coffee makerOver the past few years we have been told of the advantages of the ever-increasing Internet of Things; how smart devices will solve our problems by meeting, and even anticipating, our needs. How amazing to have a clock that automatically changes with Daylight Savings Time or laundry room webcam to see how many machines are empty before schlepping the basket down four flights of stairs. But what about a chair that monitors your weight and locks the fridge?

All useful Things that would make life easier, right? Yes, assuming they work. The problem is, the Internet of Things breaks down just like any other thing. So what do we do? We are left with three options: fix, replace, or ignore.

Fix

Most people are not equipped with the knowledge or expertise to fix the new Things set to enter our households (let alone many of the things we already have). How many people decide to fix their own toilets instead of calling a plumber? And in the new Internet of Things, just as now, a group of repair persons will pop up to address the new issues that arise.

 Replace

Replacing the Thing is another possible solution, but is it viable for everyone and every Thing? Take a look around your home and look at the many devices – fridge, stove/oven, microwave, thermostat, stereo receiver and television.  If they are more than 7 years old, you might cringe just thinking about the need to replace because software support ended. Unfortunately, the best analogy for this is smartphones. You can easily buy a brand new Android phone that’s running an out-of-date version of Android with known vulnerabilities. The phone’s manufacturer has stated it won’t release any fixes. Why should we expect any more from IoT manufacturers? It’s been common for appliances to get junked for having an unsupported operating system for a while. For example, thirty years ago a co-worker bought a new coffee pot that had a new technology: an on-board processor clock to set the pot to brew in the morning. When the (then) new-fangled chip promptly failed, the machine was useless. He ended up replacing it with a “dumb” coffeemaker that was 1/3 of the price.
We are left wondering if we will we fix, replace or ignore these smart IoT devices.