Unrigging the Internet of Things

Gadgets, Rant
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If you’ve ever heard someone overly excited about the Internet of Things you’ve likely talked to one of the two groups of people: idiots or people trying to sell you IoT. There is no other subset of IoT enthusiasts out there so if they aren’t asking for money you can tell with certainty that they are an idiot.

On behalf of idiots everywhere, I would like to introduce you to the world of Internet of Things and break down some basics and myths surrounding it. First the basics, let’s discuss the basics of IoT.

Three groups of Internet of Things:

1. Expensive stuff. Nobody knows if it works because nobody has it but the web sites look incredible!

2. Cheap shit made in China that doesn’t really work.

3. Mostly unreliable stuff in between.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll only discuss group #3 because it is the largest group and one you are most likely to see out in the wild. Your smart door locks. Your intelligent lights and thermostats. Enabled gadgets that reorder cereal at the touch of a button, garage door that closes itself if it detects rain, etc.

The premise of the Internet of Things is that all the devices, home appliances and things you have in your house will get a wireless connection and become smarter. All these things will interconnect with one another and web services to make for a smarter home.

The reality: Things that used to be reliable now have a layer of unreliable software running on top of them creating another set of things that will break.

Yes, one day your fridge will know you’re running low on milk and will automatically reorder it for you. Which is amazing considering your current fridge just beeps at you when it isn’t closed completely. And that replacing a water filter on it takes minor surgery – but don’t worry, managing it’s wireless connection is going to be a breeze.

The biggest myth about IoT

Everything will interconnect and work together.

The only thing standing in it’s way is every single corporation going out of business to be replaced by the single corporation in charge of all software and all appliances. Because here is the dirty little IoT secret: Nothing works with stuff from other manufacturers. They all insist on owning their own proprietary way of handling things. Oh yes, they can agree on RFID and IEEE specs but when you actually want to use things with services you already have — oooo, slow down, that’s not supported yet.

I have lights, alarms, sensors, power switches, power cords, light sensors, cameras, RFID tokens, zwave stuff, SmartThings, Apple friendly appliances – virtually none of that works with any of the other stuff. Unless you consider this integration:

I have no way to check the real status of my August smartlock – unless I launch the app which lies to me (remember what I said about it being unreliable). But I can use my Dropcam to view the door and tell if the bolt is in. Marvelous IoT.

So yesterday I wrote about rewiring my house audio system to run on Raspberry Pi. I was immediately asked why I didn’t use the Apple Airport Express. Or Google Chromecast. Or <insertsomethingelse>. Succinctly put: they are all shit. I cannot stream from Youtube to my Chromecast from my iPhone. I can send it to my Airport Express but I find it incredibly unreliable and slow. Sending a library not in iTunes to it – forget about it.

The future of IoT is no different than the late 90s audio towers where you had your DVD, receiver, amp, VCR, TV, Aux and literally all of them needed a different remote. That is the future of IoT – you will have one set of apps for your lights, one set of apps for your cameras and sensors, one set of services for your security and presence tracking and then a soup of IFTTT triggers that may or may not fire.

That’s all assuming your home WiFi doesn’t crap out with all these devices connected to it. Which, you’ve guessed it, it will.