Too much IoT

August 25, 2016 // By Bill Schweber
Bill Schweber asks if a scramble to add IoT to power tools and battery packs and to create related applications for smartphones is more of a marketing foible and in some cases less than useful.

It looks as though even basic power tools are not immune from the lure of IoT and wireless connectivity as a "feature." Black & Decker has joined Milwaukee Tool and DeWalt by introducing the Smartech 20-V lithium-based battery , a Bluetooth- enabled power-tool power pack which can be used with some of their cordless tools. Using the iOS and Android-compatible app, their Smartech unit lets you enable or disable the battery (to lock it out), view the percent of the battery's remaining charge, turn on a "locate" feature to find a missing battery, or activate the battery's built-in USB port for operating/charging external devices.

I can see where this makes for a contractor who has many tools, or has a pool of tools which are often shared by a crew. But I wonder if it is needed for the average do-it-yourselfer, whose tools are likely close by all the time, and only used personally or perhaps with helper.

Fortunately, you don’t need to use this "feature" if you don't want to, but just having it there becomes a strong temptation to start playing around with it. Before you realize it, you may have spent lots of time downloading the app, initializing it and then "fooling around" to see what it can or cannot do. Pretty soon, the actual project is pushed aside, unless some strict personal discipline is self-enforced.

The Smartech 20V MAX* Lithium Bluetooth® Battery used with Black & Decker cordless tools brings IoT-like Bluetooth connectivity and an associated smartphone app to the power pack, which can be a useful enhancement, an impediment to usability, or somewhere in between.

Putting wireless connectivity in the battery pack adds cost, complexity, and something else to go wrong to a basic tool. You're adding more analog and wireless to a basic power product, so now you have issues of EMI/RFI, regulatory approvals, antenna placement, and more. I'll even speculate that in a