
Right. I may replace a phone every couple of years, but a TV is a bigger investment. And my washer and fridge last the better part of a decade. Security standards are a major reason people are waiting....
Stratustician
IW Pick
100%
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
1/6/2015 | 3:13:33 PM
Re: Quid pro quo
I agree.  One of the other key things is that we are still really in the early stages of IoT design and thus the infrastructure behind these devices are still in a way disconnected across platforms, unless you are using devices that share a common platform such as in home automation.  For me, do I really want to spend all this money to automate and then say in a year or 2 we get more developed platforms with integrated security and better analytics, which would make me want to go ahead and rip everything out and replace it to speak to a larger ecosystem.  That's the question. IoT is great for simple things, simple connected devices that have a single purpose, but to buy into the whole ecosystem, I think we are still a little early and many are probably waiting to see where the market goes now that the big players are starting to look at standardization and more secure data platforms to support next generation devices.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2015 | 2:08:42 PM
Quid pro quo
I'm glad Tom emphasized the importance of usefullness in IoT home scenarios. If I'm going to drop serious money on a smart home device it better do more than collect my data and give nothing significant back. Consumers won't be easily fooled. We're accustomed to mobile apps, search engines, and services like Amazon and Netflix giving us relevant suggestions based on our data. Expectations are high for a good return on our investment in smart things.
D. Henschen
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50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2015 | 1:02:22 PM
Samsung Smart TV Is not so Smart
I purchased a Samsung "Smart" 46-inch LED TV more than a year ago and am still waiting for signs of intelligence. The setup required me to share my email address and see it log in every time I turn the TV on. Part of the smartness was supposed to be learning my viewing habits and suggesting shows to watch on a startup page. I saw no signs that it was personalizing my experience and it just left me feeling like Samsung is selling data on consumer viewing habits.

I've reconfigured my startup to avoid the Samsung startup screen, but the system shows no way to unregister the TV and use it as a dumb appliance. That may not be doable, as I do need login-credentials to use streaming services from Amazon, Netflix, and other streaming apps that run on the TV.
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