IoTMaker: Do we have an ‘Internet of Stupid Things’ problem?

David Rowan
David Rowan at INKtalks 2013 talking on ‘a healthy disregard for the impossible’ – inspiring for entrepreneurs and M2M innovators alike

David Rowan’s INKTalks speech on the ‘Internet of Stupid Things’ is not currently online, that we can see (though it triggered some Twitter buzz from attendees), but his Media Week column of the same name is live and makes it case very quickly:

…just because a device can be packed with sensors and put online, does it actually serve a consumer purpose?

Mr Rowan cites Internet connected toilets that can be flushed and deodorized from your smartphone, automated pH sensors that tell you when your milk is going sour, or a ‘smart egg tray’ that tells you when you’re running out of eggs in the fridge. Mr Rowan’s suggestion is that these product innovations are driven by marketing, and are, presumably, A Bad Thing.

Now to many, these are frivolous inventions, but we just wanted to offer three comments:

  1. It’s a big world. One man’s frivolous task is another’s big issue. In a global market, with a low cost of entry into IoT development thanks to devices like our concept board, why let a big imagination be constrained by a perceived ‘lack of need’ – someone will probably need it, and as long as it’s not your sole commercial focus… why not?
  2. Vapid applications of technology can support brilliant ones. Who’s to say that the sensors and software used to track the souring of milk couldn’t find a new lease of life in transporting large supplies of vaccines or medicines long distances? Or in managing hospital drug stocks? Indeed, we call this the ‘serendipity’ effect – some of the ‘stupid’ applications may reveal the potential for something really groundbreaking.
  3. It’s early days for the IoT. Experimentation is vital. We’re still testing the bounds of what’s possible with these sensors and this technology. As Henry Ford is attributed with saying, “if I’d asked customers what they needed, they’d have said a faster horse.” Now, particularly given that the IoT requires a whole new type of imagination because the rules of what’s possible have changed, so too will it be difficult for consumer demand to define the next wave of successful IoT applications. Sure, some – like NEST – will be relatively obvious. But others? We must wait on the inventors, and for the market to decide if their inventions are useful or not.

So please don’t let Mr Rowan’s concerns about the ‘Internet of Stupid Things’ put you off coming up with your own crazy or wonderful inventions for our IoTMaker challenge. If you’re one of the lucky winners, we might even help you turn your concept into a reality ahead of Mobile World Congress 2015. For a reminder on how to enter, please visit the competition landing page, or just tweet @Gemalto #IoTmaker with your idea ahead of the entry deadline – now extended to 30th November.

You can check out some of the ideas being discussed online here.

What do you think? Are these ideas helping or hindering advancements in the Internet of Things? Let us know in the comments, or in our snap poll:-


Update: The entry window for the IoT Maker challenge has now closed, stay tuned to the blog for more information.

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