back to article The Internet of things is great until it blows up your house

A few months ago I had a chat about the Internet of Things with the design head of a well-known home appliance manufacturer. Gartner had just published 2014’s hype chart,, and with the Internet of Things sitting at the very peak of the hype cycle, he reckoned it might be an interesting way to differentiate his firm’s products in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Um...

    While I know most people don't pay any attention to such things (luckily natural-selection is a bitch), electric blankets are NOT supposed to be left on while someone is in the bed! They are intended to warm the bed before you get in, something every manufacturer will be too happy to point out in the manual the minute someone tries to sue them for injury or death.

    Also. Necessary? In Australia? Like, I know modern humans are a bit coddled and soft and all, but...!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Code Monkey
        Windows

        Re: Um...

        That 1-6 setting sounds ominously toaster-like.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Um...

      Or you could buy a duvet. Reduce your electricity bills, get rid of the chance of electrocution and stop "blanket-as-a-service-corp" from adding pressure sensors to get information about your sex life which they sell on to advertising corp, microphones ("for voice control") which can stream sound out to the "voice-recognition" servers - at pornhub, "gas-detection sensors" ("in case your oven gets hacked") which feed into your insurance company...

      I don't need smart bedding. Even if I wanted an electric blanket, I'm reasonably sure I could accurately and consistently set a dial to 6.5. I'm sure thermostatic control doesn't require an IPv6 stack and a DC full of dodeca-core Xeons.

      I don't remember ever damaging clothes with an iron. I may have done, but not often enough to worry about and I'm certainly not going to scan QR codes on every bit of shirt. Mostly the risk comes from my wife's clothes where she has cut the tags out because the tags were annoying her and I'm not sure what they're made of. In that case, I leave them for her to iron - they're mostly synthetic anyway and don't need it. Why would manufacturers want us to stop destroying clothes anyway? If they wanted clothes to last, they could use decent cloth and pre-shrink the fabric so it can all go in the dryer.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Um...

      so whether they used a smart electric blanket in Melbourne or Moscow, they would get the very same great night’s sleep

      If you'd ever stayed in a Moscow hotel you'd know an electric blanket is quite unnecessary. They're so overheated that I had to open the window to let in some nice, refreshing -10C air*.

      * This can lead to the temptation to generate a vodka coat, though.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      No Codes for You

      The solution to that problem seems obvious. Design an iron equipped with Bluetooth LE... blah, blah, blah...

      Funny... the obvious solution to me would be a cheap barcode scanner in the iron... yada, yada, yada...

      Have neither of you washed clothes? What are you going to be making that tag out of that will last for the entire usable life of the clothing that you will also want to allow to come into contact with your skin? What happens with clothes that lose their tags? What do you do with custom/bespoke items? If this tech is going to be applied to washers and other appliances as well, how will you deal with items other than outerwear?

      Take that bright idea and play the What Could Possibly Go Wrong game. If you end up with more headaches than doing the job the way it is currently done, you're probably headed in the wrong direction.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: No Codes for You

        Actually, the best solution would be textile technology - shirts that don't require ironing. Either that, or a robot butler who can press your laundry... and mix mean cocktai!

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: No Codes for You

          Could someone please explain to me what an iron actually is, anyway?

          1. Ole Juul

            Re: No Codes for You

            Clothes with labels are mostly cheap off the rack stuff for people with little sense of fine fabrics or clothes and who send stuff to the dry cleaners. I bet that the guy who thinks up this kind of toy wears a t-shirt and is stuck in gadget land dreaming of sales.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: No Codes for You

              " . Design an iron equipped with Bluetooth LE, linked to a smartphone, running an app that uses its camera to scan a QR code printed on a fabric care tags.

              Or simply remove the heat if iron feels like it's sticking, or starts to smell, or - shock horror - use common sense in the first place?

              As Ian Michael Gumby says above, a solution looking for a problem.

      2. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: No Codes for You

        @Robert Helpmann??

        Well said, up vote for you!

        And what if said tag is really fucking annoying on the back of your neck? And you cut it out(like 40 percent of my shirts) how does the iron know how to set itself? Now if the tag is repositioned to say the lower hem of the shirts, maybe they will stay.

        And what if the settings on all of your tags turn out to be different? Will you have a million and six wash loads and dryer cycles?

        Please stop these so called inventors from fucking up the universe!

        1. Not That Andrew

          Re: No Codes for You

          You could just read and remember the info on the tags, innovative as that idea might seem.

      3. PNGuinn
        Holmes

        Re: No Codes for You

        But but... when the label's unreadable the iron talks to your commected fridge, which informs the tv, which sends the toster a message to send you an email to the effect of " buy yourself a new pair of whatevers, you skinflint". Which, due to a terrible misunderstanding of the Vleherg tounge is sent as .....

        Seriously, another great advertising opportunity and a greater reason NOT to get a connected iron (apart from to the leccy that is).

      4. Adam Oellermann
        Black Helicopters

        Re: No Codes for You

        "This iron has shut down due to an unauthorised attempt to iron Region 1 clothing with a Region 2 iron. Clothing piracy is a crime, which has now been reported. Please wait calmly for enforcement operatives to arrive; please do not attempt to leave the property or to change your underwear."

      5. Tony Haines

        Re: No Codes for You

        //What are you going to be making that tag out of that will last for the entire usable life of the clothing that you will also want to allow to come into contact with your skin? What happens with clothes that lose their tags?//

        It doesn't matter. Whatever the garment is, the tag would say "do not tumble-dry; cool iron".

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      Funny, but the solution is obvious...

      This is why the IoT is never going to leave the hype charts.

