The Internet Of (Hardly Connected) Things

Stephan Dörner and Chase Gummer | Digits | September 8, 2014

The “Internet of Things”  which refers to the billions of devices that are expected to be connected to each other and to the Internet, is a catchphrase that’s hard to escape these days.  Even network storage maker Cisco has predicted some 25 billion devices will be connected by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020.  But at the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin this week, what’s equally hard to escape is the fact that, for now at least, the new devices being rolled out are mainly designed to connect with other new devices made by the same company.

Most of the major consumer electronics companies rolled out or highlighted devices that only ‘talk’ to devices by the same manufacturer.  Giants such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Bosch, and Siemens are betting on a world of connected appliances where toasters ‘talk’ to kettles and ovens know what food their nearby refrigerators are going to give them. But so far it only applies to their own ovens and kettles.

Both LG and Bosch presented refrigerators that can take photos of the contents inside and send a grocery list to a user’s smartphone.  The South Korean electronics company also showcased a series of new products that connect over the Japanese chat application Line, allowing users to converse directly with an LG oven, microwave or washing machine and tell them what to do.  Some are pointing to flaws in the current situation, where an industry standard is lacking and appliances from different brands cannot  ‘talk’ to each other...