If you harbor fears about the so-called internet of things, or IoT — that fancy term for all those chattering online devices currently burrowing into every crevice of our homes — then your concern likely has to do with privacy. Indeed, the potential for smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to listen in on us is undeniably creepy. But, at least so far, our privacy fears are overblown. The worst Amazon has done with its spying power is save snippets of users’ questions to ensure its voice recognition software is accurate.
The internet of things is more than just Alexa, and its weak point is more than just privacy. We’re talking about hundreds of devices performing every conceivable labor-saving function. Now, at the end of what was supposed to be the IoT decade, these gadgets are already starting to do what was always more likely, the mundane thing that technology has pretty much always done: either break down and leave us stranded, or effectively extort more money from us, after we’ve been foolish enough to start relying on them.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of negative IoT experiences that lead me to believe we’re heading for a potential apocalypse of things. It isn’t that your smart door lock or smart coffee cup is going to spy on you — it’s that the lock might keep you from entering the house when the startup that makes it unexpectedly goes out of business, or the app that heats the coffee to your perfect temperature might decide to stop doing so until you upgrade to a new cup.