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Pushback on the IoT

I guess it was inevitable. After all the hype. After all those forecasts of kabillions of connected devices. After all the cool videos showing smart everythings. There seems to be a bit of a backlash forming around the Internet of Things (IoT).

There’s never been any lack of muttering about IoT vulnerabilities, with tech pundits and analysts pointing out all along that that having all these IoT devices out there, many in the hands and homes of “civilians” (i.e., non-techies), was a security nightmare in the making.  But now those concerns about security have gotten through to the consumers who were supposed to be fueling the growth of IoT. A January Accenture survey, that was cited in a blog post I saw on EE Times, found that security “has moved from being a nagging problem to a top barrier as consumers are now choosing to abandon IoT devices and services over security concerns.”

While security and privacy concerns were keeping nearly half (47%) of the 28,000 respondents from buying into IoT, the top issue (62%) was how expensive IoT devices were. Nearly one-quarter (23%) couldn’t see how IoT devices would be useful to them, while 17% found them too confusing.

Thermostats, like Nest, are pretty much the only IoT-based appliance that people welcome into their home. This makes sense. The application is obvious, and the interface is pretty straightforward. (At least to me: I’ve had one for a few years.) But consumers are apparently just saying no to smart refrigerators and dishwashers. That said, I have recently begun seeing an ad for a new Samsung fridge that you can look into (via your smartphone) to check the contents. I will say that the ad doesn’t make the point very well. A guy’s at the grocery store and calls his wife to ask her whether they need eggs. She’s sitting next to the fridge, but is too involved in whatever it is she’s doing to get up and check. So the fellow whips out his smartphone and sees for himself that they do, indeed, have eggs. I’m no ad man, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have someone check the fridge who didn’t have someone sitting at home who could easily check it for him? Maybe I’m missing something here.

Anyway, in his EE Times post, Pablo Valerio points out that there’s a difference between “smart appliances” (like the fridge you can remotely peer into) and smart functions “such as dedicated sensors that can send an alert when, for example, they need some preventive maintenance or replace a critical component.”

I’m with Pablo here. I believe that consumers will welcome appliances with smart functions into their homes. Why wait for your furnace to conk out on the coldest night of the year, when you can get a call letting you know you need a service call?

I have to confess that I remain interested and intrigued by the IoT, and believe that the Internet of Everything (which is how Cisco has named it) is pretty much the future. But I’m not surprised to see that some of the hype is beginning to die down.