Frenemies for Life













I am always impressed by the power of the cartoonist. In many cases, the artist is able to convey a very powerful message, even without the inclusion of text.

Generally speaking, an artist’s rendition of an idea or recent event is not particularly expensive. But the power of the message can be tremendous. What I find especially intriguing is how subtle visual cues can evoke very powerful emotions. In dictatorships, the powers that be fully recognize that a 2000 word essay may be far less effective  than a single visual.

Neuropsychologically, this has to do at least partially with the way in which visual imagery is processed and the pathways that the interpreted visual information flows through. Any time there is even possible contact with those areas of our brains that deal with emotion, a simple visual cue can be frighteningly effective.

When I first looked at this cartoon, I had the impression of a run-down apartment, with a leaking refrigerator, and the protagonist rushing out the front door into another puddle. One gets the impression of neglect of the protagonist’s environment, and then the nagging message to purchase milk. My interpretation of this graphic is a negative one. One definitely does not get the idea of an Internet of Things system that is helpful to the user. Instead, it seems as if the computer system that has identified this lack of milk, is totally blind to the other major issues going on around the house.

I have no doubt that many people perceive Internet of Things (IoT)’s solutions as being just more software and hardware that needs to be installed [after being paid for], and that has a minimal if any positive effect on a person’s day-to-day life. The obvious question then is why anyone would purchase and install such a fumbled environment. The answer is pretty universal and also pretty standard: everything in its first and even second marketing cycle tends to be glitchy. Those individuals who are brave enough to install version 1 of almost anything, recognize that they are allowing themselves to be guinea pigs. Some people find this exciting. Some people enjoy  being from the first commentators on a system, such that they can feel a certain degree of pride in having helped to debug a critical technology.

Let’s take a second look at the cartoon and imagine the same scenario but presented somewhat differently. The protagonist would be sitting in his chair, watching TV via a pair of augmented reality glasses. In the drawing, there would be a pop-up that lists the following:

5 AM:  refrigerator is leaking [having been detected by an IoT sensor]
5:01 AM: automated call to refrigerator service. Response: technician will arrive at 6 AM
5:30 AM: technician arrives, internal pump replaced, service paid for via Google pay, receipt generated, review of quality of service submitted by client
6 AM: breakfast was 3-D printed and four family members were fed
6:30 AM: three children off to school in self driving car. Father and mother off to work in their self driving car. After locking the front door, Roomba cleans spilled fluids on the kitchen floor

It will unquestionably take a significant amount of time until everything is hooked up. Imagine having an IoT system book a medical appointment for you. These days in the United States, the scheduling program would have to take into account what insurance you are a member of and then select the best option from the list of available physicians. The algorithm for deciding what is best specifically for you or for your wife or for your children, will be different than the algorithm used by your neighbor. But it is  just a matter of time before this degree of recording of your preferences is standard for every service founded on IoT principles.

There is the famous expression that you should not just have more days in your lives but you should have more life in your days. In a perfect environment, you simply don’t waste time. If an appliance doesn’t work, this triggers an automated set of rules that deal with calling in the technician and/or simply purchasing a new appliance. If it is your preference to first look at certain websites that sell secondhand appliances, then your personalized IoT will explore this option. My son, found me a great lazy boy chair via one of these web-based exchange programs. He still had to schlep it  from the original owner’s house to my house, but this saved me 1500 to 2000 shekels which was the cost of a totally new chair. On the other hand, if I was a person who never wanted secondhand, this option would simply not be explored.

One way or the other, time is saved. What do people tend to do with found time. They might take a nap [because they are constantly sleep deprived], they might read a book or they might do their work while traveling to the office. My superhuman wife does the shopping every week, but eventually, I believe that she will adopt the 3-D remote experience. So instead of spending 3 to 4 hours a week on shopping, she will get that time back. And definitely, my wife could use the extra sleep. What will happen to brick-and-mortar stores when pretty much all clients are using a 3-D remote shopping experience? No one knows. Things will definitely change, and that is why the marketing and sales planning departments of huge stores have to constantly be on the lookout for new sales models.

Three years is not a lot of time. But it seems as if it has become the new measure of a “generation” in the high-tech world. It will become critical to make use of all of the new toys that each generation of software introduces to the world. While it may be possible to skip a couple of generations of the updated systems, a clear effort will need to be made to restore one’s knowledge and skill base to the most up-to-date that there is. If not, the practicing physician will find himself being constantly corrected by the AI oversight system, that tracks every healthcare provider’s actions.

IoT is seen by many as the ultimate intrusion into our lives. Everything we do, will be measured and every action that does not follow guidelines will be put into question. Some physicians will enjoy working within a such a structured environment so that there is a right way and a wrong way to handle patients in any situation. Contrarily, some physicians will deny any benefit of such systems. Market forces and tracking of productivity will end up deciding for all of us.

Thanks for listening

My website is at




About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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