Kelvin

I’d like to introduce you to my new friend, he is called Kelvin, he is a smart fridge.  My coffee cups, while all different, have one thing in common, they don’t like Kelvin, he is simply a bit dull.  When he arrived he was terribly cool, he is after all, a fridge, but he is also part of the Internet of Everything or IoE.   It turns out that Kelvin and all his friends, who are also called Kelvin, are only available in beige.

Kelvin is every bit as dull as he sounds.  Once Kelvin was connected to the rest of the supply chain, so that the supermarkets knew, not just what we bought, but what we had or were about to run out of, the variety in my diet diminished as habit took over.  Supply chains love predictability. Kelvin helps by asking me if I want more of the same. I’m busy, of course I do.

Some terribly clever company whose core competence is supply chain management, will some time soon, gladly give us a Kelvin (who I made up) at cost, or less, if it can talk to their clever systems.  Does all this sound a little familiar? Low cost gadgets in exchange for data and undiluted access to your custom?  That’s all a Kindle is, except its a smart book shelf not a fridge, obviously. 

Once I have a Kelvin, the contents of my fridge can then restore themselves as I waddle off to an increasingly beige, featureless future in which I only ever eat and drink things I already eat and drink.  Perhaps when I go on holiday I can avoid all that dreadful foriegn food by logging on to the Kelvin at my destination before I even get there, and it can furnish my bland habits, sparing me from the terror of variety.  Better still, I can buy a Kelvin for an aged relative and, safe in the knowledge that they won’t starve, drop by a little less often. 

I’ve read some heartening stuff recently about the resurgence of vinyl, of independent book shops and even the Swiss watch industry. Thing is though, I am not that bothered whether my book is electronic or paper, my music digital or analogue or my watch driven by a battery or a spring.  Frankly, in each case, the digital approach has some pretty serious advantages. I am bothered about whether my life is primarily defined by interactions between me and a machine or me and other people.

There are a few definitions of the Internet of Everythinf kicking about,  here is one from Cisco,
“The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before — turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.”

While this definition mentions people, when I read about their role in the IoE. the tone still assumes that corporations will control and exploit the data.  I am also sure that it will be presented as terribly cool, but result in my interacting with people a lot less, my being a little less human and experiencing a lot less variety, the thing that spices up my life.

Can we have an internet of people please?

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2 thoughts on “Kelvin

  1. I was rather pleased to meet Kelvin, albeit virtually, so thank you for that. Whilst beige is not usually part of my chosen colour palette, in this instance I feel the allegations of dullness are perhaps a little misplaced.

    But before I explain why, firstly a small confession if I may. I really don’t like antiques. To me, it’s like having a 15 year-old washing machine or a 1970s car. They don’t tend to work as well as their modern counterparts, are likely to be in need of a repair or two, probably a bit wobbly and on the whole look a bit tatty. OK, OK, so there are pristine antiques, and there’s the added bonus that someone put a load of effort into wood-turning the feet etc etc but, given the choice, I’d much rather have modern than antique.

    Why ? Well, I suppose it’s down to an inherent sense I have of advancement, of the world improving, of us learning and growing and developing. I’ve never been one for wistfully looking back to the days when Waggon Wheels were the size of a 12″ record, when you could buy a pint for less than a quid, or when people smoked on TV. It ain’t coming back, so I just don’t see any point in pining for it.

    Someone said to me recently that for the first time in history we have reached a point where the vast majority of us carry around a computer that is 10,000 times more powerful than the computer than you were first issued when you first were issued a computer at work. But that’s not the point. The point is that this computer is highly, highly individual to its owner. Every iPhone on the planet will be configured differently – different apps, different wallpaper, different ringtones, and people put them to an almost infinitely different pattern of use. What they have in common for many though, is that they act as a “Digital Butler” (there you go, file that one under the same entry as “Augmented Self” from the previous post). These Digital Butlers act not to necessarily replace you, but to help speed up or streamline what you would have been doing anyway. Sure, you can wait until you get to Waterloo to find out if your train is inevitably delayed, or you can look on your phone in advance, see its delayed, and go to the pub for a pint while they remove the wrong type of sun from the tracks. I could go on, but you get the point.

    So whether Kelvin is beige, or Smeg blue, the fact that something that I view as being insanely monotonous i.e. the re-ordering of staple goods to my home when they run out, can be done by a robot is, frankly, a god send. I saw this in action at the Consumer Electronics Show where you could browse a recipe that you want to cook – as we do in our house when meal-planning for the week, but that’s another story – and by the end of tomorrow they arrive at your house. No mouldy lettuces in the bottom of the fridge, or cheese that’s gone off, or wastage.

    I am currently in the US at the moment and I could not imagine doing a business trip without the assistance of my app that tells me when the flight is boarding, reminds me of my check-in reference at my hotel, that advises me not to pack a fleece since it’ll be 34C, that, well, just ‘helps’.

    Do I feel beige and bland as a result ? Not in the slightest. If anything, I feel liberated. If anything, I’ve now even more time on my hands to decide what restaurant I’m going to eat in tonight.

  2. I like gadgets I’ve got lots, I like apps and services that save me time and inform me. I’m less keen on efficiency so total that it destroys variety.

    If Kelvin sourced things according to my preferences, rather than the supply chain he is part of, one from a single supermarket, I think I’d like him better.

    Some days that might be cheapest, others best, others most local and others  just fastest.

    Maybe I’d like Kelvin to go to the market for me, mix and match, save me time and get what I want. I’d like him a little better if he could do that.

    The idea of smart fridges for the old and lonely really appalls me.

    Cheers,

    Anthony

    Ps damn, there’s no milk, how did that happen!

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