DRM Coffee vs the Internet of Things


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…


This is simply an expression of the American Dream, in its highest form.


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…


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.


You know. Now this Internet of Things makes sense.

It is about tranforming the ownership of real things into the leasing of real things. We are supposed to rent our refrigerators just like we are supposed to rent our music.

Consider the in-app purchase potential for this. “If you want your refrigerator to be colder than 5C, pay $1 for every 1 degree”. “If you want ice cubes in 10 minutes instead of 30, pay $5”.

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As much as resistive touchscreens are horrible, it kinda makes sense in a car (as long as you’re just pressing icons rather than dragging). Capacitive screens are so sensitive that it would be very easy to press the wrong thing whilst driving. Maybe.

In the long run, adding DRM to your product is a way to get left behind as users move to more convenient alternatives.

”The Internet of Things interprets DRM as damage, and routes around it.”


Correct intent; but too much clarity and too overtly transactional. Unfortunately, The Ruinous Powers in service to ‘free-to-play monetization’ already have a great deal of expertise in building subtly coercive interfaces, and I doubt that they will see a lack of demand for their skills here. One of the things to avoid, it turns out, is that sort of clarity and that reminder that you are suddenly shelling out real money here. At least one level of indirection keeps the user comfortable longer.

Have a look at Ramin Shokrizade’s discussion of top monetization models(the other posts he links to are also fairly interesting) and imagine the wonderful world of appliance UIs designed with those goals in mind and probably linked to your fitness-tracker-bracelet-fad-thing so that they can better infer your affect state and vulnerability level by correlating biological markers. It’ll be Peachy Keen.

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Calling it DRM is a bit over the top… As far as I can tell, this is no different from the way some printer manufacturers added handshaking to the circuitry inside their cartridges to prevent the use of cheapo second-source ink and toner.

That’s the problem with trying to take profit on razor blades – you have to keep coming up with new designs for blades and handles.


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?


I read the article. The company I previously worked for designed and manufactured monitors that are used for scopic surgeries - laporascopy, endoscopy, etc. Most of these scopes are sold by the manufacturer alongside a monitor, and they use special signal formats to prevent other manufacturers from selling monitors to hospitals for their equipment. This ensures that every sale of a scope also becomes a sale for a monitor.

My old company spent a lot of time figuring out how to make our monitors work with all these crazy signals, and I was involved in many meetings with engineers who were designing workarounds to make a particular scope work with our monitors.

One of the huge advantages of buying a monitor like ours that could work with every scope and device in an OR over purchasing the specialized monitors was not only the cost savings of buying one monitor to work with many machines but also the way we could wire up the ORs to have a lot less equipment cluttering up the space around the patient where the surgeons and nurses needed to be.

Having worked in both software development and engineering, I tend to have a bit more of a software developer’s perspective that open source is better for the world, and I like the engineers that have sought out those kind of solutions, but it is easier to engineer physical devices that lock customers into buying more of your products and also keep everything working smoothly together, which is a huge competitive advantage. But I think in the end it is a great advantage to be the company that can “break the locks” and offer solutions that work for every device, because I think these are so much more appealing and useful.


Touchscreens in cars are a terrible idea in general. You have to look at a touchscreen to use it (which means taking your eyes off the road), while buttons and switches can be operated by touch.

Unfortunately, they’re the new fashionable thing and everyone is putting them in their cars. At least some manufacturers are restricting them to things you can wait for a safe moment to adjust (like the radio), but others are having touchscreens to control things you may have to adjust while driving (like defrosters).

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And claiming that it is DRM and subject to DMCA is key to attempting to enforce the “no off-brand components” rule without requiring a contract. The next step would be there to be a USB port on the machine and to make going to the website and clicking a license required. Because “it will void the warranty” is probably not enough.

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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They can have my coffee mug when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!

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They’ll probably sell you some sort of “Freezecoins” (50 Freezecoin for 100$). Want to reduce the Temperature? That’ll cost 1 Freezecoin. Watching my kin shelling real money out like crazy in those social media games it only needs one level of abstraction. And if you want to increase spending construct your product to appeal to some sort of hunter-gatherer instinct…

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Just this morning (out of guilt) I moved the aeropress and grinder from their usual spot next to the Keurig to the cupboard…

Did anyone ever read Secrets of the Wholly Grill? I never thought something so satirical could get so close to reality.

You’re not as incredibly lazy as me though:

  1. Put mug in Keurig
  2. Put k-cup in Keurig
  3. Press Brew button
  4. Enjoy “coffee”!

Also takes 2 minutes, but for 1.5 of them I can stand there sleeping. And this is why I like the Keurig (plus I’ve never really had real coffee, and I failed at the Aeropress).