Published May 16, 2013
They call it “the Internet of things.” But is it too much of a good thing?
Recently, Huggies announced a connected diaper called the TweetPee that will debut in Brazil this summer. It includes an app that notifies you when it detects the presence of urine. Sensoria Socks, expected in late 2013, will analyze the position and weight of your foot as you run -- no word on the smell.
Meanwhile, the Durex Fundawear app does exactly what you think it does.
There are now connected dishwashers, garage doors, and even public bathrooms. The term “the Internet of things” was first coined by British technologist Kevin Ashton in the 90s, but that was long before you could connect your sprinkler system to the Internet.
But does all of this connectedness make sense?
“We’re relying on technology instead of allowing our own awareness and intuition to guide us,” Meredith Sagan, a UCLA Semel Institute psychiatrist, told FoxNews.com. “In waiting for the connected device to tell us the diaper is full as opposed to being aware of our own child’s condition, we run the risk of losing control of our lives and allowing technology to take over.”
Sagan says there’s even a recent report from Oxford University’s “Future of Humanity Institute” that says technology could create a scenario that leads to the demise of humanity.
“One can readily imagine a class of existential-catastrophe scenarios in which some technology is discovered that puts immense destructive power into the hands of a large number of individuals,” the report reads.
That might be going a bit far, but many experts concede, despite the old MTV slogan, too much is indeed enough.
“Good things gone too far can often become not so good,” said marriage counselor and book author Todd Creager, who is an adjunct professor at the USC School of Social Work. “There is a human element to life that can be replaced by too much information and gadgets.”
Gadgets do play a role in furthering society. A GPS in your car helps you find your destination faster. Social networking and the Web can help children learn in new ways. But an over-reliance on gadgets can stifle our intuition and creativity, Creager noted.
Davide Vigano, the CEO of Heapsylon -- the company responsible for those connected socks -- says the data collection from everyday objects might require an adjustment period. Yet a quantified and connected society will be worth the initial effort and dramatic cultural shift.
“For many of us it’d be hard to do without them at this point,” he told FoxNews.com. “The advantages are so huge for each one of us. And if you think about telemedicine, monitoring and alerting scenarios, the potential savings for the taxpayer are even broader.”
Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst, said there are many examples of new connected devices all around us, including the Owlet (to monitor an infant’s breathing) and even a connected basketball from a company called 94Fifty. Fortunately, they won’t all make it.
“Many of these devices will be doomed to the dustbin of abandoned gadgets, but others provide real utility,” she said. “The Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, is shipping 50,000 units per month and saves customers up to 20 percent on their heating bills.”
“The Internet of things, like all technology is supposed to expand our capacities. If people believe that it doesn't then it won't catch on,” David Alan Grier, president of the IEEE Computer Society, told FoxNews.com. "The market will determine if it is too much. We've seen resistance to pervasive devices for elder-care and medical care such as sensors in toilets. It seems plausible that some of these ideas will find resistance as well.”
Of course, part of the solution is in managing usage. Just because everything will be connected someday, including your home and car, doesn’t mean we have to always plug in.
“By choosing to be in charge of our own life through a cultivation of self-awareness, mindfulness and attention to our interpersonal relationships, as opposed to reliance on technology … we can more safely be in charge of the devices we are using rather than allowing them to be in charge of us,” Sagan said.