      As a consumer are you going to spend $39.95 for an iron that has 6 temp settings which clearly list the fabric that matches the temp? (If not on the dial, on the surface or on a card attached to the surface.)

      So I look at the Iron and I want to iron silk, there's a number. I set the iron to that number and I iron the fabric.

      I want to use steam on my cotton dress shirt? I look at the fabric, find the right number and voila done.

      Or do you want to spend $390.00 for an iron that has all these features in to read a barcode /q code tag that contains the same information that's on a human readable tag already on the shirt?

      Oh and the $39.95 iron, will outlast the lifespan of the $390.00 iron. That's right. The simpler the device the longer it will last. I have a corded drill that my father purchased 50+ years ago. Compare that to the 4th Battery Powered Drill that I have purchased over the last 20 years...

      The point is that you're trying to solve a problem that doesn't need to be solved.

      1. Preston Munchensonton
        Megaphone

        Re: Funny, but the solution is obvious...

        "Or do you want to spend $390.00 for an iron that has all these features in to read a barcode /q code tag that contains the same information that's on a human readable tag already on the shirt?"

        Read much? The cost for the additional components should be $20 at retail, not $350.

        That doesn't make it a good idea at all, but it's not so ridiculously priced to make the comparison obvious to everyone (at least while it doesn't have an Apple logo on it).

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          Re: Funny, but the solution is obvious...

          Oh I can read.

          Its a brain dead author writing a brain dead vision of what he thinks the costs would be ...

          And its not the costs of the wifi link, but also the cost of the software, the cost of additional insurance, the cost of further testing the product to get UL certification... do you really want me to add in all of the costs associated with designing and then producing and testing a new model?

          Not to mention the costs associated with marketing and then the uplift to make the product more desirable....

          And then... the cost associated of going to the clothing industry to get them to use the new tag that you want which is redundant information in the existing tag.

          Do you start to see why this idea is DOA?

    3. JamesPond
      FAIL

      This seems to be a solution looking for a problem. I've been ironing for 30+ years and never once burnt a shirt / trousers / suit because the temperature on the iron was incorrect. I'm sorry but if you can't look at whether the tag has * , ** or *** and set your iron accordingly, you deserve to burn....your shirts that is.

      1. Cliff

        The iron and blanket aren't 'internet of' thing's, they're things that have modest processing power added. The iron isn't talking to the blanket, or light bulb, or any of the other yet to be discovered use cases we all know are the next big thing, yet nobody's found. You'll end up making an iron with an extra component to fail at higher cost and which will not be compatible with the next generations parts.

        Remember programming the VCR with barcodes? Exactly.

    4. Peter Simpson 1
      Thumb Down

      (deleted sexist comment about letting the wife handle it)

      I never found ironing to be all that difficult. Probably because I seldom do it. If it needs to be ironed, I pay a couple $ and send it to the dry cleaners.

      "Everything should be just as complex as it needs to be to do the job, and no more."

    5. Suricou Raven

      You can simplify it further - just put the label in a human-readable format, then the iron needs no extra hardware. The operator just has to glance at the label and turn a dial.

    6. swschrad

      the solution is....

      don't buy IoT devices until they put some security in them. really simple. simple enough for me to implement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the solution is....

        No, the solution is don't buy IoT devices. Full Stop. End Of.

        And for good measure, shoot anyone that suggests adding IoT to anything - starting with the author of this article.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice pic

    Where did you hear about my thermonuclear stove?

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Nice pic

      They must exist.

      Or maybe my wife just can't cook a roast?

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ... IoT devices generally have no real world advantage over their dumb counterparts ...

      ... except for GCHQ or the NSA.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: ... IoT devices generally have no real world advantage over their dumb counterparts ...

        And 20 or 30 other sigint agencies (at least).

        I have been unable the think of a single device inside my house that both (a) requires more than an analog control connected to its target by wires and (b) requires that I be able to exercise control of it from outside the house.

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: ... IoT devices generally have no real world advantage over their dumb counterparts ...

          I've been thinking the same. I came up with some very niche luxuries, but nothing life-changing.

          - Preemptive heating: Check the weather forecast and act accordingly.

          - The 'house is empty' button. Press to turn off all lights, sound systems, games consoles and TVs, and reduce heating. Checks with the front door too - if the door doesn't confirm proper closure within one minute, texts you to remind you to close it.

        2. Graham Bartlett

          Re: ... IoT devices generally have no real world advantage over their dumb counterparts ...

          Requires, no. Might be nice to have, perhaps.

          Say I'm coming home early on a cold day, I turn the heating on when I leave work instead of coming back to a freezing house. I can see that being an advantage. Turning the kettle on at the same time might be overkill though, yes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ... IoT devices generally have no real world advantage over their dumb counterparts ...

        You missed out marketing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this whole article just trolling, or what?

      Yes, it is clearly a spoof.

      "The solution to that problem seems obvious. Design an iron equipped with Bluetooth LE, linked to a smartphone, running an app that uses its camera to scan a QR code printed on a fabric care tags. ..."

      That made me laugh.

      "An electric blanket would be hard pressed to do all of this computationally expensive work on its own."

      A 4-bit microcontroller in a washing machine would have more than enough power to do this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this whole article just trolling, or what?

        The whole concept of IoT is a spoof!!

  5. jake Silver badge

    If bitcoin is your answer ...

    ... you have more issues than not knowing what is in your fridge without a computer to tell you.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: If bitcoin is your answer ...

      I've just had a check in ours (snack time!!) and nearly 40% of the items in it are our leftovers and we've just got back from holiday 5 days ago so I'd bet its normally higher than that.

      I dont think I will be internettingofthings my leftovers and I'm guessing thats half of what I get from the fridge.

      Anyway food poisoning is the only way for some people to loose weight.

