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back to article PM Cameron leaps aboard Internet of Thingies

Prime Minister David Cameron thinks he has spotted the "Second Industrial Revolution" – and it’s the Internet of Things. Speaking at the start of the CeBIT show in Hannover, Cameron foresaw British software and services companies working up with German engineering and manufacturing companies to turn IoT from a “slogan to a fact …

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Facepalm

Roll those eyes

the "fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low".

Yup that'll be £6 each time please. £1 for the milk and £5 delivery charge. And after 2 weeks of you being on holiday, you'll be faced with 14 pints milk in various states of cheesyness and one huge shopping bill.

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Facepalm

I'd been waiting for the new series of The Thick Of It

Here's the tired old textbook example of some clueless politician being told what bandwaggon to jump on by his spads, and as usual just making a prat of himself to those in the know. He's as much cred as Gordon Brown telling us he's an Arctic Monkeys fan, as if that could ever happen. Oh, wait...

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WTF?

Re: Roll those eyes

the "fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low".

This is the old "connected home" crap from the late 1990's that never happened. I was consulting for a semiconductor company back in the day when everyone - Motorola, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle - everyone was screaming about the Rise of the Connected Home. With scenarios like this:

Boss: Bob, what are you doing on your office computer?

Bob: I'm starting my dishwasher at home!

Boss: That's great thinking, I'm going to promote you

Bob: Now I'm flushing the upstairs toilet!

Me, I actually called the appliance manufacturers who were thrilled that someone wanted to know what they were doing. Every one of them told me no, we are not making refrigerators that can talk to the supermarket - if we thought they would sell, we would, but surveys show nobody wants them. They all thought it was funny that the "experts" predicting what connected home appliances would do never actually spoke to the people making home appliances.

I see IoT having success in Business-to-Business (B2B) applications, but outside of maybe personal fitness I don't see it having the gazillion dollars/pounds/yen of impact that pundits pretend it will have.

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Re: Roll those eyes

Thing is, if everyone had them, it wouldn't be a big issue - a van would be loaded up with new stuff every day to do a round (kinda like, I dunno, a milk float) and dropped off every day. The delivery costs would be minimal.

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Go

Re: Roll those eyes

Yep, just as Mr O. points out: local services stand to benefit from improvements in yields and productivity. 'bout time to when consider how extraordinarily inefficient the current internet-based purchasing model is.

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Re: Roll those eyes

Ever heard of a milkman? http://www.milkandmore.co.uk/home

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Re: Roll those eyes

the "fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low".

Yup that'll be £6 each time please. £1 for the milk and £5 delivery charge. And after 2 weeks of you being on holiday, you'll be faced with 14 pints milk in various states of cheesyness and one huge shopping bill.

If the fridge is ordering milk whilst you're on holiday because you're getting low, shouldn't it be calling the police rather than the supermarket? Now that'd be an intelligent home!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Roll those eyes

The less those idiots wake me up with their diesel 'milk floats' at stupid o'clock, the better!

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Re: Roll those eyes

Or imagine you overslept and are late for work. Then you find that your car is missing. The fridge has sent it to the supermarket for a pint of milk.

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Re: Roll those eyes

Am I the only one who finds the thought of our Glorious Leader needing the IoT to order milk slightly comical? Doesn't he already have people who do that for him?

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Black Helicopters

nah

This isn't about improving the economy, lifestyle, saving the planet or all the normal crap politicians spout.. this is about connecting up more devices to the webs that NSA/GCHQ can hack into! pretty soon server farms will be analysing your milk-drinking habits for signs of subversive activity..

personally I believe we should invest in aluminium foil headwear.. several layers should do the trick :-)

p.s. its only paranoia if nobody is out to get you..

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beats me...

...how humanity has managed to survive so many millennia without the internet. Our net connection goes off for 1 minute (cos I uplugged it) and my daughter's word collapses! It's the end of the world!

Now all we need is stuff talking to other stuff! Oh Joy! More government snooping to go with the smart meters. Smart fridges, smart microwave, what next? Smart lavatories? And what happens if your fridge knows you've had 2 cans of beer or a nicely chilled bottle off white wine in one evening? Does it refuse to open the door? "Sorry mate, you've had your UK.Gov approved alcohol allowance"? So what then? Your cupboards get a Facebook account and tell the world about your eating habits? Do we REALLY need this? Really? Trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist?

I'm with @horsham_sparkey - I spy a gap in the market for genuine tinfoil hats....

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Re: beats me...

"and my daughter's word collapses!"

In the Beginning was the Word...

...and the Word was....CONNECT!!!!!

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Headmaster

Re: beats me...

