Internet Teapot

April 9, 2005

So how do you track that an elderly person is okay, without invading their privacy? In Japan, at least some folks do it with teapots

His electric kettle, an “i-pot” (for information pot), not only boils water for his instant miso soup and green tea but it also records the times he pushes a button and dispenses the water. A wireless communication device at the bottom of the i-pot sends a signal to a server. Members of the service can see recent records of i-pot usage on a Web site. In addition, twice a day the server e-mails the most recent three usage times to a designated recipient.

For Kijima, that recipient is neighbor Tadahiro Murayama. “Once, I didn’t use the pot for a day, and I got a phone call from Mr. Murayama,” Kijima said. The i-pot, he said, helps him feel he’s not alone.

Electronics maker Zojirushi Corp. began the service four years ago. The company rents the pot for a $50 deposit and charges $30 per month for e-mail and Internet service.

On the whole, that sounds pretty cool (if a bit pricey, perhaps)… Zojirushi makes some fairly interesting hi-tech cooking gear — I’ve got one of their “fuzzy logic” rice cookers that I really love, despite suspecting that it may just be smarter than I am (I’ve never used a tenth of its book-length feature set).

It’s too bad that not only are my parents confirmed luddites, they don’t even drink tea…

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