    2. Syren Baran

      Re: If bitcoin is your answer ...

      "... you have more issues than not knowing what is in your fridge without a computer to tell you."

      Not to mention the fact of mention 51% attack and afterwards 33 beeelion devices.

      Nah, i´m sure your average mining rig would´ nt have more hashing power than all those dumb IoT devices. You would probably need two rigs to outvote all of them.

    3. Hero Protagonist

      Re: If bitcoin is your answer ...

      I had a problem, so I decided to use Bitcoin. Now I have two problems.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Praise the machine,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Praise the machine Omnissiah!

  7. GlenP Silver badge

    So instead of just chucking a pile of washing into the machine from the basket and turning the machine on (with the same settings I use every week, that I know are OK for the clothes I normally wear) I've got to scan each item with my smartphone. The washing machine will then throw a fit because it can't resolve the different settings between socks, underwear and shirts.

    Iron setting are of no interest - I don't use one most of the time. If I did, you scan an item, wait 5 minutes for the iron to heat up, do that one, scan the next one which wants a lower temperature so you wait again...

    This suggests the author does not actually do the housework.

    Glen

    1. Malcolm 1

      As a regular user of both a washing machine and an iron, I concur fully. I can't remember the last time I needed to change the washing machine from the 30­­°C "synthetics" programme, or the iron from 2 dots+auto steam.

      The idea that anyone would need to insert a smartphone into this procedure is frankly laughable.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        The presence of LCD displays, software buttons and dials obviously unconnected to any physical switches behind them, crosses any washing machine off my shopping list even before I look at the price tag.

        An iron that needs a smartphone to change its settings? Hmm, how much you'll pay me to get it off your hands?

      2. Bob Dole (tm)

        >> I can't remember the last time I needed to change the washing machine from ...

        I do the laundry as well and as near as I can tell the various dials and switches are just there for a placebo effect. Except for one of them, the "eco" setting makes it take 4 times as long.

  8. Thoguht Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Of course you can leave modern electric blankets on at night, what would be the point otherwise? And gas won't "gas" you because it doesn't contain carbon monoxide these days. It might suffocate you though on the grounds that it doesn't contain oxygen.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        gas explosions

        What gas oven doesn't contain a thermo-couple that cuts the gas when the pilot goes out?

        1. AdamT

          Re: gas explosions

          Exactly - and what about all the central heating boilers that turn themselves on and off all the time!?

        2. Naselus

          Re: gas explosions

          "What gas oven doesn't contain a thermo-couple that cuts the gas when the pilot goes out?"

          An IoT one, that instead relies on being told to turn out the pilot light when it receives word from a centralized cloud infrastructure that the barcode-embedded pilot light turnout point specified on the packaging has been reached. Because complicated and connected is ALWAYS better, obvs.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Is this a joke article?

    "running an app that uses its camera to scan a QR code printed on a fabric care tags. This QR code contains all of the care information for that article of clothing,""

    So the picture of an iron with some dots on is too hard? Or the machine icon with a 30 degree symbol.

    Sledge hammer and nuts.

  10. frank ly Silver badge

    Deeper thought

    "... someone hacks into your oven, turns the gas on, waits 36 hours, then lights the pilot, ..."

    A sensibly design IoT oven would not allow independent control of those items from outside. It would have 'on', 'off' and 'temperature demand' inputs. Local hardware/firmware would determine any safety related activity and sequences. If it was very clever it would notice any 'crazy' external command behaviour and disconnect itself from the internet.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Deeper thought

      Exactly. An amazing number of people these days seem to gloss over the fact that what we need is not better security (well, that too) but responsibly designed appliances that interlock out locally (and in hardware, without any ability to override it) things that are "not supposed to ever happen or else". That would still not account for wrong _combinations_ of otherwise unrelated stuff ending up doing some damage, but it would be a damn good start.

      1. AdamT

        Re: Deeper thought

        Well, can't speak for the rest of the world but assume it would be similar to UK, but, for example, all central heating boilers/furnaces have to have a whole range of electrical and (I think) thermo-mechanical interlocks. So the external input to the boiler (from the controller) is just a "heat demanded" signal. And, sure, I leave my central heating on when I'm on holiday without worrying about the boiler exploding. (with thermostat turned down obviously - I'm not a CO2 monster!)

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Deeper thought

      A sensibly design IoT oven would not allow independent control of those items from outside

      Let's take a step back: a sensibly designed APPLIANCE would not accept instructions that would override some basic safety measures. It's not like this is a new concept - SCADA environments with components that can cause serious trouble tend to have an isolated, wholly independent ESD (Emergency ShutDown) segment which you cannot touch from the outside: when that triggers, it will independently do what is safest to shut things down (which could be a sequence to shut down a complete plant).

      If a supplier brought out an IoT gas oven which enabled unsafe situations through a hack or otherwise it would be sued into oblivion, hopefully even before the thing made its first victim. If something can possibly say "boom" and make victims, the term "negligence" tends attracts criminal aspects. I think *that* is at least not a worry.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Deeper thought

        "SCADA environments with components that can cause serious trouble tend to have an isolated, wholly independent ESD (Emergency ShutDown) segment which you cannot touch from the outside:"

        Yeah! Tell that to the Eyeranians with their nukular cetrifugues...

      2. Dan Paul

        Re: Deeper thought @Fred Flintstone

        We have safety agencies in this world like UL, FM, CE etc that all regulate the appliances that are made.

        Have any of you ever heard of a high or low limit switch? These prevent equipment from operating at too high or low a temperature. Have you ever seen a temperature/pressure relief valve on a water heater or boiler? Does a similar thing but also considers pressure excursions.

