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The Uncertain Future of Smart Devices:

And why it should matter to you...

A Tale of Fitbit and Beyond

IT was nice to be asked on a programme that my parents listen to avidly. The You and Yours programme on Radio 4. To talk about Fitbits, technology, health and AI and why we should be thinking about what happens now.

As in recent years, the technology landscape has seen a steady rise in the number of smart devices, from smartwatches to AI-powered cars. Leading this pack is Fitbit, a brand that has captured the hearts of fitness enthusiasts worldwide. However, the company has faced a barrage of challenges following its acquisition by tech giant Google, raising critical questions about the future of smart devices.

It has important implications for ALL technology, especially AI. And I talk about AI and the future of work a lot as a keynote speaker about technology and AI. Sadly, unlike my keynotes which can be done remotely but they are always live, the radio show was a pre-record. All my clever bits about the future and AI could be taken out. And they were. Which inspired this blog to discuss them instead…

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The Fitbit Saga

A series of software updates, particularly for the Fitbit Charge 5, have reportedly caused significant problems for users, rendering some devices virtually unusable. Despite Fitbit's denial of these claims, the issue continues to be a point of contention within the user community.

Google's Involvement in Fitbit

Adding to the tumult is growing concern over Google's increasing involvement in Fitbit's operations. Fitbit accounts, a major part of the brand's identity, will reportedly remain active only until 'early 2025', after which users will need a Google account to access their fitness data. This development has led to speculation about a slow phasing out of Fitbit, fueling dissatisfaction among loyal users.

The Human Cost

The human cost of these strategic decisions cannot be overlooked. Google's restructuring has resulted in hundreds of Fitbit staff being laid off, leaving the remaining workforce apprehensive about their future. This move, coupled with the departure of Fitbit founders, marks a significant shift in the company's trajectory. But did Google mean to do this and should it be allowed to happen?

The Broader Picture: The Smart Device Market

While Fitbit grapples with its internal issues, the broader smart device market is not immune to challenges. The rise of smartphones with advanced fitness tracking capabilities threatens the relevance of specialized devices like smartwatches. Google's Pixel watches have not been entirely free of issues either, with reports of setup problems persisting. And so is Google just buying up and then destroying it’s competition. A story as old as the hills itself.

The Future of Smart Devices: A Cause for Concern?

A pressing question emerges from this backdrop: will the future of smart devices be marred by software issues that render them useless over time? Will your Apple headset, your Tesla car, or your home AI device one day stop working due to a software glitch?

The thought is indeed unsettling. As we become increasingly reliant on smart devices, the consequences of such failures can range from minor inconveniences to significant disruptions in our daily lives.

This is no small thing. What if Google or someone stops support for a key piece of tech infrastructure. What if they do so with an AI product. Something which is literally running a part of your company. What if tech companies are allowed to do the same thing with all hardware in the future. This is not just a big deal for consumers but for businesses to think about as well.

The Need for Legislation

This highlights the urgent need for laws that protect consumers from such eventualities. As technology evolves, so should the legislation that governs it. We need robust policies that ensure companies are held accountable for the longevity and reliability of their products, particularly when software updates are concerned.

In conclusion, the Fitbit saga serves as a cautionary tale for the tech industry. As consumers, it's crucial to stay informed and demand accountability from the makers of the devices we use daily. And as a society, it's high time we push for legislation that safeguards our interests in the face of rapid technological advancement.

Cameraman NO.

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References for the piece:

In his spare time, as well as being a dad, which comes first, Dan is a digital marketing and technology (and now AI) expert for TV shows and the BBC and countless radio shows.

Occasionally donning the cape of consumer champion on shows like BBC WatchDog, the One Show and RipOffBritain and being a marketing tech specialist for SuperShoppers and RealFakeAndUnknown and BBC Breakfast.

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