The IoT Still Isn’t Ready for Prime Time

A couple of weeks ago, my home network crashed and wouldn’t restart. After checking everything, I realized that I would have to go through the time-consuming and somewhat laborious process of restarting the cable modem, resetting the router and building a new WiFi network. A couple of hours later, I had the new network up and running.

In a perfect world, that would be the end of the story. But, as IT professionals know all too well, a perfect world does not exist, and, despite radical improvements in computers and networks over the last few years, glitches, breakdowns and complete meltdowns are still commonplace. On the upside, it keeps people employed.

In this case, the problem wasn’t reconnecting my computers and various devices, including an iPad and iPhone. It involved reconnecting various other devices that fall under the umbrella of the Internet of Things. Some machines required no more than a few seconds to register on the network, but most involved some type of reinstallation or device reset.

The easiest devices: a Harmony software remote that uses a hub and works on the iPhone through an app. It required just a restart of the hub and a log in with the WiFi passkey. Ditto for a LiftMaster connected garage door system. Two HP printers were also very easy to reinstall. The built-in LCD displays just required the network password, and the task was complete.

The not-so-easy devices: a Fitbit scale and a Belkin WeMo light switch, both of which required a complete reinstallation. Moreover, in both cases, I couldn’t accomplish the task myself. I had to phone tech support and have someone walk me through the process.

To the credit of these companies, their tech support was excellent, and I had both devices running quickly. In the case of the WeMo light switch, part of the problem was on my end. I had the switch installed upside down and couldn’t find the reset buttons.

But there’s a bigger-picture issue here. If we’re going to have dozens—or potentially hundreds—of connected devices operating on our home and business networks, the overall environment will become completely chaotic if we don’t find better ways to manage everything in one place and have better ways to reconnect devices when a network failure occurs or there’s a change in the network.

Apple’s HomeKit may be a start. The jury is out because the platform is still in the nascent stages. Other vendors have competing platforms that may or may not address this problem.

Regardless of the outcome, manufacturers and other tech vendors need to think about how to make it simpler to update devices and, in the end, make all connections count for more.

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