alltime

The Internet of Shittiest Things: ExtremeTech’s All-Time Hall of Shame

I’ve written to a lot of topics at ET, from CPUs and semiconductors to archaeology, but cataloguing bad Internet of Things devices has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s not because I hate the IoT — I genuinely don’t — but because so many Internet of Things devices are more properly classified as belonging to the Internet of Shit or Internet of Shitty Things:

The IoST has delivered quite a few gems over the years. Here are a few of the best. Some of these we’ve talked about at ExtremeTech before and some are new to this article.

#5. GE Smart Ovens That Require WiFi to Cook

When it comes to the …”as a service” model that’s become increasingly popular, legacy brands like GE are at a disadvantage. Many of these manufacturers cut their teeth in an era when a company’s quality was measured by how little the customer interacted with it post-sale. “You know why I buy Whirlpool?” I remember my grandfather telling me as we drove past a local manufacturing plant a few decades back. “Because they never break down. You never have to deal with the company.”

I can’t speak to the merits of Whirlpool appliances circa 1985, but GE’s decision to ship ovens that require mandatory internet connections before they’ll cook reminded me that companies used to literally compete on how rare your future contact with them would be. These days, not so much. This particular “optimization” came to light earlier this year, when David Barnard discovered his brand-new oven wouldn’t use the “Convection Roast” option if he didn’t connect to the internet first.

Merely being connected wasn’t enough. According to a later tweet, his oven wouldn’t unlock convection cooking unless he agreed to share its exact location.

Whenever someone asks me what a phrase like “late stage capitalism” means, I think of moments like this. I haven’t bought an oven recently, but I’m pretty sure “Wanders around the neighborhood when not in use” is the kind of information that makes it into the ad copy. Presuming the oven isn’t ambulatory, it’s going to be in the exact same place at all times — which means the customer who uses it is also likely to be in the exact same place.

In an earlier era when computers were dumber and humans less so, the exact location of the oven is the kind of thing the company inferred from warranty cards and service calls. Now, you’re expected to turn over

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