Internet of things – game changer or waste of time?

Posted on Feb 24th, 2016 | News and opinion

This year I got a fancy new electric toothbrush from my Mum for Christmas. While I was chuffed to receive such a lovely gift, I couldn’t help thinking of the Rhod Gilbert stand up routine where he learns his toothbrush has a computer in it. “What for?” he asks his girlfriend. The answer: to tell him how long he’s been brushing his teeth for.

“I know!” shrieks Rhod, “I was there when I started!”.

Gilbert’s routine is a few years old now, so the brush I received (which is really effective, thanks for asking) is in fact a few notches above the irate comedian’s. Specifically, my upgraded version has a bluetooth function which transmits data to your phone – so providing you have the app, you can carry your dental habits around with you.

My Dad was less impressed; “They’re just inventing things that don’t need inventing!

Many might agree with him. If you think you’ve got the startup idea that will change the way we live our daily lives – ask yourself whether there’s really a demand for it. For example, a supposedly revolutionary invention like ‘smart fridges’ never took off, as the problem they solved (not knowing when you needed to replenish food) just wasn’t seen as urgent enough to warrant the outrageous price tags attached to them.

But conversely, smart tracking devices for your pets, car or keys are becoming very popular. Apps that tell you if you’ve left the oven/iron/hair straighteners on, or on-the-go home pet-feeding systems could be considered sound investments. Many products like these ones will at first seem utterly unnecessary and frivolous, but might just end up being something you actually kinda want…

Smart bottle

Are you one of the four million Britons who haven’t had a glass of water in over a week? Less than one in four people regularly drink the recommended daily intake of two litres of water a day and, alarmingly, 15% admit to consuming more alcohol than water.

HidrateSpark is a web-connected water bottle that tracks your water intake and glows to make sure that you never forget to drink your water again.

The device tracks water intake and syncs to a mobile app to tell you how well you’re sticking to your target. Of course the practicality of this, like the toothbrush, will depend on your short term memory and your enthusiasm for looking at charts telling you how rubbish you are.


Yes, I made that name up – and any startups are welcome to it.

On face value, it’s one of those things that should you should probably just know. But for many people with from conditions such as IBS, heavy stress or crohn’s disease, there may well be a shorter window of time between needing to go and actually going.

That’s why, not only is this a growing industry, it has it’s own name and snappy acronym: Smart Incontinence Management (SIM).

“This device predicts faecal excretion. The device goes on your stomach and uses ultrasonic waves to monitor your internal organs and sends the data to smartphones to be displayed,” said Ryohei Ochiai, of Japanese company Triple W, creators of ‘Dfree’.

In a somewhat bizarrely cynical point of view, CNet blogger Chris Matyszczyk opined there was always the possibility that “if Dfree really becomes something de rigueur for all, then humans will rely on their smartphones to tell them when to go to the restroom. Which would seem a touch distressing.”

It’s pretty doubtful though, as impressive as it is, that anyone would fork out for such an gadget unless it was absolutely necessary.


I don’t have any kids, so to me this seemed like quite a bizarre contraption. But Time Magazine chose smart dummy Pacif-i as one of its top 10 innovations at CES 2015, saying it may “change parenting forever”.

The dummy, they say on their website, conveniently and accurately takes your baby’s temperature without disturbing them. With a range of 30 feet, you can monitor their temperature via smartphone even while they are in another room. Whilst a regular thermometer is still fit for purpose, you now have another excuse not to leave the comfort of your bed in order to check the wellbeing of your offspring. Laziness 1, parental contact 0.

You can find Pacif-i with your smartphone and be alerted when you leave it behind – because of course you’d take it with you everywhere you went…


Ever been afraid that once your heart stops beating, it’ll take days for the word to get out? Fear not, with this invention, your friends and family will be made aware of your passing with a bespoke message.

“BeatTweeter is a wearable ring that gives you the opportunity to share your final thoughts with your beloved followers. The BeatTweeter will only Tweet when it detects no heart beat.”

This innovation appeared on ‘The Internet of Useless Things’ – a page parodying unnecessary so called ‘smart’ products, so its existence is strictly fictional at this point. It has been highlighted by a few tech websites as the most intriguing of all the satirical startups, however.

If there was no chance of it malfunctioning and incorrectly proclaiming you had died – would you wear one?


Yes, really. In the vein of smart tennis rackets and footballs that improve your technique, some clever folks have come up with a way to ensure that you aren’t doing yourself a mischief when you’re out having your morning run.

According to Washington based company Heapsylon, Over 65% of runners get injured each year, and their product ‘Sensoria Socks’ may help them avoid injury by alerting them if they are running incorrectly in order to make adjustments.

The sensor sock and anklet work together to gather information that is uploaded via Bluetooth to your new running coach: your phone or computer.

“In addition the product could be used to help monitor diabetic foot ulcers or warn of elderly patients losing their balance to alert carers they are at risk of falling” claims the official bluetooth website.

The wearable device market grew by 223% last year, and a study last January found that nearly 80 percent of people worldwide now own a smartphone, while almost 50 percent have a tablet. The International Data Corporation forecasts that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to a staggering $7.1 trillion by 2020. The Internet of Things is clearly here to stay.

As products get more and more intuitive, many people fear a ‘Skynet’ style uprising will one day come. But the issue that faces us in the much more immediate future is the likelihood of the marketplace becoming inundated with useless pap, masquerading as essential hi-tech innovation.

Has this already happened? Perhaps, but the Internet of Things is an opportunity for companies to monitor how customers use their products, leading to more intelligent marketing and tailored manufacturing.

But perhaps most beneficially to businesses, it’s an opportunity to technologically upgrade products that were previously considered fit for purpose. Have a think, what could do with modernising? Spoons? Nail clippers? Fish tanks? This could be your big break! Someone, unsurprisingly, has even actually had a pop at reinventing the wheel.

Seems daft to me, but what do I know? I thought nobody would buy the iPad.

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Written by Tom West

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