I think you mean "+++ATDT"

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Re: beats me...

Screeeeeeech, scriiiiiitch, <pause> boinnnnggggg. Boinnnggggg.

:)

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Re: beats me...

"Screeeeeeech, scriiiiiitch, <pause> boinnnnggggg. Boinnnggggg."

There were other standards for modems before V90

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Re: beats me...

'In the name of all that is good and logical, we give thanks for the chemical energy we are about to absorb. To quote the prophet Jerematic, one-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-one-zero-one-zero-one-zero-one...... zero-one-zero-one-one-zero-zero-one... two. Amen.' [Source]

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Re: beats me...

There were other standards for modems before V90

Yeah, I know. My first modem was a 9600 USR.

But still - I've always remembered that boing, boing. Never found out exactly what it was doing. If you didn't get it it meant the v90 bit had failed and you were stuck on analogue.

Edit: A bit of research and apparently it's part of something called DIL (Digital Impairment Learning). There were different kinds and I'm thinking of the TI chip version:

A blast from the past.

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Write once, copy many

The problem that Cameron has missed is that software and IT doesn't create many jobs. You have a small (comparatively) team or company that writes an app, or some industrial firmware. That is then published & sold, downloaded millions or billions of times and used everywhere. You still only have quite a small company doing the work - it's just that the company is earning a great deal of money from its success, fame and fortune.

But it's not creating any more jobs.

There is possibly some intangible benefits that accrue to the users: greater efficiency, faster operations, lower costs. But these don't flow back tot he original company that created the software and the benefits confer no competitive advantage on this country as a whole. Even worse, if the company that created this successful app feel they are being too highly taxed, it's very, very easy for it to move to a lower tax (and probably less rainy) country and be just as successful there.

Now consider the manufacturing companies that The Big C is proposing the UK IT "industry" partners. Every widget they make has a human element to it. Sure, the production lines are automated, but they still need people to maintain them, perform some manual operations (even if that number is minimal), pack the physical products, ship and transport them and physically sell them. So each widget produced has some need for workers - the more widgets made, the more workers employed, hence a greater gain for the country where the stuff is made. And if the same country has the skills and industrial base to make the equipment that makes the widgets, you have a double success story.

So while having an IT industry might be trendy, it doesn't do much to directly reduce unemployment and greater success doesn't necessarily lead to more job.. Neither is it particularly permanent in terms of staying and investing in any given country if taxation becomes unfavourably high. So it seems to me, that in this IoT partnership, the Germans have got the tasty end of the candyfloss, and the UK is stuck with the stick.

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Re: Write once, copy many

Yup. Agree. I spent a large proportion of my life in engineering and moved to IT in the early 90s after being made redundant and having used computers pretty much all my life anyway. IT has always been a cost center. We don't produce anything other than heat and big electricity bills, and force people to keep data on our shiny servers that most of them would prefer in a filing cabinet anyway. Especially my wife....

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Re: Write once, copy many

Not quite quite which part of the IT industry the two previous posters inhabit, but it's not mine - here I sit in a building with hundreds of software engineers, in a company with thousands.

It's not all small app teams or IT departments. You need a lot of engineers to produce a lot of software. And software in continually getting more complex, as requirements become more complex.

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Re: Write once, copy many

> here I sit in a building with hundreds of software engineers, in a company with thousands

So I'll take a wild stab in the dark and venture you don't work for Whatsapp. Market value (if you can really believe that) of $19Bn and 50 employees.

The point I was hoping to get across with that rather trite example is that successful, new, IT outfits have heee-oooge valuations (if not actual, you know: value) but it doesn't take many employees to produce it. Compare that to a "proper" company, like Ford, that makes stuff. They have a value of about three times Whatsapp's¹, but employ over 200,000 people - and if you include its third-party suppliers tere's many more. If a politician wants to create jobs in his/her/its country, then massively over-valued IT companies aren't the way to do it

[1] http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/f

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Re: Write once, copy many

So you've not heard of "maintenance", then?

Writing code is the easy bit. Reading the code that someone else has written, and getting it to do new things - or do the same things in a slightly changed environment? - That's real software engineering, and that's where the money is.

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Re: Write once, copy many

>Writing code is the easy bit.

No, telling the people who write the code what to do - as if you actually have a clue - is the easy bit.

That's why Cameron is Prime Minister. Our glorious tribal chief wouldn't know strategy if it fell out of a game theory simulation, but he is - yet - qualified to pontificate on Britain's magnificent connected future, and stuff like that.

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A fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low

I don't get it, how will fresh milk make me feel better?

