ThingKings and Cloddles. How will we talk about the Internet of Things?

When everything is connected, who rules the roost?

People with large brains (and even larger spectacles) are declaring the Internet of Things the Next Big Thing. And while much of the technology and how it will shape our lives is still in drawing-room diapers, it’s no giant leap to imagine the new language that could come our way to help us discuss it.

In my last blog post I pondered how every wave of technology not only introduced new words, but re-purposed everyday verbs to give them a whole new meaning. So for shiggles, I thought I’d have a stab at starting a fantasy lexicon – including a few neologisms – that could be applied to the Internet of Things, or IOT as it’s known to its buddies.

Skynet Starts here. - The Internet of Things

Yes, before you ask, this is how Skynet starts.

IOT? You know, the idea of all our devices being connected and talking to each other. From our cell phones, tablets and laptops, right through to our smoke alarms, refrigerators and front doors, there will be one network for everything, controllable at the touch of a button – or in many cases, acting autonomously.

There are caveats abound. No-one yet knows exactly how the IOT will take shape, who the big players will be (though we can take a guess – events like Google buying Nest will give the game away early) , what the devices will do, let alone how they will perform. And yet we can make some fair assumptions about the key actions and interactions.

I’m taking the liberty of basing my lexicon on these, as well as creating some fantasy scenarios which may, or may not, come to pass. And as a special bonus, I’m even throwing in a few examples of the words in use, so you can try them on for size.

4 key interaction points of the IOT and the verbs they could inspire. (And yes. A few non-verbs too.)

1. Human>Device and Device>Human

The obvious one. How we interact with an object that’s connected to others. From using it offline in person, or online remotely, to explaining the rules to it, so it can do its thing when we’re not around.

Sing – Synching all devices on a network. “I finally got everything to sing last night.”

Beard – To trick a network into accepting an incompatible device – “I totally bearded the toaster with my phone.” (From the idea of false beards as a disguise.)

Darkwall – To turn off all recording and transmission of usage data externally.

Delegate – Authorise devices to make decisions on your behalf.

Dob/Snitch – One device reporting the poor performance of another. “The bathroom light dobbed in the catflap today, apparently it kept slapping Snookie on her way out.”

Faux-Dob – When a device sends a false dob on a device from a rival manufacturer. “My Sony Thermostat told me the Amstrad Latch kept opening the window when it got cold outside, but it was just a faux dob.”

Vext – A text message sent from a device reporting a fault or problem, but too vague to work out what it is.

Ostrich – When a device relays information a user chooses to ignore. “My toothbrush keeps telling me I have a cavity, but I ostrich the news.”

NonSense – Literally, when a device sensor is broken and the data it gives and acts on is untrue.

NOTKnot – When a new command or rule messes up one that used to work fine.

Resplend – When an action triggered by a connected device is particularly pleasing and you recognise the moment by looking smug. “The wine cooler will serve me champagne at exactly 9ºC and i shall resplend on the veranda in my silk dressing gown.”

Ghost – To hide from all sensors in the home and act like you’re not in.

Patch – To get through to a device remotely, usually via mother. “Mother, patch me kettle.”

Island – To temporarily isolate a device from a network and perform on its own for a while. “I’ve Islanded the freezer to try and work out where that smell is coming from.”

Snark – A smart action by a connected device that the user interprets humorously. “The fridge knew I was making spaghetti, which i usually spill on me, so the washing machine snarkily opened its lid.”

Jedi – The magical nature of these devices will lead to obvious connections to The Force. It could result in Jedi becoming a verb “He Jedi’d the lights off with his mind.” or “I’m going to Jedi the hell out of this laundry.”

2. Device>Device

The whole point of the IOT is a series of connected devices talking and responding to each other and working together to create a controlled environment. It should be harmonious. But if software bugs and programming VCRs taught us anything, it’s that the reality is likely to be anything but.

