IoT ruins movies: Cast Away

By | 4 minute read | November 23, 2016

A desert island

Setting the scene: how the IoT could ruin Cast Away

When I was researching Robert Zemeckis’ survival epic Cast Away, I came across a little gem of a factoid that pretty much sums up what this blog is about. Fans of the film may remember that Chuck Noland, stranded for four years on his desert island, opens the FedEx packages that washed up with him in the hope of finding something to help him survive. That is, all save one.

That last, unopened package becomes a symbol of hope for poor Chuck – the unknowable ‘what if’ of a future that he hopes will be more promising than the dreary present. At the end of the film, rescued and returned to civilization, he returns the unopened package to its rightful owner, four years late.

Sensing a potential for humorous irony, FedEx, who feature heavily in the film, made a Cast Away-themed commercial for the 2003 Super Bowl, in which a Noland-esque character delivers the unopened package (by now imbued with mythical qualities) and asks what’s inside. “Nothing really,” comes the answer, “just a satellite phone, GPS locator, fishing rod, water purifier, and some seeds. Just silly stuff.” Poor old sod.

Naturally, life-saving IoT-enabled devices like these would have made Chuck’s iconic struggle for survival a tad more mundane, not to mention shorten his ordeal considerably. But I think we can go one better. With a little help from the connected world of IoT, smart asset tracking, weather-related insights and predictive maintenance, perhaps we can fix it so Chuck’s plane never crashes in the first place.

The film: Cast Away

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Cast Away was released in 2000 and stars Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland; the fastidious, frazzled FedEx Executive who is washed up on an uninhabited island when his plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific. Chuck, whose life up to that point had been rigidly scheduled, must learn to survive on remnants of his plane’s washed up cargo and whatever food he can pick or catch on the island, and to adapt from a life ruled by the clock to one where time stretches endlessly on.

Predictive maintenance – avoiding delays

Chuck Noland’s obsessive compulsion with being on time is brought to life in an early scene, when he reportedly steals a child’s bike to deliver a package on time. In his defense, Chuck insists he only ‘borrowed’ the bike because his delivery truck had broken down.

If the truck had been a connected vehicle, predictive maintenance could have ensured it was fixed before it broke down. IoT-enabled sensors would have identified faulty components, automatically ordered a replacement, and booked the truck in for repair at a time when its absence would create the least downtime. And we would have been deprived of the chance to see just how much his job mattered to him.

What if FedEx’s plane had used weather-related insights?

Across the world, there are literally billions of weather reference points, whose job it is to collect real-time weather-related data. Analysis of these data can identify developing weather situations, such as approaching storms, and enable evasive action through early warning systems.

If the ill-omened plane had been a connected vehicle, it would have had access to weather-related insights, seen that a storm was developing along the flight-route, and the pilots might have decided not to risk the journey.

Smart asset-tracking and GPS locators

We never quite discover what caused the plane crash, but according to one theory, a mislabeled container of hazardous material caught fire. QR codes and smart barcodes would have minimized the potential for human error in labelling products correctly, and the hazardous material would have been properly stowed.

A cloud / mobile app asset tracking platform would have kept track of each parcel aboard the plane through connected sensors, broadcasting its location via GPS. The parcels that washed up with Chuck Noland would have signaled their whereabouts back to FedEx, helping them locate the scene of the crash and rescue Chuck.

Wilson’s a connected football now

This Autumn, Wilson Sporting Goods is introducing a new smart football (just in time for the NFL season kickoff.) The football connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth, which can track how far the ball is thrown, spin rate, whether or not it is caught, and spiral efficiency. Aside from helping poor Chuck hone his throwing technique (useful training for catching fish with a spear), this new, improved Wilson would be able to interact with him, making it a more satisfactory companion than his blood-daubed, non-connected predecessor. Conversation would be a bit one-track, though.

IoT ruins other movies too!

So there you have it – another IoT-ruined movie. We’ve got lots of others, like Thelma & Louise, The Dark Knight Rises and Scream, for example. Let us know which films you’d like to see get the IoT ruins movies treatment in the comments below.