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Gimmicky IoT devices detract from IoT’s real potential

Feb 07, 20183 mins
Internet of Things

Marriott Hotels installed digital notepads on shower doors in a California hotel. This isn’t going to help the IoT be taken seriously.

Shower with droplets of running water 134723415
Credit: Thinkstock

Making fun of silly implementations of the Internet of Things (IoT) is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. No matter how ridiculous the last IoT device may seem, there’s always something even more outré in the works.

That’s fine — up to a point. It doesn’t necessarily hurt for IoT to enter people’s lives in friendly, non-threatening, non-mission-critical applications. Ideally, that can make IoT seem approachable instead of creepy, mildly useful instead of invasive.

But there’s a limit to this approach. The endless parade of pointless IoT gimmicks threatens to trivialize the technology, leading consumers (and business people) to dismiss the IoT as the realm of smart toothbrushes and smart hairbrushes and smart refrigerators — and internet-connected toilets.

It’s a real problem, and it only gets worse when big, respected organizations get involved in the silliness. When household names embrace IoT ephemera, it devalues the technology and doesn’t do the company any favors either.

That’s why the video below made me so sad:

The highly produced clip — which I found courtesy of TrendWatching — extolls the virtues of a device that lets hotel guests write and draw in steam while in the shower, then email the results to themselves. The shower door notepad was apparently tested for several months at a Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, based on the notion that many business travelers say they often come up with good ideas while in the shower.


Maybe some people do get their best ideas in the shower. And I have no doubt that whoever came up this idea did it covered with soap suds. But there are so many things wrong with this idea that I hardly know where to start.

IoT shower power?

First off, Irvine sits in drought-stricken Southern California, where the notion of encouraging guests to linger under the running water writing notes in steam has unfortunate ecological implications.

Also, is a steam-note pad really the best way to capture shower-y inspiration? Wouldn’t “Alexa, take a memo…” do as well or better? More to the point: Perhaps one reason why ideas may come to people while in the shower is that for a few minutes at least, they’re not surrounded by technology.

Look, there’s nothing wrong per se with wacky IoT implementations like this. But they can distract from IoT’s real potential. I have to believe that with a little work, Marriot can find a better technology gimmick. Heck, even robotic room service seems more practical!


Fredric Paul is Editor in Chief for New Relic, Inc., and has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite, InformationWeek, CNET, PCWorld and other publications. His opinions are his own.