Mother – Defining the boss. When writing rules, the device that takes priority – “The fridge mothers the TV”. A link back to motherboard as much as maternal discipline.

Muster – Collective gathering of data from device sensors.

ThingFling – When a network rejects an incompatible device that’s trying to initiate contact, refuses to let it integrate and throws it out of the loop.

Cuckoo – When one brand tricks another brand into thinking a device is part of the same family. (From cuckoos laying eggs in other birds nests.)“My Apple TV was cuckooed by my Samsung Galaxy Tablet and I can finally play .MKV files on the big screen.”

Bully – When the majority of devices in a network are made by one manufacturer and they refuse to accept commands from devices made by another, forcing it to compromise performance.

Chime – When a perfect pairing or new command does exactly what the user wanted it to. “The smoke alarm knew I’d only burnt the toast, so it kept quiet. It totally chimed with the toaster.”

Turf – When a mistake by one device is corrected and covered up by another without it being reported.

Sweep – When a device (like Google’s Project Tango) maps a location and reports back on all active IOT objects.

Particulate – When a device doesn’t just tell you which spare part it needs, it connects to your 3D printer and makes it for you.

3. Device>Itself

It’s part of a grid. It’s been told what to do. It’s primed and ready. These events are the internal monologue of an IOT-ready device. Very doge. Such think. Wow.

Mustard – Gathered data that’s sensitive (hot). “The bedroom fan knows exactly how many people stayed over last night, but I’ve told it to run all mustard by me before reporting.”

Bask – Leaving devices idle, but processing sensory information.

MOOP – Matter Out Of Place. A term used at Burning Man to refer to litter left on the Playa, but destined to go mainstream. In the IOT it would refer to the detection of an unconnected device or unexpected object.

Blot – To absorb data from MOOP, observe, report, but not act on it.

Peg – Processing input data from an unknown object and trying to formulate an appropriate response (from square peg/round hole). “I hacked my sister’s Furby and synched it with the garage door, now it pegs itself open every day at 2pm.”

Math – (Yes, as a verb) When a device is calculating the best response. “The TV is just mathing whether this ad break is a good time to boil the kettle.”

4. Device>The World

Results of ‘decisions’ made by the IOT. Whether an action triggered in the immediate vicinity, or acted out long-distance across a wider grid of interconnected devices. And yes. A butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil, if connected to the IOT could very well cause a wind turbine to blow up a storm in Texas.

Nettle – To bed in/settle several complete networks with each other. “I’ve given your network permission to access mine, so let’s wait for them to nettle before we start tweaking commands.”

Musterfuck – Gathered data that screws up the performance of multiple devices.

Prod – When a network tries to connect with an unrelated network to see what the response is.

BrickFace – When a smart network keeps trying to talk to a non-connected location.

Cloddle – Data congestion in the cloud preventing instructions reaching a device. “I told my Nespresso to froth the milk as soon as I parked out front, but my message got cloddled.”

Cross / RatWork – When your own home transmits personal data about you to a government or company without your consent. “I was crossed by my grid. It told Prism everything the total ratwork.”

SynchBomb – A disaster caused by devices not synching properly and crucial commands being overlooked.

ThingKing – The dominant brand in the IOT. “The ThingKing’s refusing my request to pair with the library as I’m not using their software.”

ThingKiss – A moment of delight sent from a faraway place. “Some random girl in Seoul just got my 3D printer to make me a heart with her name on it. Such a cute ThingKiss.”

So there you go. From the sublime, to the ridiculous, a few verbs and phrases we may someday be hearing on a regular basis. Of course, in reality, much like Google didn’t invent glassholes, it’s the community who will have the biggest influence on the words we use to define the IOT.

If you’ve got any predictions, humdingers or joyzingers of your own, add them below and who knows, maybe one day you’ll be known by etymologists as ground zero for one of the 21st Century’s biggest buzzwords. Just like this guy.


A great illustration by Paul Sahre for the New York TImes that captures the comedy and possibilities of the IOT.


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