Machines that buy for themselves promise to save time and money


The day may soon come when a car pays for parking itself using the funds it has earned share the data collected while driving. Or a cat’s bowl orders the appropriate pet food after analyzing the feline’s nutritional needs.

While everything from toasters to trucks is connected online, an ecosystem known as the Internet of Things– banks, information technology companies and manufacturers seek to equip these devices with the ability to buy and sell goods and services on behalf of human users, in most cases without the intervention of their part.

Some of this is already happening. Smart toothbrushes made by Philips NV can already automatically order new brush heads when the bristles wear down. Air filters designed by 3M Co. can detect when a replacement is needed and order one online.

The scale could expand, however, as more devices come online and technology for fast, stand-alone shopping becomes mainstream, saving users time and money.

There could be as many as a trillion connected devices in the world by 2035, according to British chip designer Arm Holdings. Machine-to-machine connections are planned to grow up to 50% of connected devices and connections worldwide in 2023 compared to 33% in 2018, according to a 2020 report from Cisco Systems Inc.

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