THE fanfare has gone on for years. Analysts have repeatedly predicted that the “internet of things”, which adds sensors and internet capability to everyday physical objects, could transform the lives of individuals as dramatically as the spread of the mobile internet. Providers have focused on the home, touting products such as coffee pots that turn on when the alarm clock rings, lighting and blinds that adjust to the time of day, and fridges that send an alert when the milk runs out. But so far consumers have been largely resistant to making their homes “smart”.

That’s not for want of trying by tech firms, which have poured cash into their efforts to connect everyday objects to the internet. In 2014 Google made the biggest statement of intent so far, spending $3.2 billion to acquire Nest, a smart thermostat-maker, and $550m to buy Dropcam, which makes home-security cameras. Nest absorbed Dropcam; it is now one of the best-known smart-home brands. But it is also a warning about how long it will take for such gadgets to enter the mainstream.

Nest has undoubtedly disappointed Google. It sold just 1.3m smart thermostats in 2015,...Continue reading