        Those limit switches are mandated to be in such equipment by the regulatory agencies. The gas hot water heater won't open the gas valve if the pilot light is out, or will open the pressure valve if too much pressure builds up, the furnace/boiler does the same, the dryer has a thermal cutout switch etc, etc.

        These switches do not require human interaction and thus are safer than some third party communication device or human telling it to shut down or close.

        This is all a result of the KISS syndrome and for good reason. See link below for details

        www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/videos/exploding-water-heater/

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deeper thought

      My oven is sensibly designed and doesn't allow " independent control of those items from outside" - basically, because it's not connected to the freaking interwebs!!

    5. Bob Dole (tm)

      Re: Deeper thought

      "A sensibly design IoT oven .... "

      I read "sensibly" and laughed. Sensibly designed? That's even more hilarious. Come on, please tell me that you would trust the programmers at your company to "sensibly design" anything that your life might potentially depend on.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I didn't even know they still made electric blankets, and I'm Canadian.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Canadian AC

      Yeah, they still make them for people who live in Southern California and Florida :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Canadian AC

        ... and Electric Chairs for poeple who die in Southern California and Florida.

  12. AIBailey
    Stop

    Hold your (clothes) horses...

    I struggled to sense the pitch of the irony in this article, but the first quarter sums up everything that's wrong with the whole "IoT" at the moment, in that the author (and many other people buying into the hype) start seeing IoT as the answer to problems that aren't really there.

    As already mentioned, Smart Irons™ are not necessary. An iron can go from cool to extremely hot in <1 minute. Great if you move from ironing something delicate to ironing linen. However if you next item requires a cool iron then you need to wait 3-4 minutes for the temperature to cool down again.

    Same for Smart Washers™ and Smart Dryers™, you spend more time making sure that all the clothes are compatible for a particular cycle, else the machine will refuse to accept them.

    Taking common sense out of the equation (in this case, making a judgement about how to wash and dry your clothes, sorting your ironing into separate piles depending on temperature) and relying 100% on technology actually makes things worse.

    It's like the cases you hear where someone has driven the wrong way up a street/into a duck pond/across an airport runway because they're doing exactly what the SatNav tells them to, instead of applying common sense as well.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two types of blanket

    One you lie on which cannot be left on when you're in bed, and the overblanket type which can. The former is dangerous if you come home pissed and forget to turn it off.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Demon seed

    1. Jimmy2Cows
      Pint

      I'd forgotten about that. Good film for its time.

  15. Blank-Reg
    Mushroom

    Good god. If the hypothetical you are feckless enough in regards to basic domestic choirs, then god help us all. I don't need this hideous complexity to tell me that my cotton garments prefers a 40 degree standard wash (like the rest of my clothes), don't mix whites, colours and darks (duh), the pong coming off of out of date food is all the information I need assuming that I haven't already binned it because it went moldy/the Best Before had passed/it had already been eaten.

    Internet of Things - truly a solution looking for a problem (unless you are a manufacturer desperately trying to figure out how you can licence washing machine usage). Recently found out my fairly new washing machine can be connected to a smartphone app - why? What benefit does it give me - I put washing in, put powder in, select setting for the current load, switch on and it chimes when finished. Not sure why I need an app for that unless it's to summon a robotic domestic to do the loading and pegging out on the line afterwards for me...

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      robotic domestic to do ... pegging

      There could be a (niche) market for that

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Joke

      Basic domestic choirs

      I prefer the accompaniment of a full choir when I'm doing my domestic chores.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In short, we need the blockchain

    or the non-internet of things.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    basic domestic choirs?

    Gives a whole new meaning to domestic harmony.

  18. Tanuki

    Life's too short to spend it balling socks.

    Some of us get round the whole issue of whether laundry-item X needs specific washing/ironing cycles by outsourcing the task to the well-established traditional "physical cloud" - put the 'special needs' washing in a bag and a little man comes and picks it up, returning it the following day all nicely washed and ironed and on hangers.

    An Internet-of-Things ambulatory laundry-basket made of Sapient Pearwood, which could walk itself to/from the laundry when full, could possibly be useful.

    Bed-warming can generally be facilitated by suitable pre-cubation-deployment of human/canine/feline partners [though beware of one of the cats leaving an eviscerated mouse or the uneaten half of yesterday's Frog on the pillow].

    The whole Internet-of-Things wouldn't really work for me - unless it can bring in logs from the logpile and light the fires/woodstove for me, or link the fridge to the chicken-run so when I'm running low on eggs it can promote an extra ovulation-event or three.

    1. Jimmy2Cows

      Re: Life's too short to spend it balling socks.

      <Bed-warming can generally be facilitated by suitable pre-cubation-deployment of human/canine/feline partners [though beware of one of the cats leaving an eviscerated mouse or the uneaten half of yesterday's Frog on the pillow].>

      Brian Griffin: "That was a gift, you bastard! That was a gift for the family!"

  19. Tony W

    Wrong answer

    First, the security solution already exists. I don't think I've ever seen a gas oven that didn't turn off the gas if it wasn't alight, and it would now be illegal to sell one.

    Second, money would be better spent improving appliances' basic functions, but most people won't pay the extra. With most irons, the soleplate is unevenly heated and the temperature swing as the thermostat cuts in and out is too wide. Human minds are flexible enough to cope, but automation would probably play safe so the temperature would be lower and clothes wouldn't be well ironed. People would switch to manual and wonder why they'd paid for connectivity.

    Anyway this is not the future I was expecting. Having a robot to set the controls of the iron so I can do the ironing seems a sadly limited ambition.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Wrong answer

      "With most irons, the soleplate is unevenly heated and the temperature swing as the thermostat cuts in and out is too wide."

