What happens when tech giants play small…

Dan #FutureOfWork Sodergren
5 min readFeb 14, 2024

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The Uncertain Future of Smart Devices

IT was nice to be asked on a programme that my parents listen to avidly. The You and Your programme on Radio 4.

To talk about Fitbits, technology, health and AI and why we should be thinking about what happens now.

As in recent years, the technology landscape has seen a steady rise in the number of smart devices, from smartwatches to AI-powered cars. Leading this pack is Fitbit, a brand that has captured the hearts of fitness enthusiasts worldwide. However, the company has faced a barrage of challenges following its acquisition by tech giant Google, raising critical questions about the future of smart devices.

It has important implications for ALL technology, especially AI. And I talk about AI and the future of work a lot as a keynote speaker about technology and AI. Sadly, unlike my keynotes which can be done remotely but they are always live, the radio show was a pre-record. All my clever bits about the future and AI could be taken out. And they were. Which inspired this blog to discuss them instead…

The Fitbit Saga

A series of software updates, particularly for the Fitbit Charge 5, have reportedly caused significant problems for users, rendering some devices virtually unusable. Despite Fitbit’s denial of these claims, the issue continues to be a point of contention within the user community.

Even more distressing is the trouble parents face while setting up Fitbit Ace three children’s accounts. Repeated glitches and bugs have marred the user experience, causing frustration among parents eager to monitor their children’s fitness levels.All these were part of the the You and Your programme.

Google’s Involvement in Fitbit

Adding to the tumult is growing concern over Google’s increasing involvement in Fitbit’s operations. Fitbit accounts, a major part of the brand’s identity, will reportedly remain active only until ‘early 2025’, after which users will need a Google account to access their fitness data. This development has led to speculation about a slow phasing out of Fitbit, fueling dissatisfaction among loyal users.

The Human Cost

The human cost of these strategic decisions cannot be overlooked. Google’s restructuring has resulted in hundreds of Fitbit staff being laid off, leaving the remaining workforce apprehensive about their future. This move, coupled with the departure of Fitbit founders, marks a significant shift in the company’s trajectory. But did Google mean to do this and should it be allowed to happen?

The Broader Picture: The Smart Device Market

While Fitbit grapples with its internal issues, the broader smart device market is not immune to challenges. The rise of smartphones with advanced fitness tracking capabilities threatens the relevance of specialized devices like smartwatches. Google’s Pixel watches have not been entirely free of issues either, with reports of setup problems persisting. And so is Google just buying up and then destroying it’s competition. A story as old as the hills itself.

The Future of Smart Devices: A Cause for Concern?

A pressing question emerges from this backdrop: will the future of smart devices be marred by software issues that render them useless over time? Will your Apple headset, your Tesla car, or your home AI device one day stop working due to a software glitch?

The thought is indeed unsettling. As we become increasingly reliant on smart devices, the consequences of such failures can range from minor inconveniences to significant disruptions in our daily lives.

This is no small thing. What if Google or someone stops support for a key piece of tech infrastructure. What if they do so with an AI product. Something which is literally running a part of your company. What if tech companies are allowed to do the same thing with all hardware in the future. This is not just a big deal for consumers but for businesses to think about as well.

The Need for Legislation

This highlights the urgent need for laws that protect consumers from such eventualities. As technology evolves, so should the legislation that governs it. We need robust policies that ensure companies are held accountable for the longevity and reliability of their products, particularly when software updates are concerned.

In conclusion, the Fitbit saga serves as a cautionary tale for the tech industry. As consumers, it’s crucial to stay informed and demand accountability from the makers of the devices we use daily. And as a society, it’s high time we push for legislation that safeguards our interests in the face of rapid technological advancement.

After all, our smart devices should serve us, not the other way around. And we cannot have our machines breaking down on us with no way of changing things just because a large tech company decides it can’t be bothered to help us. We aren’t just customers when we are buying their products, with products like artificial intelligence, we could be customers for life.

Hopefully I sounded better than this picture looks. Lol.

Tech and AI expert maybe….

Cameraman NO.

References:

BBC Radio 4 — You and Yours, Ryanair vs booking sites, Auto renewal insurance and Fitbits

Fitbit Charge 5 software update did not make device unusable, Google claims (msn.com)

Fitbit’s just made its first big mistake of 2024 — are its devices still worth buying? (msn.com)

Where is all your health data going? The Google and Fitbit scandal explained | TechRadar

Google’s slow destruction of Fitbit is everything wrong with modern tech | TechRadar

Fitbit quietly pulled its products from over a dozen countries — The Verge

Google is killing most of Fitbit’s social features today | Ars Technica

www.dansodergren.com

About The Author:

Keynote speaker, professional speaker, Ted X talker, serial tech startup founder, ex marketing agency owner, digital trainer, and now author and media spokesperson Dan Sodergren’s main area of interest is the future of work, technology, data and AI

In his spare time, as well as being a dad, which comes first, Dan is a digital marketing and technology (and now AI) expert for TV shows and the BBC and countless radio shows.

Occasionally donning the cape of consumer champion on shows like BBC WatchDog, the One Show and RipOffBritain and being a marketing tech specialist for SuperShoppers and RealFakeAndUnknown and BBC Breakfast.

He is also a host and guest on podcasts and webinars speaking as a tech futurist. And a remote reporter / content creator for tech companies at tech events and shows. His main interest is in the future. Be that the future of marketing, or the future or work or how AI and technology will change the world for the better as part of the #FifthIndustrialRevolution

Find out more about him over on bit.ly/DanSodergren

And his books on https://futureofwork.gumroad.com

And his course on www.aimarketingcourse.co.uk

And his new idea: The AI Teacher Course.

And The Fifth Industrial Revolution.

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Dan #FutureOfWork Sodergren

#PublicSpeaker #TedxTalk #KeynoteSpeaker talks on the #FutureOfWork #Tech and #AI. Expert / guest on national TV / Radio and podcasts. Co-founder of YourFLOCK