You don’t need a remote-controlled iKettle. You need remote controlled coffee in the morning

The kids are back to school and the wage-slaves are finally back to work, leaving the world blissfully quieter for retirees 😉 However, the silly season was extended over at the torygraph, who bring us the amazingly useless invention of…

This Smarter iKettle allows you to boil it remotely from your bedroom when you wake up, or when you’re on your way home from work. It will also tell you when your hot water is ready to pour, remind you to refill, and tell you when the kettle is empty.

the iKettle. Much like the Internet Connected fridge and the smartwatch, at £80 this is a solution in search of a problem. One which has had perfectly reasonable solutions ever since the 1960s, as the Telegraph very well knows. Indeed a search for the device shows it exercises the minds of our retired colonels-pining-for-the-glory-days-of-Empire an awful lot. Perhaps they had a crush on the woman in the ads back in the day 🙂

1509_teasmadeI like the enterprise of the British search of a morning cup of tea –

Mostly it was bought by a middle-aged, middle-income workforce who needed help getting out of their suburban beds.

Presumably they were sore that that the price of servants was so high in the 1970s… The Teasmade had some  positively lethal forerunners in the form of a methylated spirit burner lit by a match struck by the clockwork. What on earth could go wrong, eh – on a good day you rise to the pong of meths and stewed tea, on a bad day you get woken up by the smell of your house burning down. What’s not to like?

The trouble with the iKettle is that apart from a few people who drink hot though probably not boiling water as is, what you want to do with your boiled water is use it for something else, be that making beverages or boiling some spuds so you may as well go over there and press the damn button, and you tell whether the kettle has water in it by sloshing it about or listening to the noise. There is no need for the remote control at all. Indeed, if you want to spend money on simplifying your boiling water experience a Quooker tap is the way to go, you cut out all that filling the kettle first malarkey.

Tea? In the morning? What is this risible concept anyway?

The ermine household has no truck with the idea of tea, pretty much until 4pm. It’s coffee that is needed before the sun rises above the yardarm. Way back in working days I used a timer connected to a coffee machine in a gonzo version of the Teasmade and it served me well for years – far better to rise gradually to the smell of coffee than to some ghastly buzz or the latest Autotune hit. Obviously there’s no point in having an alarm as a retiree, so I have much sympathy with the concept of remote control – as long as it does the full job. So out with the timeswitch and in with the JS designs remote control mains socket. I have tried numerous Chinese cheapie remote switches, but they are all ghastly – no frequency control so if they work in summer they don’t in winter. What you really don’t need is one with a single switch that toggles state, because if the coffee is not in the same room you can’t get feedback on which state is ON. Separate on and off buttons, please.


JS uses a CR2032 cell, it’s easier for the Chinese crap alternatives to use one of those infernal 12V lighter batteries that has 10 LR44 coin cells in them, which makes running costs dear. I’m of the view that for something you get to use frequently it’s worth paying more to get something without rattiness, and lightwaveRF took all the Chinese rattiness[ref]investigation with a frequency counter of why the Chinese sockets would work some of the time showed they used a LC tuned circuit oscillator with a strip of PCB track inductor for frequency control of the TX, and were susceptible to temperature, humidity and hand capacity[/ref] away for me…

Anyway, the remote controlled mains socket and a lo-tech manual filter coffee machine that will power up if left switched on when the mains appears solves the problem the iKettle fails dismally – and you don’t have to putz about with a smartphone to launch coffee either.

There’s a certain fin de siècle decadence of something so complicatedly futile being exhibited at the IFA tradeshow as part of the leading edge. At least you could eat a chocolate teapot, and I have more admiration of the colonial entrepreneurs of over a century ago with their Heath-Robinson meths burners and matches. Let’s hear it from Stephen Covey and his Seven Habits of Successful People

Begin with the end in mind

You want a hot beverage at the end, not an excuse to piss about with a smartphone. [ref]While on the subject of smartphone driven hardware, experience has shown me that software has a much shorter mean-time-to-obsolescence than hardware. Any gizmo that needs an app to make it work will have the service life of a bluebottle, as Apple’s planned obsolescence orphans the app with an iOS upgrade.[/ref]. If we nailed this in 1902 we can keep to Covey’s maxim a century later.