      1: Elements are generally run around the entire perimeter of the soleplate. Uneven heat is a sure sign of either a failing element or an iron so cheap and nasty it's dangerous.

      2: Other than the aforementioned "cheap and nasties" I haven't seen an iron on sale with an actual mechanical thermostat in it for years (they're unreliable). Almost all of them rely on some form of thyristor and constant temperature feedback to avoid hysteresis overshoot.

  20. The New Turtle
    Thumb Up

    Business opportunity

    I can see a great business opportunity for someone offering a stripping service for connected appliances, removing the connectivity & replacing it with a simple on-off switch or a knob with temperature control. I love tech, but some things I want to remain under the control of the bio-mechanical interface that comes as standard on a human being - hands.

  21. theOtherJT
    WTF?

    but when the manufacturer offers ‘Electric blanket-as-a-service™’ - free for the first year, and at a modest annual fee thereafter - it becomes very appealing.

    You and I clearly have very different ideas of what is appealing.

    The words "as-a-service" are like a warning bell attached to the end of any product telling you that the "whatever" that's being "as-a-serviced" won't work out of the box the way it's supposed to and will somehow end up costing more than the national debt by the time you've got it set up to be _almost_ as good as the one you had before.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      And will also stop working when the 'as-a-service' vendor decides they no longer want to continue supporting that product.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Don't worry, even the conslutant that thought that one up hadn't gone to its inevitable conclusion. BAAS puts the entire operation of the blanket in the hands of the organization that is providing the service, which brings two obvious questions for the organization:

      Why do we want to be liable for everything that happens with a blanket for its entire lifetime?

      Who is going to pay more per month for BAAS than it costs to buy a dumb blanket?

      BAAS is not coming any time soon.

      Also:

      An electric blanket would be hard pressed to do all of this computationally expensive work on its own.

      Really? Its smart enough to have an IP stack, but can't calculate a few small numbers?

      I'd actually be interested in IoT devices, but every single fucking one of them is being designed by people like the author of this article. Smart washing machine? Great! Smart washing machine that sends all my data to Miele and I get an app to interact with Miele's servers? FOAD.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        BAAS?

        woolly blankets, manager from the Netherlands?

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: BAAS?

          The great thing about BAAS is that you can count them when you can't sleep.

  22. Linker3000

    Here's a idea

    How about a barcode against every El-Reg article which we can scan with a smartphones to get an instant score of the amount of bullcrap in aforementioned article.

    The IoT article would probably result in an integer overflow.

  23. Alan Johnson

    Articles demonstrate just how massively overhyped IoT is

    The problem with the exampels for teh IoT as with almost everything I have seen is that the IoT makes products more expensive, functionally fragile, create security risks and does not add any benefits.

    A smart iron is a great idea except that there is no need for the IoT but a machine readable ironing prescription on items of clothing. They already have human readable ironing prescription. IoT needs a machine readable unique item identifier or similar so has the same requirments on the clothing but adding the IoT has added no beenfit at all while complicating things and making the system more fragile. Using a smart phone's camera and bar code reading SW makes sense but then you just have a bluetooth connection to the iron and an App. Not really IoT at all.

    The smart electric blanket, OK, but a better product has the body temperature cycle support built into the blanket, again why involve the IoT what is the benefit? I can only see downsides.

    I rem

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Articles demonstrate just how massively overhyped IoT is

      "There is no need for the IoT but a machine readable ironing prescription on items of clothing."

      Funnily enough this is easy to do with a 2D barcode, but first you need something which can do the ironing for you.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it uses leccy then it will be connected to the IOT

    Not in ma hoose it won't.

    IOT == Idiots On Tap.

    yours,

    GOM

    {Grumpy Old Man}

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: If it uses leccy then it will be connected to the IOT

      Nor here, where it isn't the internet of things, but the internet of unwanted things: iOUT!

  25. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    I was going to write a reasoned detailed response...

    But I can sum it up in 5 words:

    What a load of old bollocks.

    1. Blank-Reg
      Headmaster

      Re: I was going to write a reasoned detailed response...

      That's six words...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    This won't affect me

    My iron has one setting, on or off. So does my washing machine. Also, my oven is electric.

  27. PNGuinn
    Flame

    There may be some good in this...

    Send your favourite Westminster Weazel (Septics can describe their own in thier own way) a Smart Blanket.

    Wait till it phones home that the reptile is snukggled up. Set to slow roast .

    What's not to like?

  28. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Boffin

    I have a smart bed....

    Select Comfort sells a bed where it measures your heart rate and breath rates along with your sleep patterns to see how their settings can help improve your sleep. (I kid you not)

    You have to attach the bed to the wifi and if you have this feature, there's a smart phone app that lets you control your bed (to a point).

    Now this deluxe bed not only has these features, but a voice activated remote, blue tooth remotes and a massage unit, and lighting control. (LED night lights under the bed, and plugs for reading lamps)

    It actually does IoT right in that while you can set the amount of air in the mattress, adjust the bed's head or foot settings, that's about it. Much less annoying that having someone change your cable box's DVR settings, or changing the channels while you're watching.

    As to why we bought this model?

    Because it had the features we wanted and it included the extra gadgets for free. (We couldn't say no to them.)

    The point is that if you can see value in the product, you will purchase. If you can't... you won't.

    As to why I bought this bed over a competing product that wasn't IoT connected? It made my wife happy and its a damn good bed. ;-)

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: I have a smart bed....

      Does you bed call 999 when you stop breathing?

      does it make the early morning cuppa?

      What happens when you are the missus get a bit too [redacted] during your [redacted]?

      Does it say, 'Ian I really can't allow you to do that. Unless you stop now I'm going to let all the air out of the bed?"

