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7 Hilariously Useless Internet Based (IoT) Devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the largest emerging trends in technology, or as KPMG says “a phenomenon that is only going to get bigger” (2016). IoT suggests that every device (‘thing’) you own will soon be connected to one another via the internet. The World Economic Forum has some fantastic predictions on what IoT will shake up, however it’s far too broad to talk about here.


Rather, I’ve listed 7 of the most ridiculous gadgets and small devices that are seeking to get on the IoT hype train, and added in a little description. These are all 100% legit businesses.


1. Automated Venetian Blind Tilter



“iBlinds” seeks to take the pain out of tilting venetian blinds, with it’s groundbreaking app – simply swipe left to right depending on how much light you want. Think about how much time is wasted with blocking out blinds – now you don’t even need to get up.


2. Haptic-Response Fork Ingestion Reducer



The Hapi-Fork uses the latest fork-serving technology to ensure that you are not ingesting your food too quickly. The Slow Control fork starts vibrating when you’re eating too quickly, and stores all your information in a dashboard so you can see your optimal Fork-serving ratio.


3. Office Shoe iOS Notification Blocker



Just when you thought turning notifications off was too hard, there’s now a shoe for it. If you put on the latest corporate footwear by this UK company – boom – your iPhone no longer receives any notifications. Who needs notifications at work anyway?


4. Tablet-Based Portable Knife Sharpener



Don’t you hate it when you’re on the go with your knives, and suddenly the sharpness just isn’t cutting it? Well worry no more, as the latest KnifeRobot allows you to sharpen knives on the move. No hands needed!


5. iScream Smartphone-Enabled Ice Cream Paddler


Sometimes traditional Ice Cream makers do not live up to their expectations. The iScream seeks to put the control back in the hands of the user, with an innovative iPhone app that lets you control the speed of the paddles. How can you not trust the iScream? It must live up to expectations – they even claim that they have “worked with the biggest fright companies in the past” Scary!


6. Electronic Sun Dial


Great for daylight savings – unfortunately, it’s not compatible with cloud.


7. Augmented Reality Tablet-Powered Mirror with Toothbrush Timer


I’m sure these creators can really see themselves getting into this – the FireFly mirror that offers a heap of functionality, including a toothbrush timer, that tells you when to stop brushing! If hitting snooze wasn’t enough – you can turn off your alarm with it’s in-built facial recognition.


Post in the comments below if you can think of anything worse


Final Comment


I think IoT devices will take off when (a) goods come factory-shipped with IoT features (note: inevitable), (b) automation software is better integrated into mobile platforms (Apple just purchased ‘Workflow’, an automation company, rumoured to support its ‘Home’ app), and (c) manufacturers open up APIs to their ecosystems to encourage third party usage (Samsung is already doing this, as well as claiming that in 2020 all their devices will be IoT). I’m yet to see how a Fintech can disrupt your washing machine (maybe calculating # of cycles you can save by changing from ‘Universal’ to ‘Economy’ and investing the surplus?), but I’m all for it if it can.


After looking at these, I found a hilarious website that documents some fake IoT devices here: http://www.internetofuselessthings.io/


What’s the most useless application of IoT you can think of?





Instagram is Making Snapchat Selfie-Destruct

Over the past few months, it seems as if Snapchat & Instagram are all converging on almost exactly the same features. Adding new features is a massive decision that both these companies have to make – not only can the user experience of their hundreds of millions of users be affected – but, even worse, their users might not like the updates and become inactive. Simply put, if they cannot keep a solid daily active user base, they’re not performing. As switching costs are so low between these two platforms, that it’s no surprise that they are copying each other’s features left, right and centre to keep their users ever-satisfied, and giving them no reason to leave.

