Welcome to the interweb. Regular readers may know this ‘column’ as a compendium of enjoyable rubbish from across the web, to enjoy with your coffee.

Well, I’ve decided to change it up and make it marginally more relevant/less childish. So this week I’m offering a light-hearted take on why one hot topic in digital, the ‘internet of things’ (IoT), is so compelling.

Why do smart devices fascinate us? What is the root of our obsession with fridges that know when we have run out of milk?

Here’s my take on the IoT.

Fart machines

Ok, a childish one to start. We’re fascinated by the IoT because the idea of remote activation has always fascinated us. 

Remote activation allows us to remain on the margins, to escape the scene of a crime and yet still observe the unfolding of events. 

In short, it makes us feel powerful, gives us a little feeling of playing God. Just like a whoopee cushion and later the fart machine allowed us to play God of Farts. 

Part of our love for remote activation may also stem from our tendency for voyeurism, we have all enjoyed candid camera television shows and we all enjoy seeing whilst remaining unseen. 

The IoT brings with it the idea of remotely locking doors, brewing coffee, controlling a thermostat or home security cameras. 

Remote activation is compelling. 

James Bond

Part of the enduring appeal of James Bond is explained by his gadgets. We like objects to which there is more than meets the eye.

Wow, something as humble as a pen can turn into a deadly weapon. Wow, something as humble as a dipstick can tweet tide levels

What explains this love of the unassuming but powerful object? Perhaps in this idea we see a picture of ourselves. At times we are all prone to an egocentric view of the world and would like to think there is more to ourselves than meets the eye.



Life logging is already starting to take off, especially when it comes to fitness. 

The use of RFID tags in shipping is also long established, allowing the tracking of stock. 

With the advent of life logging, the self is truly quantifiable, something that many have wished for, from Da Vinci dissecting the body, to our Olympian fascination with the highest, fastest and strongest. 


We all crave justice. That’s why we love superheroes and the idea of baddies getting their comeuppance.

The IoT will allow, as an example, car insurance companies to get accurate reports of a customers’ driving and to set a fair premium.

This will make drivers feel they’re getting what they deserve. That’s justice.


We are all lazy or perhaps a better way to put it is we all want more free time. We spend too long working and commuting and doing chores.

The IoT will mean that ‘life admin’ doesn’t take such a mental toll anymore, as the car will remind you when you need petrol and are near a petrol station.

Your oven can be turned on from the car, so you can whack the pizza in as soon as you get through the door.

The ego

More on the ego. Am I revealing too much about myself?

One use of the IoT is connected media. Your phone is the centre of your entertainment universe and speakers and screens are enabled so your music, your films can be enjoyed wherever you are (car, home, meeting room etc). This eliminates the need for many different sound systems etc. 

This again plays to an egocentric view, my media, my tastes, my personality wherever I go. 

What do you think? 

Ben Davis

Published 16 January, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)


Steve Lake

I think one of the more interesting things about the IoT is the data that could be obtained by it, and how that could be used to make everyday objects or tasks more efficient.

So, using the classic Internet enabled toaster example - mostly there's no need for a toaster to be "smart" however there are toasters where you can set user preferences on it so that it knows how much you like your toast done? Or there's a toaster printer that can toast messages into your breakfast... all fairly trivial until you make it available on the net, then go to stay at a friends house, you could email them your profile.. it's a silly example but that's the kind of everyday things that catch on.

Lamp posts that report when they need new bulbs, and count the cars going past in some kind of traffic analytics.. that kind of stuff.

interesting times!

over 4 years ago



IoT represents the revenge of the physical world :-)

Others may argue that is just the other way around ie it is the digital that is 'cannibalizing' the physical.

Whats your view?

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Beautifully put, both statements, and I'm not sure I can choose.

Your second point, the loss of the blunt instrument, sort of makes me think of a Philip K Dick novel where perhaps it is crime to own certain objects that aren't trackable.

over 4 years ago

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