Recently I went shopping for appliances. I was overwhelmed with all the options, but space restrictions allowed me to quickly narrow down the list. I was amazed at the number of “smart” appliances on display, all part of the Internet of Things. For example, one refrigerator came equipped with a computer inside to track my usage and adjust the energy expenditure based on the activity.
The “smart” fridge has been on the market for several years. Some of the more advanced models offer to track expiration dates or when a certain product is low so it can be added, automatically, to your grocery list. One model even had an electronic board built in to eliminate handwritten notes and fridge magnets.
I was especially interested in the aspect of saving energy. My previous refrigerator was so old that a number of friends remembered growing up with the style so I would place it circa 1980’s. I should also add that I paid for my electricity and I’m sure the fridge was consuming a lot of it, mostly because it was old, enormous, and didn’t seal properly. However, when I had the choice between buying the more expensive “smart” refrigerator or the regular, but still energy-efficient model, I went with the “dumb” one. It was the thought of maintenance that impacted my decision the most.
Some years ago a friend of mine had a problem with her car. It was an older model and the mechanic often had to scour the junkyards for suitable replacement parts, as the manufacturer no longer produced them. One repair had to be customized by the mechanic. While the replacement part was perfectly functional and able to fix the problem, the computer in the car didn’t recognize the part and refused to work with it making the vehicle unreliable.
This thought crossed my mind when I thought about future repairs on the “smart” fridge. Would I call a technician or somebody in IT? Will future repair people need degrees in computer science in addition to learning their trade? What if there was an internet glitch that caused the fridge to malfunction even if it was still mechanically sound? What if somebody hacked my “smart” fridge?
The Internet of Things is still gaining momentum and here to stay, meaning we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.