Yes, folks, here comes the Walled Garden again, this time with the Internet of Things. The question: Will the past repeat itself again?
If you are going to CES in Lost Wages just look at how many companies are hoping to get in the way of an open Internet again. (For the record, I’m not going to be there. I’m in Pagosa Springs skiing at Wolf Creek, Colorado. Twenty-six years in a row at CES was more than enough.)
Samsung has a “smarter-than-average” television it hopes is the new central -- and closed -- system for your home.
Amazon got there first, though, with the Echo in my living room. Alexa is my new favorite personal assistant. More useful than Siri if my iPhone isn’t in my hand … or Cortana … or Google Now … or Jarvis … or … however many new ones will be at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Alexa’s Svengali (that’s Amazon personified) tells me about something new it can connect to and monitor almost every week. Control my thermostat? Check. Control my blinds? Check. Control my refrigerator, microwave, stove, et al? Check. Watch the weather? Check. Monitor traffic? Check. Tell me a Trump joke? Check. Tell me a (really bad) knock-knock joke? Check. Let me order right from Amazon by voice? Check. Make certain I stay Prime? Check.
Amazon is moving quickly to be the first to make sure my house is an Amazon Super-Prime house and nothing else.
But, you might note, this has been tried before. Prodigy (originally Trintex), Aol et al had previous flings at keeping us locked in a unique ecosystem. It didn’t work. (Aol even tried to just be an Internet portal. That didn’t work either.)
Maybe one of the new Internet of Things start-ups will try the Mozilla path of open sourcing with open sesames to all your electronic/digital devices regardless of their parentage. But walling you in, a la Amazon, is so much nicer for the waller, if not necessarily the wallee.
So … look around the CES tech overload. Does it signal the dawn of Samsung neighborhoods? Or, cul-de-sacs that don’t allow Apple? Will Google fiber cities evolve into Google-only cities? Then, how soon will Alphabet allow Google to run Wi-Fi off every fiber amplifier and connection in every Google city?
Think of your future as tiny sensors with always-on Wi-Fi watching more things in your home than the set-top boxes recording and reporting back what channel or OTT service you might be watching … with, of course, facial-recognition software behind cameras embedded in whatever device you’re watching making sure to get the demographics and numbers right as it reports back to ratings central.
But, hey! If you wear an Apple watch connected to every beat of your heart and part of your body and Apple keeps relentlessly innovating so that all your iPhone can do gets smaller and smaller and smaller and sensors are everywhere on your body and everywhere in your home … well, the only decision you’ll ever have to make is which device to watch/communicate/monitor/listen to or whatever because they will all be interconnected and awake all the time … and watching you, too.
The Internet of Things just might be the next, big step in the rise of the machines. John Connor is truly dead and buried. Just kidding.
Happy New Year! Enjoy CES! And don’t worry, next year’s show will be even bigger.
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