      I'm with the AC of earlier who said 'Not in ma hoose'.

      so what if the bed falls apart during you know what. At least you can do your thing in privacy and not have your non-sleeping habbits sent to the ROW via the IOT.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: I have a smart bed....

        No, the bed isn't that smart.

        Which is a good thing.

        It captures enough information from my bed, along with the account information I set up.

        Unless you know the email address for the account I used to set up my profile... you won't know who I am.

        It's pretty primitive and interesting. If I'm away and one of my dogs get on the bed, it will record data and assign it to the person who sleeps on that side of the bed.

        To be fair, its an interesting gimmick that kinda works, unlike the voice activated command module.

        We bought the bed because its fscking comfortable and still affordable.

        1. dmacleo

          Re: I have a smart bed....

          got an older C3 with just the manual wired remote.

          pretty much same mattress/bladders though.

          have a lot of back and neuro issues and really like the bed too.

        2. jake Silver badge

          @ Ian Michael Gumby (was: Re: I have a smart bed....)

          "It captures enough information from my bed, along with the account information I set up."

          You have to set up an account for your BED? With an email address? Are you fscking kidding? What the hell were you thinking?

          Holy shit. The iFad/FanDroid generation has completely doomed the human race.

          As for:

          "We bought the bed because its fscking comfortable and still affordable."

          How the fsck did you know it was comfy before you bought it? Did you & your .sig other spend several nights in the showroom? Honest question.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: @ Ian Michael Gumby (was: I have a smart bed....)

            When I was a lad, we were lucky if the floor we slept on was dry....

            Seriously, though, Ian MG, your post reminded me of something.. This isn't directed at you, but more generally, someone may buy something with only limited internet capability, but in my mind (and knowing the general lack of security in these things) simply the connection raises a red flag.

            If a hacker can get in, they may be able to get the bed to do things that it shouldn't normally be able to. OK, without the hardware/physical connection it can't affect that stuff, but, without properly checking, how do you know your voice controlled bed isn't sending your audio to a potential blackmailer, or trying to spam viagra on the world?

            1. I am not spartacus

              Re: @ Ian Michael Gumby (was: I have a smart bed....)

              "If a hacker can get in...

              You are remarkably sanguine about the possibility of a hacker getting in to your bed. But, maybe, the bed records the hacker's breathing patterns and that helps the Police with their hilarity.

              I didn't know that sane (otherwise sane) people did this - bought techno beds, that is. I have been educated, and not for the first time, this is a disturbing experience.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: I have a smart bed....

      night lights under the bed

      Eh? Is that so the monsters under the bed don't get scared?

  29. earl grey Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Just say NO

    Not a good idea. period. end of thought. no IOT (you're just missing the ID on the front of that).

  30. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "That’s a lot for a blanket that might only cost $150"

    Um. 'twould appear you is being ripped off: http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Browse/ID72/37924651/c_1/1%7Ccategory_root%7CHome+and+garden%7C33005908/c_2/2%7C33005908%7CBedding%7C37924427/c_3/3%7Ccat_37924427%7CElectric+blankets%7C37924651.htm

    The last leccy blanket I bought cost less than £30 (about AU$50), so a $150 one had better bring me a marching band and a handjob.

  31. Chris G Silver badge

    IOTPah!

    Interesting thing as I have noted before, El Reg reports IT and tech, is read by an overwhelmingly tech savvy crowd who, to a man/woman reject the notion of an IoT connected house.

    It's a shame the rest of the world who are less savvy will probably buy this crap so inflicting it on to the rest of us.

    If it can be made, it will! (Pity)

  32. Spaceman Spiff

    To paraphrase The Moody Blues

    And thanks to the Great Internet, we are all now digital ink!

  33. Why Not?
    Big Brother

    The first thing they need to do is agree on a standard communication model like CEC or SNMP that can work basically across manufacturers and be extended with proprietary functions.

    That solves the IOT as a service becoming obsolete because everyone would offer a basic service.

    Then tackle devices that would actually benefit, Irons & laundry seem to be the Beau of the ball but I reckon Ovens, TVs and heating are the eligible bachelors. Look up recipes for a full meal , send to oven and get prompts to put the spuds / yorkshire puds in with pictures / video on the tv & the oven heat changes when appropriate.

    Have a look at the ESP266 and realise the extra cost is pence.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Believe it or not if you left your gas on for 36 hours, there would likely be too high a percentage of gas in the air for it to actually ignite but I get your meaning.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last night's episode of Forever

    on Sky Living Series 1 #17 involved (attempted) murder by hacking a gas appliance.

    So a series about a 200-year-old pathologist has its finger firmly on the pulse.

    W

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Last night's episode of Forever

      There was an episode of 'Diagnosis Murder' where someone setup a 'smart home' to kill the owner.

      Um.. Or so a friend told me *cough*

  36. ecofeco Silver badge

    Well played!

    Hilarious article. Well done!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Well played!

      My thoughts exactly. It's Friday... It is an interesting cautionary tale and not much more.

  37. ma1010 Silver badge
    Devil

    "...but when the manufacturer offers ‘Electric blanket-as-a-service™’ - free for the first year, and at a modest annual fee thereafter - it becomes very appealing appalling."

    There, fixed it for you.

  38. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    We need a solution that provides security ...

    We need something difficult to attack, ...

    So remind me, why am I connecting my oven to the internet again? Because "the perfect bake" isn't going to come from doing so no matter what the wet dreams of some IT twonk think. Ask them wot does it for a living. To make baking a hands/eyes off affair, you need sensors in the food item and feedback to the oven itself and there go your cost estimates.