Snapchat’s IPO has been questioned due to a lack of sustainable business model (aka – the advertising is not cutting it) and competition is hotter than ever – especially with Instagram’s recent updates, which are almost a carbon copy of the Snapchat platform (even Instagram even kept the wording ‘Stories’ when adding the Stories feature). I think a few things have really started to question Snapchat’s sustainability:

1. Snapchat filters are not as fun any more

Now that it’s Easter, we can expect hot cross buns, chocolate eggs, and an Easter Bunny filter. The Easter Bunny filter will be a 3D bunny head, slapped with a big Cadbury logo, followed by a barrage of cadbury-branded chocolate raining upon your screen. Haven’t we heard of all this before? Ever since acquiring Ukrainian firm “Looksery”, which develops Snap chat’s filters, Snapchat’s active users boomed again. It became a race to see who could update first and add a Story with the new flavour-of-the-month filter. It was, admittedly, a really fun move – and it’s still mildly entertaining to look at new filters as they come out. However, they are simply not as entertaining. Further, Snapchat is paywalling nearly every new filter they release. It’s pretty obvious that Snapchat is scrounging to find where to monetize – filters, ads within stories, ads above your friends’ my stories – and it’s ruining the experience while they are at it.

2. Instagram integrates features (e.g. Boomerang) perfectly

Boomerang was always that awkward app that you had to open up, send to Instagram, begin to post – then decide your image wasn’t smooth enough. So you’d take the Boomerang again. Then after 10 tries and switching back and forth, you’d finally publish it on Instagram. To make it worse, you’d have a big “Made by Boomerang” logo under your photo. Organically ingraining it into the Instagram platform, means that it’s super easy to add Boomerangs to your profile – and let’s be honest, people love Boomerangs. There just seems to be something fun about making a never ending video. It’s a prime example of acquiring an App and integrating them seamlessly into an existing platform. Snapchat’s giving that a go with Bitmoji (where you cartoon-ify yourself), and the most recent update allows you to link Bitmojis to your best friends – yet this feels incredibly clunky, and is another remind as to how they are lost when it comes to defining their user experience.

3. Instagram Stories are a classier Snapchat

Being an image sharing service, Instagram users are always conscious of what they upload, and their audience reflects that. Instagram feels like the platform where you go to share your best images – your best locations – your best experiences. Snapchat, on the other hand, has always acted as the service to send photos that you ‘get away with’. The whole provide is that it’s quick – it deletes – you never see it again. On Sunday last week, I opened my Snapchat feed to see a whole heap of drunken videos, people swearing, and although it’s hilarious – it’s low production-value, intended for a quick laugh. That is fundamentally Snapchat’s purpose. My Instagram feed, however, had a bunch of check-ins in fancy places, people cheers-ing nice drinks, and some fantastic scenery. It’s almost as if the Instagram Stories are for pre drinks, Snapchats are for afters. Overall, Instagram differentiated themselves really well.

4. Snapchat has lost it’s first-mover advantage

In the tech industry, it can be incredibly advantageous to be the second mover. Let the first company do all the work, have the infrastructure in place to copy them, then implement the incumbent’s functionality – and it’s true for both hardware and software alike. Instagram came in and copied the Snapchat UI almost to a tee – all they had to do was add a few more features – and they had a far better copy of the Snapchat platform. Within the stories section, there are some noticeable additions, including:

  • Filters
  • Mentions
  • Check ins

Funnily enough, these are the three core features of the Instagram platform (it was originally just a geo-location photo sharing service) – and they translate seamlessly into the story space. Instagram added the Stories layer as a means to enrich the current Insty user experience. The fact that each of these new filters is accessed via the ‘stickers’ menu on the Instagram story, proves how they see value in the post-processing of images, not pre-processing (like Snapchat’s filters) – and I have a feeling that they won’t bother actually adding face filters at all.

Unlike Snapchat, it’s non-invasive, ad-free and extremely intuitive to use. Mentions are great for two reasons – it lets your friends know about this Instagram story feature (aka, why are you still using Snapchat), and secondly, it makes the platform more interactive. For example, your friend might be with someone you met a few weeks ago – you didn’t know they had Instagram, so you go ahead and follow them. Check-ins are simply pre-populating the already massive geo-location based image database that Instagram has. If you haven’t search by location yet, I highly recommend you do – it’s amazing how many people have uploaded photos in the same place as you.

