Ten years ago a joke going around was “what if Microsoft built cars?” The answer summed up the frustrations users had with personal computers and the differences in engineering standards between traditional industries and that of the IT sector.
As we enter the Internet of Things era, that tension between consumer devices and good engineering continues as shown by a software bug that rendered Nest thermostats useless.
That poor software would drain the battery without warning the user, illustrates how poorly designed many of these devices are.
Ironically Nest’s owners, Google, held a conference earlier this week where the company’s leaders flagged the importance of standards, security and privacy.
In a call to action for the IoT industry, Google’s lead advocate Vint Cerf, also known as one of the “fathers of the Internet,” warned that compatibility, security, and privacy could be obstacles to the IoT’s success.
Reliability is also important, particularly when talking about safety and security – Nest also make carbon monoxide detectors – where a device crashing or failing can have terrible consequences.
At present most of the Internet of Things is about the gimmick of connecting devices to the cloud and controlling them from your mobile phone. Consumers are not going to embrace IoT products if they add cost, complexity and risk to their lives.
Keeping it simple and safe are probably the most important things designers of IoT devices can do.