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The Optimism of IoT: Everything Will Still be Awful in 2020

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The Optimism of IoT: Everything Will Still be Awful in 2020

· IoT Zone
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Look, the Internet of Things is creating a wave of cool new stuff. A lot of the Things getting attention are glorified toys - everyday products that have been somewhat arbitrarily "connected" and had their price point bumped up, like a cup that tells you what's in the cup, or shoes with an IoT rock in them - but there is also a lot of truly valuable work being done when it comes to things like health monitoring, correlating and centralizing hospital data, dealing with structural issues like blackouts, and other practical needs.

That said, the optimism comes on a little strong sometimes: IoT is going to change a lot of things, but some things don't change.

From Joe Lazauskas (writer) and Ernesto Olivares (designer) comes "How the Internet of Things Will Rule Your Workday in 2020," an infographic illustrating a day in the life of Charlie, who has a smooth-running life thanks to IoT. Some of the future innovations Lazauskas points to seem pretty reasonable - your car setting your AC to your preferred temperature, for example - but then things take a turn. Still on the topic of the car, Lazauskas writes:

Rush-hour traffic is a thing of the past. Connected vehicles minimize traffic and - even more importantly - accidents.

Keep in mind that this infographic is pointing to the year 2020. Six years from now, then, rush hour traffic is going to be "a thing of the past." Or your smart clock is going to determine, based on an email telling you that your meeting is delayed, that you can sleep for an extra thirty minutes. 

The problem becomes even more apparent in the "Heads Home" section. Charlie's phone lets him know there's a sale at a store he loves:

He is 19 times more likely to interact with the retailer after receiving the alert and heads to the mall.

Here the hype shows its hand: the bright future of IoT - the one we make infographics about, I mean, rather the one mentioned briefly as Charlie's occupation, for example, monitoring water supplies - is not going to be revolutionary for regular people. It's for the people who expect to be buying self-driving cars within the next six years, for the people who stop at the mall on the way home from work on a whim (the phone says there's a sale, okay) to not only buy a suit, but have it automatically "altered to [their] exact measurements."

Like the IoT employment predictions suggesting that blue collar workers may find themselves upgraded to white collar workers thanks to IoT innovations, it all feels a little optimistic, and a little naive. After all, what happened to that 15-hour work week Keynes promised us? Things are a lot more efficient and safe than they were in 1930, absolutely, but when it comes to work, here we still are: the bottom stays the bottom, and the top stays the top.

So, IoT is changing things, yes. And it's likely going to make a lot of things better for everybody. But the "fun stuff" version of IoT - the near-future paradise that warrants infographics and lofty predictions and dramatic Youtube product announcements - is a members-only club. 

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