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Re: A fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low

now if it ordered beer by itself, that would definitely make me feel better.. mmmmm beer

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Re: A fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low

.. will be the first fridge I will take an axe to. No fridge will ever boss me around.

Seriously, what on God's Green Earth is a Prime Minister of a country doing at a tech trade show that isn't even in his own country ? Doesn't he have anything better to do with his time ? Shouldn't he have sent a Secretary or somesuch ?

As for asking the Germans to do the engineering, well with all the IT successes of UK government these past years, I think that is the best idea he has had yet.

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Re: A fridge that can order you beer ...

> if it ordered beer by itself,

and what if it nagged you once it had ordered your "limit" of 21 units, weekly. Or worse: refused to order any more, for your own good?

How about one that "knew" there was an under 18¹ y/o in the house and wouldn't open the fridge door until after they had left.

The thing about the IoT is to make sure that it knows who's in charge.

[1] other arbitrary age limits are available. Just don't buy a grey-import IoT device or you might go thirsty for no good reason.

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Re: A fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low

As for asking the Germans to do the engineering, well with all the IT successes…

I dunno, we've had our fair share of expensive IT balls up here as well, you know. The motorway toll collection system has to go down as one of the most expensive failures. Course, they kept throwing money at it till it worked and then renewed the contract without putting it out to tender.

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WTF?

"electricity meters that talk to the grid to get you the best deals"

Which version of the Smart Meter roll-out is that going to be?

Because I'm fairly sure that the ones being delivered by 2017 or thereabouts aren't required to do anything like that.

And I'm stone-cold certain that no incumbent supplier is going to be offering devices which minimise customer revenue without such requirements.

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Re: "electricity meters that talk to the grid to get you the best deals"

Innovative hackers will root Smart Meters and write software that does this for you. It will become widespread. There will be arrests and prosecutions but the numbers of users doing it will keep growing because it's easy and it saves money. Eventually, it will become so pervasive that it's legalised and regulated.

I'm not sure whether multiple suppliers could survive in that environment so perhaps the market would collapse consolidate into one. Perhaps we'd buy from power stations and wind farms directly, with a fee going to the network (where the "network" is one of the old suppliers).

That's optimistic. The transition would be painful. The solution would not be a utopia. But it's not implausible.

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Re: "no incumbent supplier is going to be offering devices which minimise customer revenue"

That's what I thought too. Then I wondered if he had plans to remove the legal impediments to electricity meters becoming some sort of consumer appliance. We'll maybe be able to just order a new meter from Amazon and get a suitably qualified local tradesperson to install it and the electricity supplier will just have to suck it. Then I realised he was just being an unthinking, garbage spouting, typical politician.

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Re: "electricity meters that talk to the grid to get you the best deals"

"Perhaps we'd buy from power stations and wind farms directly, with a fee going to the network (where the "network" is one of the old suppliers)."

That's more or less what we have in Toronto now. The "fee" is increased and electricity cost lowed by the old supplier until they are "competitive". They don't care if you buy from another supplier as all the profit is now in the fee.

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Re: "electricity meters that talk to the grid to get you the best deals"

" Perhaps we'd buy from power stations and wind farms directly, with a fee going to the network (where the "network" is one of the old suppliers)."

A charmingly utopian view of the world, that presumes suppliers do nothing but send you an often inaccurate bill.

If you contracted with the generators directly for a flat rate of x pence/kWh then they simply become your supplier and you've re-integrated the supply and generation roles (that government is currently convinced should be at arms length or legally separated). That's not really changing anything for the better. Or you could contract with the generators and in effect be your own supplier. Then you'd need to contract on a take or pay basis and be fully exposed to half hourly system marginal price and imbalance risks, which is a future that you really should not be wishing for, particularly as the Brave New World of Low Carbon Power starts to set the marginal price on a random basis.

The idea of automating the search for the cheapest deal is another lovely sounding idea that would be pants, as the rest of the nation would be looking to do the same. Suddenly commercial risk goes through the roof (raising costs for the suppliers/generators and thus for consumers), and you've got an illiquid market because the cheapest supplier can't service the entire market - and very quickly you find that you have a monopoly supplier.