 5. Instagram has an identity, Snapchat an identity crisis

If Instagram can absorb Snapchat’s core functionality, it’s going to mean one less app you have to open. Instagram already served a great purpose – and in absorbing the functionality of another, why would you go anywhere else? This ties in the first three points I make, but it’s a really important point to make. A heap of people on Instagram Stories are actually just saving their Snapchat stories to their gallery, then re-uploading them to their Instagram Story. This suggests two things to me: (1) the friends they want to reach on Instagram, they don’t have on Snapchat; and/or (2) they value their Instagram audience in the same way that they value their Snapchat audience. If they want to share their stories, it suggests that although all their Snapchat friends are on Instagram, not all their Instagram friends are on Snapchat. So not only do people want to use it, but they are getting a wider audience, and Snapchat doesn’t have an as-important role to play any more.

Suffice to say, the ball is in Snapchat’s court – Snapchat is 100% going in incorporate a Boomerang-like feature in it’s next update, alongside some form of ‘live’, a user-tagging feature and geo-location check ins.

Watch this space.


How Facebook Knows What’s In Your Photos

There’s no denying that one of Facebook’s core competencies is image sharing. It’s why the platform is ridden with memes, it’s why we always have image-based ads, it’s why we have videos playing every 5 seconds on our news feed, it’s why we have display pictures, it’s why we have selfies…the list goes on. Images get messages across quickly, and you’re far more likely to consume an image than a block of text. Knowing the value Facebook places on imagery as a bastion for content, I thought I’d share some insights on the code that governs images within Facebook’s news feed. Here’s what I found:

Every image is analysed to see what’s in it

Every single image on your news feed has been analysed by Facebook. Within each image’s code, there is an ‘alt’ tag that begins with “Image may contain: ” – then lists what is present in the photo. If you have a look in the following image of me and a mate. You can see that within the code, it says:

Image May Contain: 2 people, sunglasses, beard and hat

Here’s another example that picked up a lot more detail:

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, sky, outdoor, water and nature.


Facebook achieves this by running analysis on any image, the moment you click ‘Upload’. The analysis is performed by  a neural network / machine learning algorithm, tears down the photo data, identifies what it looks visually similar to, and when it finds a set of similar images, it becomes part of the same system that recognised it. In essence, this is the core of the ‘learning’ side of machine learning – some other similar technologies include Google Image’s ‘Reverse Image Search’, as well as the Facebook photo-tagging feature. All of these services only get better with the more images that are uploaded.

As far as Facebook’s one is concerned – it looks like only very high level wording, and the most detail I got to was ‘trees’. Each keyword that appears comes as a result of the machine learning algorithm, and is assigned a confidence level – i.e. the machine is 91% sure that the image contains a tree. I would have thought that there is a lot more detail behind these images, but the high level ones are presented to ensure accuracy.

The cool

The great thing about the “Image may contain” text is that it complies with web accessibility standards – so vision impaired people can scroll through their feed and know what type of images are appearing before them. Web accessibility is incredibly important to ensure that everyone can have access to content on the internet, and that it is ever inclusive.

The scary

As a user, if I start to get targeted with a whole heap of ads / content, simply because of my image data, I’m going to start to be a little worried. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on Facebook’s platform, but it could be to do with targeted advertising (e.g. if Facebook were to sell this image analysis data) – if I start to see things like “We’ve noticed you haven’t been on a beach holiday in the last 2 years! Click here to book one” or “What happened to your favourite sunnies? Replace them here for half price” – I wouldn’t know whether to feel impressed or worried. These are all very tangible options for Facebook to pursue, and talks to the broader argument on data ownership, data analysis, and the extent to which corporations can mine your data.

I’m pretty on the fence about this one – let me know what you think below.


What is Tidbits?

Conversations have been absolutely burgeoning of late, specifically regarding the dramatic shifts we are witnessing in the Tech industry. Referring to “Tech Industry” is far too broad and uninteresting to comment on as a whole. So I’m taking tidbits from the Tech industry and commenting on them.

All views are my own, and I’m using this medium to hopefully start some valuable online conversation – something I think readers and viewers alike will enjoy. The internet is fertile ground for starting good conversation, discussion, argumentation; and I hope that Tidbits can play a part in that.

I’ve currently only linked this to a select few of you, in an attempt to both garner feedback and also to start some great conversations with like minded people. A long term goal of mine has been to create a rich, interactive social discussion platform, free from ads + memes, and shared between tightly-knit people, and I’m hoping this can start something similar.