With advances in technology, the cost to produce sensors has come down and so they have proliferated. There are so many devices that have sensors: machinery like our cars, appliances like our dishwashers, security systems and so on. This is only set to continue with the Internet of Things, with billions of connected sensors.

The thing with sensors, though, is that they’re very good at sensing. They’re sensitive souls.

Let me give you three examples. Firstly, 20-odd years ago I had a company car and it was a German make, complete with loads of sensors and a computer diagnostic panel under the bonnet. One of the sensors kept picking up a signal that a tyre needed replacing, when it didn’t, and flagged a warning light in the dashboard. What did the engineer do? The path of least resistance; he disconnected the sensor so that I would need to check manually for tyre tread, which defeats the purpose of investing in a better car with more technology. Incidentally, the panel was also prone to letting in rainwater, which also made for occasional trips to the car doctor.

Secondly, about 15 years ago I took delivery of another shiny company car, compete with an alarm system that would sound if someone tried to move the car. It would even sound if someone tried the driver’s door-handle. On my first day with the new car, I parked in the company car park, which was separated from a busy road by a low wall and, above it, a robust hedge. Every time a truck went past on the main road at speed, the displaced air would travel through the hedge, rock the car slightly, and activate the alarm. The car went back to the garage to be desensitised.

Thirdly, as I write this post, our brand new shiny integrated dishwasher – it was installed a couple of days ago and completed its first run yesterday – is currently out of action and awaiting an engineer. Of course, as a snugly integrated appliance it’s a bit of a bugger to get in and out so you want to minimise these kinds of events if you can. A sensor has tripped a warning light, and an error message. Sensitive thing…

By how much will this kind of event be multiplied when we’re well and truly in the IoT era?

Advertisements