How will the Internet of Things cope when we're disconnected?

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The above image has been doing the rounds on Twitter and other social media in recent weeks. It shows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a pyramid, of things we need most to things we need, but are less essential. This is why food and shelter are at the bottom and and creative fulfillment is at the top. Whoever, um, photoshopped this image humorously added wifi to this list of basic essentials – and though a joke, I think there’s a grain of truth in it.

If you’ve moved house in the last ten years, unless you’re very, very lucky then chances are that you had a nightmare of a time getting your broadband sorted. Even if the process with your provider was straightforward – you’ll still have had to wait an agonising couple of weeks for them to send an engineer out to poke the box on the street or drill a hole in the wall or whatever.

And in this period it shows how hopelessly reliant we are on the internet. It’s only by taking something away that you realise how much you need it. Even if you can get your emails via your phone or something – that’s still three weeks of no YouTube, no Netflix, no iPlayer, no Spotify and no Xbox Live. No real way to live in the modern world.

Whilst this sounds trivial (who’s going to care about missing the latest studio cat video), given the centrality of media to our lives, someone who doesn’t have access to this stuff is going to be quickly out of the loop. If you’re a Twitter user and you’ve ever spoken to a non-Twitter user, you’ll know what it feels like to talk to someone with no shared frame of reference.

And more seriously – if you require an internet connection to work, then it becomes very frustrating indeed. Do you really want to spend a month stuck in your local library or Costa?

This isn’t the only problem an internet interruption can cause though.

Have you ever heard of the so-called “internet of things”, which tech bigwigs have been talking about for a few years yet, which hasn’t quite arrived?

The internet of things is the idea that soon many home devices and appliances will have an internet connection inside them. Not just the much-maligned fabled internet fridge, but actually practically useful things – such as wifi light switches and thermostats (which do already exist). The benefit these bring is that not only are you able to lazily control them from the sofa with a mobile app, but you can also set them to switch on and off at given times – and not just on a timer. The Tado wifi thermostat, for instance, will adjust automatically using a thermistor mounted in the room – and will even detect when everyone is the house is out, and switch off the heating if there is no one there to use it.

I’ve even seen prototypes for bluetooth enabled locks – that will unlock your house if it senses that you’re nearby.

Surely it’s only a matter of time before having an internet connection is vital to living in your actual house? What am I going to do for the three weeks without internet if my house is heated by an app that requires an internet connection?

So I think now – before it becomes critical – is the time to sort this out. It’s possible to move house and have the electricity and water work immediately – and if you switch mobile networks your number will transfer in 24 hours (and your phone will still work with a dummy number in the meantime)… so why not internet?

C’mon internet companies – get on it!

James O’Malley