IoT Showdown: Machines Win in First Human Battle with the BOTs

I knew it was a bad sign when my hotel room in London had a set of scales in the bathroom. Not that I discovered that the first day -- it was only my second night I figured out how to turn the light on. Hunting for a switch was futile because there wasn't one. That's because I was in the IoT zone, and I was losing the battle with the machines.

I was staying in a super-modern hotel: Everything in the room had been automated and was controlled by three discount Android tablets, the kind your kids won't use because they're too slow and the touchscreens need a hammer to make them react -- the kind of hammer I wish I'd had ready to hand at the end of my four days in the IoT zone.

Adopting IoT too early can certainly be a problem… when drapes can only be closed with a button… when turning off the "mood lighting" turns on every light in the middle of the night… when trying to leave the room is almost impossible because the IoT door lock won't open when you take your key out of the main power slot before you exit (note to designers -- don't make door locks dependent on power, when people always turn off power before leaving).

Aside from being blinded in the night, stumbling in the bathroom and being burned by a shower that offered IoT temperature control (from a tablet in another room), I'd say the accommodations were comfortable. I was comforted by the real-time weather on the TV, where it was always sunny, even in the middle of the night, and the clock suggested we had gone back in time to before I was born. My wife would have loved it -- she's a big fan of music from the early 1970s, but I was so busy trying to figure out why the room phone couldn't call the front desk, that even with the extra 45 years of time I had been granted I never did get through to her.

Back to the Future
It was 1970, apparently, and conditions were changeable in my hotel room...
It was 1970, apparently, and conditions were changeable in my hotel room...

When the TV remote has no power button (and is on by default) and the tablet-based control has on and off inverted, it can take a while to get some peace. That's when the climate system woke up and it became very, very cold. I started up the app, but it took about a minute before the current status appeared -- with little snowflake icons and all. When I started to configure it to warm up, the message "bathroom app has crashed" met my confused stare.

So to warm up the room I simply ran the scolding shower a little, and all was well.

What does this mean in our bid to hand over simple things to the M2M world? It's the same message I get from operators trying to virtualize before NFV is really ready for prime time: It's possible, it can be done in theory, but be ready for a rocky ride. My experience is similar to some NFV network deployments we've seen: replacing a physical device with a virtual one can result in sub-par performance, especially if you don't plan, test, assure and optimize performance as you make the migration.

In my case, I was lucky -- if I pressed the right button someone would clean up the mess for me. The only problem was that the "Clean Room" button was somehow linked to "Do not Disturb" on the display outside my door.

Who's ready for connected cars?

— Scott Sumner, VP solutions marketing, Accedian Networks

Kruz 9/28/2015 | 10:00:55 AM
Re: I heard about this during the stay.... I find this interesting and would love to have an IoT experience in any hotel I go to. As we move forward, this is be eventually fine tuned to perfection, as with every new technology. There should have been maybe an option for all devices to revert to manual :) as a backward compatible feature.
nasimson 9/22/2015 | 9:08:50 AM
Hotels - the first customers of IoT I see restaurants, airlines and hotels as the early adopters of IoT. Given their obvious cost savings, relative ease of deployment and numerous use cases; it's an easy sell. Such bad experiences will only be the beginnings.
[email protected] 9/21/2015 | 4:59:30 PM
Re: I heard about this during the stay.... At least the elevators had buttons for the floors!
cnwedit 9/21/2015 | 4:56:25 PM
Re: I heard about this during the stay.... I'm wondering why a hotel room would seem the ideal place for IoT unless management thinks it can save money by turning off lights, controlling water temp and generally limiting power consumption.

In which case, having lights that come on in the middle of the night, remote controls that never sleep and water that is too hot seems to defeat all the purposes, for hotel owner and guest alike. 

And I'm guessing they bought the Android tablets in bulk before massive construction delays...
[email protected] 9/21/2015 | 4:48:50 PM
Re: I heard about this during the stay.... Let's spare the hotel the notariety of being named, let's just say it's still new enough that the top floors are still under construction! Wonder how they got such old Android tablets?
[email protected] 9/21/2015 | 4:47:13 PM
Re: I heard about this during the stay.... Always bring your own connectivity (and lighting, blinds, emergency tools). Especially when you'll be somewhere remote... remotely modern!
Susan Fourtané 9/21/2015 | 4:05:11 PM
Re: I heard about this during the stay.... I can only see a configuration problem. What hotel was this? -Susan
[email protected] 9/21/2015 | 1:11:26 PM
I heard about this during the stay.... I met Scott in London while he was staying in this hotel and experiencing what was a losing battle with his room... which amazingly he had not trashed (though that would have required a separate app)

It was funny for me to listen to his experiences... I am not going to so readily complain about flakey hotel WiFi again.  
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