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[Original Article is published in Forbes]

There goes a car alarm again. Does that mean the car is being stolen? No. It means someone, or something, touched the car, possibly accidentally.


That’s an example of an overly sensitive sensor. There are stressful sensors at the other end of the spectrum as well. I’ve often wondered if there are hidden cameras watching me wave my hands around as I seek to stop the automatic faucet or dispense a paper towel. And then there are sensors that just get it wrong, such as the automatic light that turns itself off because no one is moving when in fact I’m still because I’m engrossed in a book.


People get frustrated when sensors are abstract and provide too little information, like a check engine light, but overwhelmed if presented with the car’s list of error codes. An alarm that prevents 80% of burglaries is probably worth 20% irritation, but people remember the irritation. And that sensor-driven faucet can’t be fixed with a screwdriver and wrench the way a traditional tap can.

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