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Ryan E. Day

Customer Care

Just Because It’s Connected, Doesn’t Mean It’s Smart

‘Because we can’ is not a solid foundation for product development

Published: Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 12:03

As a journalist in the quality improvement field, I try to keep an eye on emerging technology that can help us do things better, faster, and more efficiently. Naturally, the internet of things (IoT) is cropping up more often. IoT is all about connected devices, that is, connected to the internet, to each other, and most important, to us humans. Occasionally, it seems as if the connected device ideators miss that last part.

Connected devices are often referred to as “smart,” but some products seem to be solutions without problems.

Meet SMALT, a salt dispenser that connects to your smartphone: “More than just a centerpiece and more than just a smart salt dispenser, SMALT is a conversation starter and a great way to entertain guests.” And it monitors your sodium intake—I might be in trouble with that one.

Now, assuming you are concerned (and now connected) with your sodium intake, one might also assume you are concerned with plain old overeating. Not to worry, HAPIfork to the rescue! HAPIfork is “an electronic fork that helps you monitor and track your eating habits. It also alerts you with the help of indicator lights and gentle vibrations when you are eating too fast.” With my eating habits, that thing would feel like driving a wagon on a washboard.

Salted and monitored meal done with, we move on to the Magik toothbrush, touted as the first augmented-reality toothbrush for kids. The Magik toothbrush “uses Computer Vision to estimate the toothbrush position in the mouth as well as the movement the user is choosing.” This one actually has possibilities:

And to keep the dental hygiene thing going, we have Flosstime, which is of course, a smart dental floss dispenser. The Flosstime is the “world's first automated floss dispenser that builds lifelong habits, dispensing the perfect amount of floss with a single touch.” What mischief could be perpetrated if its dispensing algorithm were hacked?

All of these are interesting and amusing offerings either on sale now or coming to a .com soon. But perhaps more interesting than the products themselves is the reasoning behind bringing these ideas to market. It takes a tremendous amount of resources and sustained energy to go from idea to product, so what void in consumer happiness or burning need prompted the originators to take the entrepreneurial plunge with the examples above? I’m not sure that every last thing in the world needs to be connected. It seems many a smart-product startup is operating with slightly skewed market evaluation data.

As Karin Eklund, head of user experience at Semcon, an international product development company based in Sweden, puts it, “Before connecting the products, we have to connect with the people. What are the drivers and needs to satisfy? From these insights, let’s see how we can build a case.”

I’ll leave you with this tongue-in-cheek video titled “The Internet of S**T Song” that takes a lighthearted look at a haphazardly connected world. Ironically, this humorous video is produced by Semcon.


About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s project manager and senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20 lb tabby cat at his side.



Actually, flosstime is not connected in any way.  It simply works by being present on your mirror and with by a timer and led frown to help remind you to floss.   Only 20% of Americans floss every day so the device is designed to build healthy habits.  There is no data collection or set-up.  floss like a boss!  

Spies in the House

Just what I need, my toothbrush and my salt shaker reporting to my health and dental insurance carriers!!!

Is the toaster looking at me strangely?

And mr fridge

I definitely don't want my fridge spying on me. Yikes.