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The Jetsons made the internet of things look so easy

Jetsons or Flintstones? Astro or Dino? Rosie the Robot or … wait, the Flintstones didn’t have a household helper, did they? My mom, however, would point out that, indeed, the Flintstones had a least two helpers. Just like when we were growing up, my sister and I begged our parents to buy a dishwasher. “Why?” my mom would ask. “We already have two — dishwasher #1 [pointing to me] and dishwasher #2 [pointing to my sister].” Very funny, mom.

While The Flintstones sucked us into their 10,000 B.C. prehistoric lives, The Jetsons catapulted us into the future — 2062 A.D. to be exact. As observers standing between these two worlds, we saw how their fictional lives were unexpectedly similar to our own. It didn’t dawn on me, however, until I became interested in the internet of things that the prehistoric Flintstones had a dishwasher (powered by an elephant-like animal, remember?) and the futuristic Jetsons drove their own vehicles.

How the internet of things is transforming our lives

We are no longer voluntary observers of this paradoxical Hanna-Barbera world. We are now participants, whether we want to be or not, in this global digital transformation movement, of which the internet of things has a leading role.

I see the internet of things changing our lives in three primary ways. Imagine a dial, if you will, for each:

  1. From analog to digital
    A book you borrowed from the library or the one on your Kindle? An analog watch or a smartwatch? An “old-fashioned” doorbell or a Ring? We all have our preferences and our tolerances for new technology. Some of us prefer to stick to the old “analog” way of doing things, while others cannot become digital fast enough. It’s not a race, though. It’s a journey that we can experience at our own pace.
  2. From dumb to smart
    Slap a sensor on that dumb thing, and it will instantly become smart! That seems to be the rallying cry or M.O. of product managers eager to be onboard the IoT train. Don’t get me wrong: I love smart, but I don’t have time for stupid. Smart hairbrushes, water bottles and toasters. Really? Who asked for these things?
  3. From professional to amateur
    Whereby one might agree that going from analog to digital or from dumb to smart is a forward, progressive move, the shift from professional to amateur sounds a little backwards. Let me explain what I mean.Before the onslaught of “smart things,” we typically depended on professionals to provide advice, install, repair, maintain or replace our “dumb” stuff. With the internet of things, however, especially in the consumer space, there’s an unspoken expectation that we can easily plug and play these smart things into our digital lives with minimal effort.

    However, it just doesn’t work that way. Often, we, the amateurs, need to roll up our geeky sleeves to figure it out. Sure, there are “smart” professionals who can help, but they are not as plentiful or competitive as the “dumb” ones.

It may be cool, but it won’t be easy

I love technology. That is one reason I have been in the high-tech industry for, well, let’s say a long time. Moreover, I love the promise of the internet of things. It brings with it a whole lot of cool, but it also brings a fair share of creepy, and a healthy dose of just plain wrong.

I have to admit: The Jetsons made it look easy — and cool. I never thought I would see “Rosie” in my lifetime, but she is here. She doesn’t roll around, and she doesn’t cook my meals. However, she is omnipresent in my home, and she walks me through recipes, complete with onscreen instructions and videos. I call her Alexa.

What the Jetsons never showed us, though, is the creepy or just plain wrong gobbledygook that sometimes accompanies the cool. Whether we like it or not, the internet of things is making privacy freaks and security geeks out of all of us; plus, we need to understand the different ways our smart things can communicate with each other.

That is one tall order, and it is only the beginning.

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