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IoT ruins movies: Scream

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Setting the scene

So last night, prepping for Halloween, I bullied my boyfriend into watching Scream with me. Actually, I watched it (dutifully scribbling along and yelping occasionally with fright) while James calmly did a puzzle, made the occasional jibe about the dialogue, and Shazam-ed the background music. He’s naturally un-ruffled.

When you’re mad about horror flicks and live in a dodgy part of London (sirens make a lovely lullaby, oh yes they do), you do get security on the brain. IoT has contributed all sorts of marvellous gadgets to help us sleep soundly in our beds – there are WiFi-enabled motion detectors that alert you when someone’s in your back yard, smart doorbells to identify who’s at the door, and remote locking systems you can control from a phone.

So what would have happened if the victims of Scream had IoT-enabled devices at their disposal, or lived in connected houses? Let’s find out.

The film: Scream

This 1996 American slasher classic stars some of the favourite faces of the ‘90s – David Arquette, Courtney Cox (that’s how they met, incidentally), Neve Campbell and (briefly) Drew Barrymore. It was a major inspiration for ‘Scary Movie’ – a much-loved spoof full of stock teen characters and well-worn plot devices.

The film follows Sidney Prescott, a high school student targeted by a mysterious masked killer who does an excellent job of bumping off most of her friends.

How a connected house could ruin Scream

The very first scene gives us plenty of fodder for IoT ruination. Poor unsuspecting high school student Casey is home alone when she receives an unnerving anonymous phone call. What starts off innocently enough soon escalates into a bloody guessing game, where wrong answers spell mutilation and death.

For starters, a smart phone would have caller ID, and the ability to block further nuisance calls if the caller did manage to withhold their number. Then there’s the added perk of voice recognition software, like Siri. When the killer asks Casey to name the killer in ‘Friday the 13th’, Siri could have listened to the question, googled the correct answer, and responded in a human voice.

Motion detectors and remote locking

Under cover of darkness, the killer positions Casey’s boyfriend, bound and gagged, in front of the patio window, then instructs her to turn the lights on. Had she had motion detectors installed, the light could automatically have come on when the sensors detected movement, exposing the killer in the act. She might also have seen that the person tying up her boyfriend wasn’t the same person who was on the phone – and realised that the killer had an accomplice.

A smart doorbell with camera feed to a smart phone could have shown Casey who was at her front door and helped her to identify the killer. She could have triggered a ‘panic’ option on the app to alert the police of an intruder instantly.

Instant phone records

Later in the movie, when Sidney’s boyfriend Billy shows up moments after she is attacked, the police hold him for questioning. It takes several days for the phone company to compile a report listing Billy’s phone calls – a smart phone would have built-in records that could be accessed instantly.

The obligatory gory party scene

Sidney’s best friend Tatum drags her to a boozy party to distract her from her troubles. Naturally any teen house party will end in gruesomeness, and Scream doesn’t disappoint – with a harrowing scene where Tatum is squashed between the garage door and the frame as she tries to escape through a cat flap cut into the door. A cognitive cat flap would have included a safety device to detect when the cat flap was in use and prevented the garage door from being opened.

Real-time data

A slight delay on footage relayed from a planted camcorder at the party to Gale Weathers’ news van results in Gale rushing too late to the aid of an unsuspecting victim, and putting herself in the line of fire. IoT-enabled remote surveillance cameras would be able to send real-time updates to a connected device such as a smart phone.

This is just a fun way of showing how IoT can impact everyday life. IBM has lots more examples of cognitive housing and devices that help protect the people inside.

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