    And as for ruining your clothes with an iron, that can only happen when you set it too hot, not when you set it "wrong". People have been Duin It Rite for decades with only a rheostat and a pair of eyes. I don't see how making the iron smarter than the person using it helps anyone. I mean, look how that worked out with phones ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      Check out the latest Miele ovens. They _do_ have wireless sensors you put in the food.

  39. Anonymous C0ward

    What a bunch of hairy wank

    Am I reading a Bong article?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blockchain?

    The media is flush with these shit iot ideas. What we really need to deal with them is a bogchain.

  41. DanceMan

    Brilliant satire, took me in, just 17 days late.

  42. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    > it becomes very appealing.

    You misspelled 'appalling'.

  43. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Too Late

    April 1st was ages ago and had better rubbish.

    This is the stupidest article I ever read on El Reg. It wasn't even amusing.

  44. Turbo Beholder
    Facepalm

    > Today, electric blankets feature a dial and thermostat, none of which compensates for the fact that our body temperature, and need for heat, changes as we pass through each evening’s sleep cycle.

    Then, by definition, it's NOT a "thermostat".

    > Again, the solution seems obvious. The electric blanket should sense the ambient room temperature, the temperature setting of the blanket, and the activity of the person beneath the blanket, using these to generate a heuristic for when and how much heat is needed across an evening’s sleep.

    Not really. It needs a... working thermostat. That in turn doesn't need "to generate a heuristic" at all. Just simple thermal sensors and

    - at least, negative feedback loop (needs one transistor);

    - at most, a simple routine (that can run on any MCU and leave most resources to spare) to also detect derivative, which allows to pour more power without risk of overregulation and thus compensate for heat production and leak faster.

    Just in case you're new on Earth, local warm-blooded animals don't change heat output thousand times per second in hard-to-predict patterns. And if they somehow did, heat capacitance of the skin would buffer this anyway.

    > the electric blanket would turn itself on at the right time, and be at just the right temperature - relative to the ambient temperature - to keep them comfortably warm. It would adjust its temperature to accommodate a falling body temperature in the hours toward dawn. It would do all of this invisibly and automatically.

    Which is... EXACTLY what is called "thermostat": an automatic device for regulation of temperature. Usually, for keeping the temperature inside... uhhh... STATIC. With given precision.

    When this word doesn't appear on boxes with unreasonably priced gadgets aimed at the Muckbug crowd, at least.

    > An electric blanket would be hard pressed to do all of this computationally expensive work on its own.

    I don't see why regulating temperature even separately for different locations rather than average would need anything beyond a bunch of operating amplifiers and capacitor integrators.

    But if you want to do it a really fancy way, sticking 8-bit MCU into it would do. It won't be hard pressed at all. Not unless your head is so deep down C# or Java rabbit hole that you need several megabytes of RAM to emulate capabilities of circuitry "programmable" with one variable resistor, that was primitive 50 years ago when it was used in incubators.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point

    I think pretty much every commenter on this thread has missed the point. Forget the specific lame ideas that the article comes up with, the fact is that there _are_ plenty of things in your house that are connected, and this number is only likely to go up. If you screw up the security on these, then there will be unintended consequences. Ask Samsung about its TVs, for example.

    Even more worrying is cars. At the top end, they all have cellular modems built in and this tech is moving rapidly down the market. They all have more compute power than you'd find in a decent PC a few years back and all the subsystems (ICE, ABS, Maps, self-park, ECU etc.) are connected in one form or other. Now, I realise that all the car companies are going to try very hard to make sure that the intra-car security is good, but let's be honest here: some bright spark is going to be able to remotely pilot a self-driving car in the not-too distant future. With an unwilling passenger.

    Imagine that.

    1. Turbo Beholder
      Alert

      Re: Missing the point

      This is solved by... NOT being a suicidal chipmunk.

      Otherwise it's same old "Oh noes! I live in a baad neighbourghood, don't close my door when leaving home and put a stove with butane tank and a lighter right near it, what do? Now we all need a Big Bro to... mmm... Do Something"

      Because various consequences of being a suicidal chipmunk are merely symptoms, there cannot be a good cure for each one. The choice is to try and force the whole world to dance around the self-preservation impaired rodent in question, or simply leave it to its fate.

  46. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Yeah...

    1) The clothes, you have a standardized range from 1-10 or whatever, have a "please iron with setting 5" on the clothes. Done.

    2) The other example... as AC says, a 4-bit microcontroller would have more than enough power for this (and I don't even know if they're on the market any more, but even a embedded 32-bit CPU is well under a dollar) I can't see any reason to have this have bluetooth or anything in it, I would expect it to have the usual "1 through 6" or whatever temperature knob, and a mode switch to switch in a few modes to do whatever cooling off later and so on based on the sensor inputs.. I'd expect this to have reasonable factory calibrations in a lookup table, but calculating "on the fly" really shouldn't require going online either. For safety purposes, although the software should also have "sanity checks" to avoid unsafe temperatures, the existing safety shutoff should be kept as-is.

    Safety can be an issue, but to avoid it I advocate using hardware safety interlocks when reasonable. For example, the electric blanket retains a temperature cutoff (the software should still have a final "sanity check" on the temperature, but some piece of hardware ultimately shuts it off in case of CPU failure or whatever). In the case of the stove... well, first, I don't know why you'd want to remotely turn it on, it doesn't take that long to heat up. But, I would use furnace-style hardware... on the furnace I have now, you hold down an igniter switch while lighting the pilot. You let up on the button, and if some temperature switch hasn't gotten up to temperature, the gas shuts off. I'd give the CPU only access to a "gas plus ignition" switch, the hardware would limit on time and excessive retriggers, so the CPU could try to blow up the stove all it wants and the hardware would prevent it.

