This week, Amazon expanded its Dash Button (the launch was last year to a select number of invited members), an IoT device that will automatically reorder the items you use most around your home by simply pressing a button. It sounded like a smart idea initially: slap a Dash Button on your dishwasher and press the branded button to order more soap when it's running low. The reality is that it's an awkward middle technology between connected devices that will reorder necessary products themselves (like Whirlpool's announced refrigerator, dishwasher and range that are connected to Amazon's Dash Replenishment service) and just going to the store and buying things like a normal person.
According to Amazon, to get the Dash Button up and running, you'll need to: "....simply download the Amazon App from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Then, sign into your Amazon Prime account, connect Dash Button to Wi-Fi, and select the product you want to reorder. Once connected, a single press on Dash Button automatically places your order. Amazon will send an order confirmation to your phone, so it's easy to cancel if you change your mind." You'll need to repeat this process for every item you want to automatically reorder.
The problem is that you have to have a Dash Button for each product you wish to reorder. Oh, and they cost $4.99 apiece. Even after the $4.99 Amazon's willing to refund from your first order (for a limited time), that doesn't make much financial sense. With the $15 you've invested in your first three Dash Buttons, you could have driven to Costco and bought enough laundry detergent to last for the rest of the year.
A Dash button will prompt you for more coffee.
Alright, so maybe the $4.99 is a small price to pay for convenience. There's still the fact that no one wants to stick giant branded pieces of plastic all over their house. Do I want a Tide logo screaming at me from my washing machine? Should I be assaulted by a Gatorade logo every time I walk into the kitchen? Do visitors really deserve to know I'm still eating KRAFT Mac & Cheese from a box? (Though I do love that there's essentially an emergency button for running out of pasta.) The entire thing feels like a marketing ploy.
This wasn't really what anyone was hoping for with the IoT revolution. Thermostats that can adjust themselves according to whether we're home or not, sure, but a button that reorders dish soap? Not super thrilling and nowhere near as innovative or as useful as the IoT should be. In another few years, most appliances will be IoT-activated anyway and the Dash Button will be relegated to the land of Trivia Crack answers. It seems like Amazon is pandering both to its merchants and to the ephemeral quality of novelty.
There is good news though: Amazon's willing to partner with designers to integrate its Dash Replenishment Service into different products, so if you have a product you're trying to sell on Amazon, you can use the Dash for your own devices. Aside from that, the Amazon Dash button is just begging to be hacked: for $4.99, you could probably rip the thing apart and score yourself some pretty cool chips.