The Internet of Things hype continues unabated, with companies allegedly hiring Chief IoT officers, though a quick search on the Indeed website failed to throw up any ads. However, today I came across a news item that genuinely deserves a bit of hype. While all sorts of technologies and products get pitched as an IoT play, Amazon’s Dash service is a genuine internet of things application. In a nutshell this service allows companies to use Amazon as a fulfilment service for consumables such as printer ink, washing machine detergent, water softener cartridges etc.
Your household appliances are getting smarter: think printers that re-order ink when you’re low, or washers that dispense just the right amount of detergent then send you more before you run out. This is the promise of Amazon’s “Dash Replenishment”-powered devices, the first group of which is becoming Dash-enabled today, the company says.
By apparently using a few lines of code to call an API, a device manufacturer can easily create an automatic re-ordering system for its consumables. Although companies like HP are promoting such systems for automatic printer ink purchasing, no company has the same scale of e-commerce customer base as Amazon. This explains why Amazon appear to have been pretty successful in linking up partnerships with companies such as Whirlpool, Britta, GE and Samsung for a wide range of domestic appliances and equipment such as washing machines and printers. They have even signed up Gmate, a manufacturer of glucose meters to automatically send strips when running low.
So why is all this exciting? Primarily because it takes the user out of the direct engagement with the end service. The appliance (i.e. a thing) autonomously decides to purchase a refill of whatever it consumes whenever stocks are running low. There is no direct engagement or instruction by the user after the system is set up, and consequently we have a ‘thing’ interacting with an Internet service. This is as true a consumer IoT service as I can think of, and yet another example of Amazon’s quest to make online buying as ‘frictionless’ as possible. Whether this service will result in cases of bill shock remains to be seen!