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Why the internet of things has to be not too smart and not too dumb, but just right

It’s 8 a.m. on a Tuesday. Your alarm clock senses movement and surmises you are awake. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” it queries.

The internet of things promises a sci-fi future. Electronics interact with one another to gauge and meet your needs, such as brewing a pot of coffee when you wake up groggy.

What does it feel like to constantly interact with devices? In 1991, computer scientist Mark Weiser detailed a vision for ubiquitous computing that called for very simple exchanges to limit demands on the user. But Intel Research Scientist Jennifer Healey thinks this is a mistake. She doesn’t just want her alarm clock to ask if she wants coffee. She wants it to know preemptively if she even likes coffee.

Jennifer Healey spoke at the annual Research@Intel event Tuesday. Intel
Intel Research Scientist Jennifer Healey spoke at the annual [email protected] event Tuesday. Intel

“Just limiting the intelligence of the device isn’t going to solve the interaction problem,” Healey said at the annual [email protected] event. Limit connected electronics to just “yes” or “no” questions and you’ll find yourself reintroducing yourself to them every single day.

“The nightmare we’re going to face …. is something akin to what Bill Murray faced in the movie ‘Groundhog Day,'” Healey added.

Instead, individuals should have a cloud of personal data that their connected electronics can access. An alarm clock could check if they are a tea or coffee person, or even if they have an important event on their calendar that requires them to be extra alert.

When Weiser’s vision of interacting with hundreds of connected devices a day comes true, it will be important that electronics don’t access too much data either. Like autonomous cars exchanging information in the split second before they pass, there isn’t room for extraneous details. Transfer needs to be direct and almost instantaneous.

“I don’t want my alarm clock to download my entire financial history,” Healey said. “That’s over-sharing.”

In order for the internet of things to work, there can’t be any friction. Instead, people will flit between devices that are not too smart and not too dumb, but just right.

6 Responses to “Why the internet of things has to be not too smart and not too dumb, but just right”

  1. The Internet Of Things is the next evolution that connects the digital world with the real world in a meaningful and functional way. That’s very exciting! However, I offer one caution! There should always be a manual backup for all devices that allow them to function with an internet connection. The alarm clock should still wake me up at a specific time.

    Charles E. Campbell, Founder & CEO
    Allen Hydro Energy Corporation (AHEC)
    [email protected]

  2. Brandon Mount

    This discussion around what makes #iot smart had to use a scenario about whether my coffee is automatically brewed when I wake up? or “I don’t want my alarm clock to download my entire financial history,” Healey said’ “That’s over-sharing.” No, it’s not oversharing. Oversharing is when you post too many photos of your grandkids. Or see the Kardashians et al. What downloading financial data to an alarm clock is, is unlikely, and we can’t see the benefit. Hey guys, my alarm clock knows how much money I have, and it can what, tell me to sleep in, I’m minted?
    Instead, I think the general public would be far more interested in the more altruistic capabilities that chipped and smart devices can provide society. Why not talk about solar arrays reporting less than optimal angles to the sun, environmental systems that adapt to human heat sources in the room and report smart usage to the grid, or other far more interesting capabilities. You’re intel, throw us a bone here.

  3. ashutoshsingh1989

    Somebody has to have access to all your information.Like Google and Facebook which know everything you are doing on the internet,you can either have the systems smart or not,there is no between and looking at today’s view I can definitely say that the time for privacy is long gone.There is nothing but the way forward.

  4. Brittany Walker

    It’s true that over-sharing is where we’re at right now. It usually comes down to the argument of security versus convenience. I guess I’ve accepted that not all things can be private. I would like Google to get into the home more and then I wouldn’t mind as much if my alarm clock and coffee maker worked together in making my morning better. These things can only get better for us.

  5. Bruce Head

    Hundreds of networked devices won’t be any smarter than one if there’s no intermediary to curate the information. This either means a digital intelligence “application layer” coordinating the devices, or some brain-machine interface that allows individual devices to predict what we want or need. Otherwise, it’s just more noise obscuring the signal.