A few years ago, I declared that the Internet of Things had hit peak stupid courtesy of a smart toaster. In retrospect, this was clearly a mistake. Over the weekend, Nike released its new self-lacing Adapt BB sneakers with self-lacing technology, integrated lights, and an app to lace them. Yes, you control your sneaker lacing with an app (a motor inside the shoes mechanically tightens the laces or loosens them). But in this case, the Android version of the app refuses to pair with the left shoe. The necessary firmware update — because shoes now require firmware updates — appears to have caused connectivity problems and prevented the Android version of the app from pairing with one of the shoes. (Both left and right are implicated, depending on which reviews you read.)
This post by Jaxbot on Twitter seems to capture the zeitgeist of the moment remarkably well (note that his response is intended to be sarcastic, I think. I hope.):
I’m not getting a lot of sympathy here pic.twitter.com/zEqagV3J5A
— Jonathan Warner🥑🚇🤖 (@Jaxbot) February 18, 2019
It’s genuinely difficult to know what to say about this because the problems should have been so self-evidently obvious. There’s a truly ancient meme passed around comparing how cars would work if they were like computers, with a joke about grabbing three separate accessories to reboot the vehicle. It was supposed to be instructional. Instead, we now find ourselves in a universe in which footwear is plagued by firmware updates. Even more hilariously, this problem is confined to Android. iOS users are reporting no such issues.
Underneath the snark — and let’s face it, “Bricked shoes” sounds more like a mafia innovation than a technological breakthrough — there’s a genuine problem here. Companies are falling over themselves to push forward with IoT-enabled products with poor design and execrable software quality. These products often sell for premiums compared with their “dumb” counterparts, yet often have jarring bugs or breathtaking security problems.
It’s easy to laugh at the Internet of Shit (as the IoT has memorably been nicknamed), but the humor of the situation hides an uglier reality: If this was a $350 device from Apple or Google, we’d be talking about the issue in very different tones. Bricking devices people have paid top dollar for is a problem that’s only going to get worse until companies like Nike face the fact that they don’t actually know what they’re doing in these situations. And the screw-ups matter. The security fails, feature pratfalls, and other various problems further the perception that the IoT is as much a joke as it is a valid product category.
- Airbnb ‘Smart Locks’ Bricked By Bad Firmware Update
- The Internet of Things has officially hit peak stupid, courtesy of this smart toaster
- Woman Films Her New Internet-Connected Camera Whispering ‘Hello’