Alex's Agenda

Why cats hate the Internet of Things

By Alex Wood 2 December 2015

Alex reveals why cats and the Internet of Things can never be friends.

Welcome to Alex’s Agenda, the new weekly column from the front-lines of the future by The Memo’s Editor in Chief, Alex Wood.

At parties when I tell people I’m a tech writer people like to ask questions. As my long-suffering lawyer fiancé likes to remind me, I’m the one with the “interesting job”.

Without fail, the conversation quickly turns to the subject of gadgets. “Do you get to try out lots of new tech?” they ask.

And I do. I’m often one of the first to get their hands on the latest tech and try it out at home. But it’s not always good news. When you review gadgets, things can go wrong. And none more so than in the endlessly overhyped world of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).

The tech you’ve been waiting for

If you haven’t heard of IoT before it’s the art of making everyday objects connected to the internet. If you’ve ever dreamed of tweeting from your wifi-connected fridge, this, my friend, is the tech you’ve been waiting for.

In 2015, the Internet of Things is both brilliant and awful in equal measures. Connected thermostat: brilliant – I can warm the house up before I get home. Connected slow cooker: bonkers – I could just start cooking before I left the house. My beef bourguignon belongs in the 20th century and can stay there.

Kittens and robot vacuum cleaners do not get on, despite what you've seen on YouTube.

My kitten and I have been having trouble with the latest addition to the family, nicknamed Roboto-chan, our new robot vacuum cleaner, which is a cross between a drunk domestic cleaner and a possessed pair of bathroom scales.

Roboto-chan and the kitten got off to a rocky start. Most cats hate vacuum cleaners at the best of times, but this seemingly unpredictable robo-vac sent him over the edge.

I thought they’d hit it off. I found countless YouTube clips of cats wearing shark costumes while riding robot vacs, effortlessly gliding across the kitchen floor. The kitten wasn’t impressed by the videos. And after being chased around the front room by Roboto-chan, he’s in no mood to try on any shark costumes.

When Roboto-chan works he’s bloody brilliant. Who wouldn’t love that freshly cleaned home feeling every evening? If like me you turn the kitchen into a bombsite every time you cook, Roboto-chan is a godsend. But it feels like I’ve inherited another pet. Most nights I come home to find him lying on his back crying because for Roboto-chan, cats are an occupational hazard.

A seemingly innocent looking toy mouse is game over for Roboto-chan and his daily clean. Once he’s gobbled up a cat toy, he can never recover. The only solution I’ve found is tidying the house before he starts his clean, regrettably I’ve brought the world of cleaner guilt right into the 21st century.

Kitten has made it clear that Roboto-chan is not for him, and I’m not sure he’s for me either.

As I started writing this column I got an email from Roboto-chan’s PR. “Hi Alex… we’ve just launched a new robot vacuum cleaner with built-in wifi”. I turned to the kitten and wondered what could possibly go wrong.

Read the first edition of Alex’s Agenda where Alex travels North and finds the startup dream alive and well.