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The Internet of Dumb Things: Do we really need this crap?

Another year, another Consumer Electronics Show. Another cascade of connected clutter. Do we really need any of it? 

That’s perhaps a fairly silly, Luddite question to pose on a tech-based site. We don’t really require anything other than what’s sketched out in Maslow’s oft-cited hierarchy of needs

Nevertheless, an innovative product will solve a problem that’s itching to be solved, cut corners and generally make your life easier, nicer and better. They’re not requisites for life, but enhancers – a condiment sachet to life’s fish and chips. 

But some of what’s been served up this year is really unnovative and will actually make your life less pleasent – the equivalent of salad cream. 

Here’s a few of the worst offenders from CES 2015 and why that thing you think is cool might not actually be that great. 

Recombu’s Chris Barraclough gives his frank and honest opinion of the Ring

What an absolute Ring piece

Of all the guff we’ve seen not just this year but ever, Logbar’s Ring is close to being the worst, just a hair above the chocolate fireguard and its less well-known cousin, the blancmange dildo. 

Not only does this ridiculous accessory take the already questionable product niche of wearables to a dull new level, the original incarnation didn’t even work half the time, mainly because the designers made it out of zinc, a substance that actually interferes with phone signals. Nice one, dorks!

But even when its did, the magical Ring, as well as conferring a Peerless Aura of Sexual Repulsion and +100 Radiant Geekery, allowed us to perform such miracles as flicking light switches on and shutting curtains. 

I mean, shutting curtains. That was a such a burden before the Ring came along. However did we cope? 

All ‘smart’ kettles and plant waterers do is timeshift your responsibility

Things like smart kettles and plant sprinklers seem to solve little more than solve the problem of sheer human laziness.

What kind of slothful slime can’t exist in a world where his or her coffee has to be made by what’s basically a glorified Teasmade? 

Barring the obvious boon something like this would present to people with accessibility issues, for most folks, WiFi-connected kettles are a decadent waste of atoms. 

Now, tapping a few buttons on your phone to get a coffee going when you’re hungover would be convenient. But if you ask me, a time-honoured part of the hangover-beating process is forcing yourself to take those tentative, agonising, vertigo-inducing steps out of bed.

That hangover’s not going to move on its own, so stop being a bitch and face it. Do the walk of shame to the kitchen and make your own damn coffee.

Likewise, Parrot’s latest plant watering products are essentially demi-solutions that timeshift when you having to pour water into something. 

This isn’t home automation, it’s delegation. That Smarter Coffee machine will need refilling at some point. Until such a time that individual coffee beans can be be pooed out of a 3D-printer (preferably one shaped like a civet cat for added lolz) colour me unimpressed. 

Isn’t this defeating the object of a smart lock?

Behold my magical keys with their limitless power supply

Do you know what’s great about keys? No batteries. They don’t need charging. They don’t need syncing. They don’t need software updates. They can’t be taken out by power failures. 

Imagine being locked out of your house by a Blue Screen of Death? Imagine not being able to get in when it’s hammering it down because your phone won’t sync properly. 

To be fair, I don’t know how robust and calamity-proof these things actually are but I think it’s pretty telling that the Kevo actually has a keyhole in it. It’s almost as if the designers knew that this particular wheel didn’t need reinventing. 

For me, the best possible use for a smart lock would be one that acts like a (literal) turnkey; you open your front door and then that triggers all manner of things like the hall lights coming on. 

If you could make a smart lock trigger a Sonos speaker so that it played your individual entrance theme when you walked through the door I might warm to the idea – if only because I know it’d annoy the hell out of my flatmates. 

When is a 4K TV not a 4K TV?

It’s 2015. Why is 4K TV still not ready?

Connected bobbins aside, it’s disappointing to see boatloads of new shiny 4K tellies hitting the stands at CES when the broadcast standards for 4K TV are still not being close to finished.

Sure, Quantum Dots and more sub-pixels will make everything look a little nicer but until I can go to Currys PC World and buy a TV that will let me watch Homeland, Game of Thrones or Wet ‘n Wild British Mums in 4K I simply won’t care. 

I don’t care if the TV you’ve bought has a twatty little sticker on the side – if you can’t watch 4K broadcast TV on it, it’s not a 4K TV

If you shell out for a 105-inch flexible TV, nobody on God’s green earth is going to laugh harder than me if it transpires that it’s not good enough to watch Sky Sports 4K. I will personally come over to your house and laugh in your eyes. 

A glimmer of good news comes in the form of the UHD Alliance – the US industry is finally working towards making 4K broadcast standards happen. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only truly decent thing to happen at CES this year. 

Here’s to the UHD Alliance working together with the UK UHD Forum and making some real, actual, genuine progress in defining the next stage of high definition TV. 

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