Let’s be honest. Cisco’s IoT vision of 28 bn internet-connected devices by 2022 isn’t just going to happen by itself. If we as a species are ever going to reach that lofty goal, it will be incumbent upon each and every one of us to pull our weight. With that in mind, last month I decided to chip in my contribution to the 30bn pool in the form of Ember - the smart coffee mug.
What is Ember you ask? Well, in short, it's a mug that lets you preserve and finetune the temperature of the mug’s contents from an accompanying app on your phone - all positive so far right? On the downside, however, it costs around $100, isn’t dishwasher proof and - as I’ve repeatedly discovered - can add considerable frustration to your morning routine when my coffee refuses to show up on my Bluetooth device list. Put another way, Ember is a new (and currently kind of glitchy) way of solving an age-old problem; keeping your drink the perfect temperature.
Then I got thinking, this innocuous little mug is also something else...Whilst setting up my mug using my Facebook account I agreed to let it share and track my caffein-consumption data with Apple Health (I'm pretty sure my location data is also in there somehow as well). It’s hard to see this as anything other than a small but perfect symbol for where the world in large is headed, towards what the leading AI expert Kai-Fu Lee has dubbed the OMO-world: a world where every object that surrounds us will become an interaction point for the internet, and were AI and algorithms (and the companies that control them) will know everything about us and our needs in real-time.
So, is full-blown digital surveillance a fair price to pay for enjoying my coffee at a perfect temperature? I guess I’ll have another splendid sip from the all-seeing mug while I ponder it.