“Good morning Sophia, it’s 7am on Monday, November 5th, 2035. The temperature out—.”
“Shut up Alexa!” groaned Sophia at the virtual assistant, cursing herself for not setting her alarm later. She longed for just 15 minutes longer in bed before having to brave the brisk New England autumn air, but the day had to be faced, so she slowly slid out of the warm embrace of her bed.
Stumbling into the bathroom, she opened the cupboard and retrieved a new bottle of her favorite shampoo ($10). Thank God her smart shower had ordered a new bottle when she ran out yesterday, she thought as she let the hot water cascade down her body.
Sophia had fully embraced the smart home and thing commerce revolution a couple of years ago after some initial resistance to the idea of her household appliances ordering goods for her. Now, she couldn’t understand how she had ever found time for something as tedious as buying shampoo.
The doorbell rang shortly after she had gotten dressed, announcing that her daily fresh bread delivery from the local bakery had arrived. Her smart toaster ordered four slices of sourdough every weekday morning ($2), so all Sophia had to do was pick it up from her doorstep and drop it into the machine. If only the smart toaster could butter the bread as well, she thought as she looked at her lackluster attempt at spreading the cold butter and jam evenly across the warm bread.
Breakfast inhaled, coffee gulped down, and morning news consumed (via her fridge’s touchscreen), Sophia jumped into her car, ready to take on the world, or at least the greater Boston area. The gas tank had been close to empty last night when she got home from a trip to New York to visit her Luddite brother (he still uses an iPhone 16!), but the car had taken care of that.
After parking outside her Charlestown apartment, it had ordered a refill ($90) from WeGas and a gig worker had shown up on a scooter with a fuel canister strapped to his back and filled the tank. Sophia was a big fan of the convenience of WeGas, or the “Uber for gas” as some called it, but less happy with how the company refused to give its workers health benefits, especially considering the dangers of driving around all day carrying fuel. Still, it beats going to a gas station myself, she thought.
Cars could soon be ordering their own fuel.
After making the 15-minute drive to Post Office Square, Sophia parked her car and headed upstairs to the office. “Morning Sophia!” chirped the secretary Mona. Sophia had long wondered why an architect’s office in 2035 needed a secretary when technology had made the role virtually redundant. They had virtual answering machines, their desks ordered supplies for them, there was no need for a person to take meeting minutes, hell, they could even program Alexa to greet visitors. Still, it was always nice to be welcomed by the chipper Mona, and once or twice a month she’d bring in some amazing homemade cookies. Sophia flashed her a smile and headed into her office.
Earlier that morning, Sophia’s smart desk had put an order in for a roll of A0 graph paper ($35) to replenish her stock, and it was now placed atop the beautiful mahogany furniture cum digital assistant. Paper and pencil were some of the only analog things in Sophia’s otherwise digital world, and she didn’t think she would ever get used to drawing plans on a screen. She needed her hands to be at least lightly stained with the graphite of the pencil before she could feel like she had put in a day’s work. After sharpening a pencil and spreading a sheet of paper out on the desk, she was ready to begin.
At 1pm on the dot, an Uber Eats driver arrived in the building lobby with Sophia’s lunch. As a woman of routine, she got the same gourmet avocado and chicken salad with watermelon juice ($10) from the same sandwich shop every Monday. After ordering it manually time and again on her phone, one day she got a notification from her smart desk asking if she would like it to put the order in every Monday to arrive at 1pm from then on. Being so connected had its perks, Sophia thought as she munched on avocado, though it also meant she had more time for never-ending Zoom calls with clients eager to hear how their projects were coming along. Less of a perk.
Sophia’s neighborhood in Charlestown was well and truly gentrified, but not all of the local “charm” had been swept away by the rising tide of soy lattes and brunch specials. Unbeknownst to the architect, she had driven over a pile of broken glass on her way to work and one of her tires had suffered a slow puncture. When the car’s internal system detected the deflated tire at about 3pm, it sprang into action and ordered a repair. So while Sophia was engrossed in planning the details of a new atrium for a wealthy client, a repairman showed up and replaced the tire ($200).
At about 4.45pm, Sophia’s mind was as far away from her last 30 minutes of work as could be. Instead, she was back on the beach of Koh Samui, Thailand, letting the gentle waves lap at her ankles and lightly splash her elephant print pants. When she resurfaced into the real, gloomy world of her Boston office, it felt like a different person had been on that trip just two years before. She wanted to recapture some of how she felt on that beach, so it would have to be Thai food for dinner. Using an app on her phone, she sent a recipe for Thai green curry to her fridge, which then ordered the ingredients she didn’t already have to make the dish ($15).
A fridge filling itself up? Stranger things have happened.
Before going home, Sophia headed for her weekly squash session with her friend Marcia. Sophia loved the escape of the sport every Monday. Architecture, dating, family squabbles, and all the other stresses that normally dominated her thoughts melted away when she was playing. Only the ball and her racket existed for those 90 minutes. This week she probably went a bit too hard as her smart racket, outfitted with a microchip in the handle, ordered a restringing ($30) after the session; all she would have to do was drop it off at a sports store.
After arriving home and whipping up her Thai green curry (which, while tasty, was a pale imitation of what she had enjoyed in Asia) Sophia barely had the energy to sit through an episode of Squid Game season 23 before she started dozing off to sleep on the couch. Before she could crawl into bed though, she had to change the sheets, as her smart bed had ordered a new set that day ($200) to replace some that she had ripped the week before when changing them.
As she sank into her fresh-smelling bed, Sophia asked Alexa to put on her sleep playlist. She slowly drifted into the world of slumber to the sounds of waves crashing into shore all around her bedroom.
Did that all seem a bit far-fetched? Perhaps it is right now, but Sophia’s world could be the one we’re heading for if thing commerce catches on.
If you’ve made it this far you can probably guess thing commerce is when internet of things (IoT) connected devices make eCommerce orders and purchases. While the technology is still in its infancy, the goal is eventually for things like fridges, cars, toasters, and more to automate the purchasing process.
This would seem to make the most sense for repeat purchases (like Sophia’s bread for breakfast and salad for lunch) or when the device can predict demand (like Sophia’s fuel or squash racket repair), though, with plenty of tech development to come, that scope could expand.
In total, our fictional consumer spent $592 without a whole lot of effort, which hopefully illustrates the potential for thing commerce for both brands and consumers, especially in a pandemic-hit world where recurring revenue has become more elusive.
While analysts have cautioned that thing commerce may be 5-10 years from becoming mainstream, tech giant Amazon is working to speed up that timeline with smart fridge technology. The fridge is “designed to track your inventory and purchase habits, predict what you want, and have it delivered”, according to Insider.
Despite the dystopian vibes some may get from fridges that know what you want to eat, the sheer level of convenience thing commerce brings will likely win over even the most skeptical of customers, similarly to how most are now willing to surrender their data for a more personalized shopping experience.
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