Our society relies more and more on smart devices to ease communication and efficiency. Smart devices are transforming both industries and personal lives. Smart and self-organising wide-area sensor networks are now used to increase the efficiency of farms, cities, supply chains or power grids. Because they are always connected to the Internet, they can constantly and accurately monitor assets and help deliver what is required precisely when and where it is needed. Also, the general public has seen the transition to smart devices, cell phones being switched to smartphones, TVs to smart-TVs and cars to semi-autonomous cars.
This “Internet of Things” (IoT) revolution is happening at a frantic pace as companies digitalize the physical world. Gartner estimated that there were 4.9 billion smart devices deployed in 2015, with this number expected to grow to 25 billion by 2020.1 With such high numbers, IoT devices have the potential to create significant amounts of waste, which may exceed their potential to reduce resource consumption thanks to their ability to keep the state of every asset of interest up to date. In this article, I discuss how smart devices’ software is an artificial cause that limits their lifetime. I then explain the need for an alternative model that decouples the software and the hardware, to allow the software to be changed according to its owner’s need. Finally, I explain how the Open Source movement has already solved the software’s planned obsolescence for personal computers and servers, and how this model also naturally applies to the IoT devices.