    I think anyone working on these "iot" devices that do anything important should read up on the Therac-25. In short, it was an electron beam medical device that would run the high-energy electron beam without spreader plate due to a race condition, causing about 1000x the intended dose; if some data was updated close enough to 'start of procedure', and there were incorrect results, they could slip in after the safety checks. On the previous models, a hardware interlock prevented this configuration but the previous hardware safeties were removed in favor of full software control. Most devices aren't that likely to be harmful, but I still recommend leaving in hardware interlocks.

  47. Diogenes

    Page 3 of comments & no 2001 Space Odessey reference ?

    "I'm sorry Dave, because your neighbour is ironing, we cannot spare enough electricity for you to turn the lights on"

  48. ShortLegs

    The Internet of Things contains the same amount of reality as the 1960s concept that by 2000 we would be eating a three course meal in a pill,commuting to work in a flying car, and holidaying on Mars.

    If any manufacturer was serious about IoT-enabling a household appliance, then the design and test teams would have a high percentage of middle-aged women. Why? Because that's the target demographic for household appliances. And most would give the 'wrong' answer during the concept test phase; "why don't I just use the already present care tag and set the iron manually".

    Reality of an IoT enabled device? It's pounds to peanuts that the iron in the article will NOT have a backup "manual" mode, thus enabling the manufacturer to further decrease the device lifespan and thus forcing you to replace it sooner, if not in the first iteration of device, then in subsequent models when usage data from device model 1.0 (with backup manual mode) showed that manual-mode was being used more often than "IoT" mode.

  49. This post has been deleted by its author

  50. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    The solution to that problem seems obvious. Design an iron equipped with Bluetooth LE, linked to a smartphone, running an app that uses its camera to scan a QR code printed on a fabric care tags. This QR code contains all of the care information for that article of clothing, so every time that dress or dress shirt goes under the iron, the app adjusts the iron to the ideal temperature.

    Neither "obvious" nor "solution" seems quite the right word here. At the moment you look inside the garment (the labels are not outside, obviously), see whether it's one, two or three dots and set the iron accordingly. A slight improvement might be to have a finer scale, with degrees rather than dots.

    Finding the tag, finding the smartphone, starting the app, scanning the QR code and getting Bluetooth working is not an improvement in any conceivable way. It simply adds stages for no benefit at all.

    This is why people laugh and point at those who promote the internet of things.

  51. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Premature?

    It seems a bit premature to make all things "smart" before actually making what we already have work properly. I would rather have PCs and Macs that don't leak memory and slow to a standstill after a few days, and Windows updates that don't take all day to perform, and a Media Centre that gets bugs fixed, and don't need regular rebooting due to driver issues, and Flash software that's not slow and a constant security issue (or so it seems having to update it every other day), and a solution to unknown CPU hogging stuff in the browser forcing you to go hunting down offending web pages. Can we please fix all these things before starting on esoteric "smart" things that probably won't work at all if your phone happens to break?

    For the record: I have never had to exactly calibrate an iron to not ruin the clothes, apart from adjusting the actual temperature. Twist a knob a bit.

  52. ohreally

    Surely this article is a joke

    Seriously... This article IS a joke right... How frigging complicated and coddled do we need our lives to be? We want to live practically on life support unable to sleep without our precious teddy blanket to comfort us? What will the fossil record show of us in 10,000 years? We comforted and stupified ourselves to death? And talk about more stuff to worry about and go wrong. More stuff to manage. To update. To work to earn money to pay for. This is liberating? Electricity was liberating because it freed us from manual labour. We can thank EMF for that. But automating *every* aspect of our lives sounds like we're turning in a bunch of over worked anxious morons worrying about the latest software update for our iron because we forgot how to switch the dial to 'cotton'. How hard does that have to be? Or sleep... seriously? We now need our sleep to be managed too? Because, like, no one managed to sleep properly before technology saved us all (note the irony in that, as sleep quality is deteriorating the world over). And FFS just grow a pair and lay on an extra blanket. I fear most for children growing up in this dystopic fantasy world. They'll be completely unable to function without an armada of life support systems following them around to manage and comfort every aspect of their anxious little lives. I'm going for a walk.

    1. I am not spartacus

      Re: Surely this article is a joke

      "What will the fossil record show of us in 10,000 years?

      I don't really know, but if there is someone around to interpret it, I'm sure they'll misinterpret it. You know "Plugging their sleeping pods into the electricity supply only confirms that they worshipped electricity as a god, because it symbolised a healing cult (or something)".

  53. dbtx Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    Nuclear fireball is oddly appropriate

    ...given that I have already concluded that IoT is a global plot to make every mundane aspect of daily life susceptible to EMP.

    Does anyone remember Jane Jetson doing morning finger exercises to alleviate "push-button fingers", the future's equivalent to dishpan hands? That was funnier than this.

  54. TonyShark
    FAIL

    April 17th?

    This article was posted 16 days too late. The author is obviously getting sloppy...

  55. Speltier

    Blockchain

    Use a bitcoin like blockchain for validation and/or prevent attacker success?

    That presumes the basic IoT firmware actually works. Most breaks are due to either buggy local firmware (in the IoT device) or buggy firmware or wetware somewhere upstream (like the cloud where the access credentials for the IoT are stored, administered by harpoon susceptible meatbags).

    If the "given" part of the article is true (the free "no-IP needed" firmware is everywhere 100% bug free in a security sense) then using a blockchain thingy may be useful. Otherwise, I am just not seeing why every IoT device needs the power to do the work to support the blockchain idea. There might be marginal utility as a whole house gateway to the home's IoT heap.

  56. LowPay
    Coat

    You Guys Know How To Party

    To quote - "This article was first used as a talk delivered at The Register's Christmas lecture in Australia."

    Really? A Christmas party talk!

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