Commentary

Internet-Connected Pet Feeder Fails, World Takes Note

The technology powering the Internet of Things is hardly perfected.

There will be bumps and failures along the way and some will be highlighted more than others, for a host of reasons, as I wrote about here a while back (Self-Driving Car Fatal Failure: Realistic Expectations Of The Internet Of Things).

One of the latest – and this one is getting worldwide attention – involves the failure of an Internet-connected automatic pet feeder.

Turns out there was a glitch in the $149 Petnet SmartFeeder, an IoT device that can be pre-programmed to dispense food to pets at certain times of the day. The server that runs the system failed for a number of hours, which was later restored.

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The failure is being widely reported, some with somewhat dramatic headlines. Here are a few:

  • “Pets go hungry after auto-feeding app Petnet suffers server outage” (International Business Times)
  • “Cats, dogs starve as Web-connected show chute Petnet plays dead” (The Register)
  • “Petnet smart feeders break, leaving pets without food” (The Independent)
  • “Pets starve yourself after Internet-connected feeding application Petnet suffers server outage” (Worldwide Business Occasions)
  • “Family pets left hungry after ‘smart feeder’ fail” (The Daily Express)
  • “Internet-connected pet feeders suffer server outage, leaving pets hungry and owners miffed” (Daily Dot)

The Internet of Things also was singled out in some headlines. Here’s what I mean:

  • “Now you too can starve your pet with the Internet of Things” (Gizmodo)
  • “Your dog could go hungry if you’re too dependent on the Internet of Things” (Motherboard)

There undoubtedly will be technical issues as the Internet of Things grows. A lot of this stuff is not simple.

The popular Nest thermostat also had some issues this week as the heatwave caused outages, since the devices obviously require an Internet connection to function through the app.

While many consumers may not be aware of the term ‘Internet of Things,’ they often will be made quite aware when there is a failure within it. Any product marketing may have to include contingencies for failures, even those that are temporary.

When the Internet of Things works well, no one tends to notice.

When it doesn’t, it will be visible for all to see.

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The world of wearables will be discussed in detail at the coming MediaPost IoT Marketing Forum Aug. 3 in New York. Check out the agenda here.

6 comments about "Internet-Connected Pet Feeder Fails, World Takes Note ".
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  1. Len Stein from Visibility Public Relations, July 29, 2016 at 9:38 a.m.

    do we really want to place ourselves at the complete mercy of these IoT even as system failures are guaranteed from time to time. then what about the potential for disastrous hacks? do we want someone in Russia or China to lock us into our house, turn the heat up to max, defrost the fridge, disable our cell phones, lock our car doors/windows, turn our stereo up to 110 db... surely we will read about this soon...

  2. Michael Strassman from WGBH, July 29, 2016 at 12:15 p.m.

    It's an old story...increasing the complexity of systems increases the risk of failure. Put more technology in cars, it's a lot easier for something to go wrong that the average mechanic can't fix. Leverage a computer and the Internet to feed your pet, and there's a good chance something will go wrong. We keep adding technology and complexity to the systems around us, but at some point you have to ask whether simpler wouldn't be better in some cases and whether the technology is really mature enough to trust. We are too inclined to throw technology at a problem without asking those questions. 

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, July 29, 2016 at 5:07 p.m.

    If that does get done, Len, people certainly be reading about it, at the very least.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, July 29, 2016 at 5:08 p.m.

    Points well taken, Michael, although much of technology does work most of the time.

  5. Rick Thomas from MediaRich Marketing, July 29, 2016 at 7:44 p.m.

    I will just feed my dog the old fashioned way...put the bowl down...scoop the nuggets...pour in to the bowl.  Job well done.     

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, July 29, 2016 at 9:20 p.m.

    Those types of methods still work, Rick.

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