Internet of Things

October 5th, 2016

The discussion at our last meeting reminded me of UniKey, a company that has previously been featured on Shark Tank. UniKey technology allows users to store “keys” on their cell phones, given that appropriate UniKey locking system is already stored inside the lock, so they could unlock the house by simply being in proximity to the lock. In addition, users could send temporary keys to third parties that would expire after a set amount of hours. The purpose of this feature is to restrict the amount of time cleaners and friends would have access to the house.

Interestingly enough, all five sharks placed offers on the table, a scenario rarely seen on the reality TV show. In retrospect, the amount of confidence the sharks had in the product strikes me as a bit unsettling. By offering to invest in the company, the sharks must have believed in the potential of UniKey to become a replacement for traditional keys. It appears as though each necessary steps and tasks in our lives are being dissected and broken down into simpler parts that could be driven by the internet of things rather than human power. Evidently, this trend is clear enough that the sharks, supposedly keen investors, have taken it into consideration. However, is this the direction that we, as a society, are headed in?

To me, this raises the question of who, exactly, are able to take advantage of and participate in the convenience provided by the internet of things. For example, for the UniKey system to work, users must purchase a special lock with appropriate compatibility and must possess a smart phone with access to the UniKey app. Each of these requirements place financial restrictions on who are able to incorporate UniKey into their day to day activities. That is, the users of this technology must weigh the convenience of unlocking doors without a physical lock over the price that they have to pay to install the system. This constraint prevents the UniKey from becoming a common household item accessible to people from different socio-economic backgrounds. That is, the great conveniences provided by the internet of things are often catered to a specific audience, a body with both capital and sufficient knowledge about how these systems work. Given this limitation, is it possible for the internet of things to fully take over the traditional modes of how tasks are completed? Perhaps this may be the case for those who are able to afford the technology, but for those who don’t, all the benefits provided by the internet of things may be out of touch, as least for the immediate future.

One Response to “Internet of Things”

  1. Mike Smith said:

    You’re right in many ways, but I’d like you to think over the long term too. Initially the kinds of locks we use today were purchased and used only by those with significant wealth. Doors didn’t have locks, and certainly people didn’t want to carry keys or figure out how to get another one made. Eventually, every house was built with a lock and you got the keys when you purchased it. Key making became something that you could get done for a few dollars at the neighborhood hardware store. The cost of the equipment for a Unikey-like solution will come down if it becomes a standard, like today’s physical locks. The question is, will it become a standard? What will it take for it to replace conventional locks? Is it a superior solution to today’s standard? What other trends must occur for a Unikey-like solution to take off? I’m happy to hear what you think if you’re interested.

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