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Re: "electricity meters that talk to the grid to get you the best deals"

Actually the one currently on offer from British Gas seemingly requires you to take an expensive tariff, if you want the kit for free. http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/08/british-gas-free-heating

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Re: "electricity meters that talk to the grid to get you the best deals"

"Innovative hackers will root Smart Meters and write software that does this for you. It will become widespread. "

No, it won't be widespread, any more than than rooting smartphones has become. In fact probably far less so, because it will be a criminal offence to tamper with a smart meter (much as it is at the moment, just far easier to detect). The design has a security log file to monitor both physical and logical intereference, including commands from non-validated sources. And even just to add "new functionality" would compromise the integrity of the device, leading to disconnection and probable prosecution (most likely criminal damage or unauthorised access to a computer system charges if they can't prove theft).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "no incumbent supplier is going to be offering devices which minimise customer revenue"

"We'll maybe be able to just order a new meter from Amazon and get a suitably qualified local tradesperson to install it and the electricity supplier will just have to suck it. "

Why would you want to own a meter? The costs of metering are a trivial component of your energy bill, and the costs of buying your own, having it installed, including periodic accuracy testing are going to be be far greater than leaving it to the supplier.

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Re: "no incumbent supplier is going to be offering devices which minimise customer revenue"

quote: "The costs of metering are a trivial component of your energy bill, and the costs of buying your own, having it installed, including periodic accuracy testing are going to be be far greater than leaving it to the supplier."

It depends entirely on your perceived level of trust that the meter readings provided to you by the supplier are accurate (or indeed even factual). For instance, if your bill over a one month period was increased ("because winter") but you were not in fact at home at all over that period and all electrical appliances were turned off (also gas central heating), it might cause some doubt as to the veracity of the information being presented to you by the company charging you for the claimed usage.

Especially if the response to your query on how this might have happened is stock denial until corroborating proof is given, which then becomes "it must be a systems error".

Not that I've been through anything like that, of course, my energy suppliers are all squeaky clean bastions of corporate ethics :)

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Facepalm

Re: Why would you want to own a meter?

I wouldn't particularly. I was making the point that this would be the only way you might get one that could check tariffs and put you on the best deal and by extension, that Cameron was talking guff.

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Re: Why would you want to own a meter?

"and by extension, that Cameron was talking guff."

I think we could have agreed on the conclusion at the very beginning of this sub-thread, before considering any additional evidence.

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Anonymous Coward

Internet of things, or spying goods.

Because what we all needs is our homes planted with lots of bugs to monitor our every move.

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Anonymous Coward

My employer (telco stuff) has also jumped on this IoT bandwagon. I struggle to see even basic utility for users, much less how it's going to bring my firm any benefit. So what if my car calls ahead to book a parking space? it's not like mobile networks have to double capacity for that.

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How about

... an Internet of Things electoral voting system which scans social media and news sites for general public opinion and casts votes accordingly at election time?

Surely the Cockmunching Cameroon would pledge more money towards such an idea. No?

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Anonymous Coward

Pre booked parking ?

You all forget the change in the law, back in the 90s, which makes it illegal on pain of something to do *anything* at all to make private motoring easier.

This is actually serious.

Have you ever waited at a junction and thought "if those traffic lights were synchronised better, we'd get more cars through ?". And then spoken to the engineers who fit the traffic lights to be told that the lights are *deliberately* out of sync, so as to discourage motorists.

Check out Brums 2 new A38 "bypasses" Northfield and Selly Oak, where 2 sets of lights were replaced with 5, and the journey time increased. By design.

The A38 is one of the citys (and countries) arterial routes. How come it has 3 set of pedestrian lights in a 150metre stretch.

I can't see pre booked parking being allowed.

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Internet of things - mostly bollocks

Certainly not an industrial revolution.

Popular and hyped by those who see provision of cloud services to the things as an on going revenue stream and a source of large amounts of data which must be valuable somehow.

Government research funding will be mostly pissed away as usual - at least it is only 74 million.

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Bong

It's this sort of thing that puts Steve Bong into perspective.

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Jobs, efficiency, better living: Bull.....

The real money in the IoT is the advertising. Smart Meter, lets you be flooded with lots of ads about better deals, milk run out; get ready for a slew of ads recommending healthier calcium delivery systems.

If the IoT becomes a reality my advice is buy Google and ad company shares because they, like mobile gaming, are likely to be the only people making any money out of this.

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Cringe

Is it wrong that I cringe whenever I hear of a politician either threatening to talk about technology or actually is talking about technology?

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Hooray! The government is concentrating on engineering!

By which I mean "oh Christ, the government is going to fuck up engineering".

I do wish that certain out of touch public school boys (applied to at least Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband) would concentrate on what the government itself is doing (taxes, NHS, military, education, roads) and not constantly try to decide what the rest of the economy needs to do.

Most of the time these initiatives are conceived by people with lobbyists whispering in their ears and will benefit only the employers of those lobbyists. Everybody else pays. The at least 50% of the economy made up of people and companies doing things the average person or politician has never heard of will carry on as usual, and deal with the unintended consequences.

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FAIL

As with all government initiatives ...

the end product will be an ad campaign.

So much easier than actually doing anything.

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