The $70 Egg Tray and the Last Inch of Convenience

We’re on the brink of an explosion in home automation.  All of the technologies that make it possible are moving forward at light speed now.

The only question is:  how will it arrive?

The work we’ve been doing here on the future of the American Dream provides us with some insight into what the answer won’t be.

It won’t be: automation that solves the last inch of convenience.  For example, here’s a smart egg tray built by the company Quirky.

This egg tray actively measures the weight of each egg it holds, to find rotten eggs.

quirky egg

When it finds a rotten egg, it sends an alert to your iPhone.

egg 2

Wait for it.  Here’s the price.

egg sticker

Ouch.  No sale.

The problem with this product isn’t only the price.   I’d expect nearly any new form of home automation to be expensive during the early phases of this technological roll-out.

The big problem with this is conceptual.  It’s a product that automates convenience.  The problem is that we are already very comfortable and the extra inch of convenience it offers the buyer is so small, it’s not worth even a dollar or two more than a standard egg tray.  Quirky isn’t alone in that.  The same conceptual problem is true with nearly every other form of home automation I’ve reviewed recently.

We don’t have a problem with convenience.

Our problem is achieving the American Dream and these products won’t help us do it.


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Discussion — 7 Responses

  • Jennifer Sensiba December 1, 2013 on 4:42 pm

    Diminishing returns. Society is spending too much time on things that don’t return.

    There’s a similar thing in emergency management going on. When you spend money after a disaster, you are just getting back to where you started (no return), but when government agencies spend $1 on mitigation, almost $4 gets saved later.

    People can apply this at the individual level, but the big screen, cigarettes, beer and $70 egg tray spending prevents it in many cases.

  • John Robb December 1, 2013 on 5:14 pm

    Check out Tainter’s work on the collapse of civilizations.

  • Richard J. Medicus December 2, 2013 on 12:38 pm

    Bill Whittle makes a presentation that touches on the efforts to teach kids that they are more independent than they are taught.

  • Ephraim December 2, 2013 on 11:44 pm

    I’ve been invovled with Home automation products since Byte Mags HCS. The problem with most home automation is that it is mearly made up of novelty items. So what if you can push a button and close your blind shades or measure the weight of rotten eggs. Home automation will remain a novelty until it quits providing solutions in search of problems.

    Real home automation doesn’t take control of your house. It makes your house easier to live in. when your blinds open and close depending on your desired mood and the weather, then it becomes useful. A light that can tell weather you are reading on the couch or napping and change accordingly is a useful light. A stero that can adjust volum depending on the ambient volum level and mood of the occupants is useful.

    As long as it makes it seem like the house is in control or is just another way of doing the same thing, it won’t sell to the masses. Home automation needs to make your house serve you, not the other way around. It should just seem like you have invisible servants that take of the little things. And when it fails (not if, when) it should fail gracefully.

    • John Robb Ephraim December 3, 2013 on 10:09 am

      So true. I want to see automation that actually does something useful. JR

      • Edward Mulder John Robb December 16, 2013 on 5:12 pm

        Check out IFTTT and some of the recipes that are starting around home automation and the internet of things. I hope this is just the beginning…

  • Erik Wingren December 23, 2013 on 11:40 am

    Egg sensor sells to a niche market: people who are paranoid about rotten eggs.