Self-stocking internet fridge faces a delivery come down

There is no place I can hide, there is no place I can go


Something for the Weekend, Sir? In the future, I will keep a vibrator in my shoes.

This will allow me to walk down the street without having to hold it in my hands or stick it into my ear.

My satnav smartphone, that is.

With the help of Hi-Tec’s Navigator, vibrating pods in my footwear will guide me left and right along my walking route without recourse to such old-fashioned concepts as a display or audio instructions.

Yes, indeed, with my sole-moulded vibrators, I will be able to walk through the streets with my hands free, a smile on my face and my er… head held high.

Hopefully this will eliminate the wrong turnings due to Google Maps’ erroneous audio guide that frequently yet inaccurately tells me to “turn left” when I should “turn right” (and vice-versa) regardless of what the street map itself indicates on-screen.

So irritating is this bug in Google Maps’ audio that I feel compelled to upgrade to an iPhone 7 simply to prevent myself from plugging my earphones into it in the first place. For the full idiot experience, I might also make the switch to Apple Maps, despite its inexplicable obsession on geolocating me somewhere in the middle of Gloucestershire when I’m in central London.

Anyway, the future sounds like an exciting place to be and I look forward to it. By the very fact that I’m not yet dead, I have always considered myself to be a time traveller, and so should you.

Let us stride into the future together, a steely determination in our eyes and and a tingly vibration in our socks, and see what comes.

Like many sci-fi fans, I am fascinated how bits of tech eventually make their way from fiction to reality but never quite turn out as the futurists predict. We got the communicators but not the phasers, for example, which is probably just as well.

There are many theories of why this is so but I have narrowed it down to two.

First, and most obvious, is that tech development gets sidetracked or even hijacked by the general silliness known as “popular demand”.

Left to their own devices, VR developers would already have doctors swimming down patients’ virtual arteries, Fantastic Voyage-style, doing (literally) cutting-edge medical things such as clearing blockages, curing illnesses and monitoring the tightness of Raquel Welch’s wetsuit.

Instead, we are still stuck with clunky hardware and a seemingly endless stream of wonky 3D games that struggle to keep anyone’s attention for more than five seconds.

Such is the the hijacking of VR by the entertainment industry that Ubisoft’s Nosulus Rift looks as if it could be a real product.

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My other theory is that technology development tends to be managed and directed by consultant systems analysts and pointy haired bosses who confuse form and factor.

I was reminded of such goofiness again this week during the WMA Fintech Conference by a speaker who ingeniously challenged attendees to predict what financial services would be like in 2030 – from the viewpoint of someone living in 2020.

The speaker was no idle futurist but he did refer in passing to the various ridiculous trials currently taking place for drone delivery services. The latest concept, he assured us, involved your internet-connected fridge (groan) automatically ordering more milk which would then be delivered by drone – not to your door but into the fridge itself.

Apparently, your IoT-enabled front door would recognise the drone as it approached. It would then unlock itself and swing open to allow the drone to fly into your house, navigate its way to the kitchen and pop the pint into the fridge, which has also obligingly opened up to accept its milky load.

I suspect the designers of this system have sexual frustration issues.

I also suspect they have never bought milk and that their concept of “a fridge” is derived from their extensive experience of staying in seven-star business hotels in Shanghai.

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t reserve specific locations in my fridge for specific quantities of specific items of specific shape like I was some obsessive fucking psychopath. Rather, everything just gets packed in as best I can on my return from Tesco, even if that means squeezing one carton of soya lengthways on top of the broccoli and leftovers from last night’s lentil moussaka.

As for my front door opening up to the drone, what kind of utter loon thought this one up? The last thing I want is one hackable device talking to another hackable device on my doorstep while my futuristic local burglar of 2020, who has just hacked into my fridge to make it think I’ve run out of milk, patiently waits at my front porch for the imminent drone delivery to save him the trouble of bringing a crowbar.

If you want to experience the insecurity of keyless entry systems for yourself, ask a VW owner to lend you his electronic car-key fob. Or you could read this detailed paper (PDF) by engineers at the University of Birmingham and learn how to do it yourself.

One way or other, VW will have you hacking… that is, a hacking cough from the exhaust fumes.

An even more likely scenario is that Amazon’s delivery drone has arrived at your door but is unable to access your front door security for some utterly inexplicable reason known only to the Semiconductor Gods themselves.

This kind of thing happens all the time to me. I can enter a password four times, very slowly and carefully, and be rejected, and yet if I stand up and shout “Let me in you stupid bugger!” very loudly, on the fifth occasion the exact same password will suddenly work.

Just the other night, I was helping Mrs Dabbsy close up shop at the local gym and the overnight burglar alarm simply refused to be set. We entered the trigger code again and again but it just stared back at us. No 10 seconds of warning bleeps, no error message, no indication of what it wanted. It was as if it was in a sulk.

As we stood there wondering whether shouting at it would make a difference, the full-on burglar alarm spontaneously sprang into life without warning – and continued relentlessly and deafeningly, much to the enjoyment of residents nearby. At 10pm.

We entered the stop code. And did it again. And again. Nothing but arroga-arrooga.

Losing patience, the sensible Mrs D called a colleague for help and set off to collect her by car.

Some 20 minutes later, my ears numb from the noise and fingertips numb from pressing the same stop code about 400 times, the help arrived. Pushing through the crowd of onlookers that had gathered at the door, she walked up to the keypad and pressed the stop code – the EXACT SAME stop code that I’d been using, mind – and the bastard alarm was instantly silenced.

This is what the future will be like.

Your delivery drone will arrive at your front door but the passcode won’t work to let it in. Unfortunately, Amazon has outsourced this particular delivery to Yodel – a company named after the sound its customers make when they discover where their deliveries ended up.

You return home to find two broken bottles of milk that the drone has tossed into your back garden. A third has been dropped – and smashed – on a neighbour’s doorstep.

Luckily, a fourth bottle is intact but it appears to have been thrown onto your roof, from where it rolled back into the guttering. Unfortunately, you only discover this four weeks later during a rainstorm.

And so it will be for everything devised by analysts who assume everything will always be in a specific place and do as it’s told. I’m not and I don’t, nor does anything else in my experience.

Vibrating shoes aside, these flights of fancy are due for a big come down, I suspect. Got to get back to the bottom.

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Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He buys his milk in long-life cartons so he is hoping his supermarket drones will be able to open kitchen cupboard doors. Especially the one next to the plates, because the hinge is a bit stiff and he doesn’t want the onions to roll out. FBI Update: 13.5kg


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