My Umbrella Just Crashed: Why Consumer IoT is Going to Suck

Marc Andreessen was right that “software is eating the world” but he forgot to mention that most software sucks. So what happens when you have a crappy app tied to an object that used to “just work”? You get an umbrella that keeps sending you push notifications about how you’ve “found” it.

kisha-smart-umbrella-16539Like everyone on the planet, I lose umbrellas. So I recently bought a Kisha smart umbrella; it uses bluetooth to pair to my phone and lets me know when I left it behind. This sounds like an awesome idea, unfortunately the app is a bit buggy. While I gave it access to my location, it still doesn’t know what city I’m in, so it can’t tell me the weather. Also, the pairing seems a bit flakey, so every once in while it believes I’ve left it behind even while I’m in the same room.

While I expect that Kisha will iron out these bugs, this brings to the forefront the problem with consumer IoT (Internet of Things) devices. It is going to be quite some time before an IoT operating system and notification system get built that find the right balance of features and noise. I really don’t want to have a personal relationship with my umbrella. Four push notifications in a single day seems a bit much, and this is only one device. How will we deal when we are carrying 10-20 connected devices that each want to alert us every time they might be useful.

Perhaps the answers is an IoT ecosystem that lets us control how our devices interact; a digital device concierge if you like. The problems is that thus far we have seen very few systems that really do a good job mediating information for us. Just look at the state of email software to get an idea of how tough a problem this really is.

I fear that things are going to get very bad before they get better. I see a world in which we complain about the frequency at which we must interact with our belongings: “Man, my garbage can just won’t stop asking me to take out the trash and my toaster is in a fight with my scale over my carb levels.”

If you’re working on an IoT dashboard let me know, I want to get ahead of this thing before IoT spam becomes a problem in my life.

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