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Tech fails: 5 smart home products that failed miserably

smart home tech failures spinning ice cream cone
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According to an old English proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention.” While this may hold true for some products, it’s certainly not always the case. Did anyone really need a pet rock? What about a slap bracelet, or a blanket with sleeves?

Inventors can create new products that work just a little bit better than an existing one on the market, while others are simply cool gadgets we’d like to have. Some inventions make our lives simpler and save us a few steps in the kitchen, while others prevent us from having to get off the couch.

Their innovation and contribution to the smart home products we have today.

As time goes by, more and more people are trying their hand at invention and entrepreneurship. From 1965 to 1995, the number of annual patent applications more than doubled. Then, from 1995 to 2015, the number of applications almost tripled.

With all of the portable communication devices, smart home products, and peripheral devices, a whole new window of opportunity exists for entrepreneurs, some of whom are successful. The rest … not so much.

We’ve compiled a list of early smart home tech that didn’t make the cut. Some of these products had conceptual flaws, some were ahead of their time, and others didn’t serve a meaningful purpose. While these smart home technologies seem cool, for one reason or another, they still failed.

RJ Reynolds Premier Cigarettes (1988)

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Premier cigarettes heated tobacco rather than burning it. The “smokeless” cigarettes purported to reduce the harmful effects of smoking, providing a “healthier” alternative at a time when people were beginning to seriously criticize the tobacco industry for the health risks associated with cigarettes.

When RJ Reynolds tested its Premier cigarettes in a small market, customers reported that they tasted horrible. And the public did not see them as a “healthier” alternative. Sound familiar?

iSmell Digiscents (2001)

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Aside from the fact that this product sounds like it’s designed to cover up body odor, this little gadget failed for other reasons. Though it produced hundreds of scents that allowed users smell what he or she was viewing online, the market wasn’t interested in an owning an expensive “scent database.”

NCR Microwave Bank (1998)

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This microwave connected to the internet, and appeared to have a lot of potential. It was even named Technology Innovation of the Year at the Annual Technology for Retail Banking Conference. Perhaps the smart microwave was simply ahead of its time.

Motorized Ice Cream Cone (1999)

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Tired of turning your hand to avoid getting melted ice cream on yourself? This little gadget spins and vibrates, so you don’t have to do any extra work while eating your ice cream cone. While this product hasn’t exactly caught on, you can actually still buy it on Amazon today.

CueCat Barcode Scanner (2000)

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This device allowed you to scan a barcode from a catalog or an article. Then, if you connected the device to your computer, you could get information about the product without having to enter a URL in the address bar. While it does have purpose and a unique feline design, it was too much work for such a small payoff.

Each of these inventions helped to pave the way for other successful products. Premier cigarettes didn’t work out, but society is now beginning to see vaping as a viable smoking cessation method. Sure, no one wanted to buy a product called “iSmell,” but more and more VR products have flooded the market in the time since. The world may not have been ready for NCR’s Microwave Bank, but we now have a variety of Wi-Fi-connected appliances to choose from.

So yes, these products did fail. But we should give them some credit for their innovation and contribution to the smart home products we have today.

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Erika Rawes
Smart Home Evergreen Coordinator
Erika became a professional writer in 2010, and her work is published all over the web on sites ranging from USA Today to…
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