I’ve written more articles and posts than I can count about connectivity at home. The ability to connect your appliances with the Internet and your tablets or smart phones offers some terrific conveniences. You can check if you left the oven on from the office. You can be alerted if one of your kids left the refrigerator door open, or if there’s a mechanical issue with one of your appliances. There’s great potential for a repair pro to diagnose and maybe repair a problem remotely, and you can check whether you have eggs or laundry detergent while you’re at the store. (One futuristic kitchen I wrote about orders items you’re running out of from an online shopping service.)
There’s no doubt that our iPhones, Androids and web browsers have made our lives so much easier. They have also made them so much less private. All of the social media we enjoy — most notably, Facebook — flourish by selling personalized ads based on our likes, interests and habits. For many young people who grew up with these tools, privacy seems to be a non-issue. They live much of their lives online, sharing thoughts, fantasies, photos and more with friends and strangers alike. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but all of that free media comes with costs.
The revolution will not be televised — it will be streamed, downloaded, posted and tracked.
(Photo Courtesy: BeHappy.me)
Let’s take a look at fitness trackers like Fitbit for a moment. They’re a huge positive force in motivating people to be more active and have become hugely popular. However, healthcare providers (and the employers who pay for them!) are starting to encourage policy holders to give them access to their tracking data with $100 premium discounts and the like. I call these “the carrot” and eventually expect to see the “stick” come out in higher rates, denied services and other penalties for not hitting your step counts. Corporate wellness programs are totally on board with this approach, too, so expect to see trackers become mandatory and tied to hiring, retention, bonuses and raises in future years. (The courts should have a field day with that!)
Getting back to those connected appliances, my incredibly savvy Blogger 19 buddy, Susan Serra, posted this week about a new $5,000 Samsung refrigerator she saw at a press event. These are the connected features its website describes:
- 21.5″ WiFi-enabled LCD touchscreen.
- Three built-in cameras take a picture of the refrigerator’s interior. You can order groceries online from the touchscreen.
- Share multiple calendars, photos and notes.
- Stream music, videos and mirror your TV.
What are the future hidden costs of smart appliances?
(Photo Courtesy: Samsung)
Snazzy step up from the drugstore calendar and pizza shop magnet on the front of your fridge, right? Prettier, anyway. So here’s my prediction: Within the next five years, your smart fridge (and microwave) will connect with your health tracker to lock you out when you’ve hit your day’s calorie limit (or until you’ve hit your steps goal). This may be a good thing for some of us. But it may also be another privacy loss if you’ve given your health insurer and employer access to your data.
I’m not saying not to buy smart appliances. I’m saying to be smart about how you connect with them. Please think really, really hard about how much privacy you’re willing to give up for a $100 carrot today, when that extra slice (or six) of carrot cake may cost you so much more in future years.