DRM Coffee vs the Internet of Things

Marcus Wohlsen covers the plans of Green Mountain Coffee to add DRM to the little plastic cups of ground coffee used in its Keurig-brand coffee machines,
More than just curbing your coffee choices, Green Mountain’s protections portend the kind of closed system that could gut the early promise of the Internet of Things — a promise that hinges on a broad network of digital, connected devices remaking the everyday world.

He cites new research on interoperability and DRM's fundamental aversion to it; think of what happens when, say, hospitals turn into locked-in, single-vendor institutions. The underlying problem is simple: they're making disobedient computers.

There is a certain elegance to the Keurig idea, though: people who use K-Cups, being lazy and spendthrift, are an ideal target for a new DRM price-control wheeze. It's a bit like Ferrari's cheap and nasty resistive touchscreen implementation of iOS: their customers are rich suckers who would never know better, so why not screw them? The business psychology at hand is simple, short-term greed.

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  1. Luckily, there are specialists available to deal with difficult problems, so we should be able to get the worst of both worlds:

    You, the consumer chattel, will have at least three brands of proprietary light socket that all phone home (different protocols, all insecure) to verify that you are using genuine consumables and check which color temperatures you have a currently paid subscription to. You'll also have a stack of little plastic wireless control boxes, like the basket-o'-remotes of the early 3rd millennium, to handle each vendor's dysfunctional and incrementally different misinterpretation of some low power wireless networking system.

    However, despite this sad incompatibility, rest assured that your friends and allies in the data brokerage and marketing analytics solutions communities will be able to correlate the tracking data across all your devices to establish a more perfect profile of you...

  2. atouk says:

    What happens when the DRM is linked to individual users and your caffeine intake is monitored against your online health records?

    You will have to get permission from a government agency to have your morning joe, and if your intake is too high, you can be labeled mentally unstable due to caffeine addiction, and have your 2nd amendment rights taken away.

    I refuse to have the little machine on the counter tell me when I can and can't have a cup of coffee!

    /maybe I shouldn't post before the 2nd cup...

  3. I wrote this post in part to ensure I feel an added twinge of guilt whenever I'm standing in front of the Keurig machine, waiting for it to finish, while staring at the aeropress.

  4. It's worth noting that Lexmark certainly thought that their added handshaking circuitry was DRM enough to put 3rd party toner on the wrong side of the DMCA... The court did not agree.

    What other properties would a consumables lockout system need to qualify as DRM for your purposes?

  5. gwwar says:

    Have you tried a coffee dripper like this? As an incredibly lazy person I still manage to do this each morning while half asleep:

    1. Fill up your coffee mug with water
    2. Dump the coffee mug of water into an electric kettle and turn it on
    3. Get a paper filter and wet it on the coffee dripper
    4. Place dripper over mug
    5. Grind beans while water is heating (preferred) or dump pre-ground coffee into filter
    6. Pour hot water over coffee
    7. Wait
    8. Pick up the whole thing cup+dripper, walk to the trash and throw away the filter
    9. Rinse out dripper in sink
    10. Enjoy coffee!

    This takes about 2 minutes.

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