Content Insider 259 - Home Automation
Smart Home Needs a Master Plan to Succeed
By Miles Weston
"There's only one thing worse than war and that is business, and Spacely has declared business on us." Cogswell - The Jetsons, Hanna Barbara (1962)
We have a client that is a fanatic - in a good way - about recycling, reducing his firm's impact on the environment, reducing their carbon footprint, having facilities that are kind to the world.
They sell power back to the grid; and the garbage truck visits the plant so seldom, the driver has to call for directions.
Does he have what the industry constantly pitches, The Smart Home, Home of the Future?
This fantastic ideal environment emerged back in the '60s around the time he was born, and it's still a work in progress.
It's a helluva' idea but then, we see one of those movies where technology runs amuck and wipes folks out for the overall good ... jeezz!
See ... the Smart Home stuff really worked.
Fast forward 40 years and we have a bunch of bits and pieces that sorta', kinda', sometimes work together.
Work in Progress
But by 2020, everything will be in place ... yeah ... sure ... right!
Potential Everywhere - You don't have to look around your home to see where there are opportunities for technology to be put to work for you because almost everyone is working on developing solutions that will work for you .. .everywhere.
The cycle of technology embedding and innovation will become viable at some level by then because manufacturers, utility operators and local governments are actively pushing in that direction.
Whether you believe in global warming or not, the fact is our wasteful, costly models are not sustainable. At some level, everyone agrees we have to address resource management and our environmental concerns.
Our home has pockets of working technology -- home wireless network, programmable thermostat, smart electricity meter, programmable yard watering, wireless audio/video everywhere and a security system.
Each does its job but they certainly don't talk to each other, work together like the "it's gonna' be so good" vision.
What's holding the smart home back?
- The rich are getting richer and the idea of saving such small amounts isn't of much interest except as a cocktail party talking point.
- The "middle class" and poor are scrambling to survive and put something away for tomorrow.
- Profit - companies want their system silos to retain market share while the customers (utilities, manufacturers and service providers) want end-to-end control.
- Economic weakness, economic uncertainty - around the globe, millions of homes are under water.
- Lack of building code and product standards; lack of oversight/regulation.
- Resistance from entrenched technologies; lack of tested, mature new technologies
It's not hopeless though.
Today, you can hardly buy a laptop/ultrabook, tablet/iPad, smartphone/iPhone without a webcam.
As people slowly replace appliances, they'll probably have to buy a smart-system product and figure out how to connect to the rest of their smart system(s).
What kind of smart home do we want?
Images in Glass - The key to a successful smart home is having the user interface available to you when you want it, where you want it, how you want it. If you're trying to imagine the possibilities, visit Corning's website.
Check out Corning's "A Day of Glass" on YouTube and you'll want to kick your house's foundation.
The technology is used, not seen.
Control is there when you want it, when you need it.
You don't even think about it ... gawd, it's freakin' fantastic!
Windex folks can't wait!
It's the Apps - Almost everyone who is developing a home automation solution today is also including an application for tablets and smartphones. Manufacturers and service providers all have apps that serve the user and the company.
To help us get there from here to there, Corning also makes their Gorilla and bendable glass which is being used in wall control units, tablets, smartphones.
And everyone is producing their app to control their systems, their products. And no, they don't work together or share information.
But it's a start and the user interface is pivotal to smart home acceptance and success, so it's a start.
Our kid had to operate the old VCR for us and if you think we're going to want a thermostat that's smarter than we are ... think again!
LG, Samsung and others have been trying to convince us to buy smart appliances for years. And according to ABI Research, delivery of groceries to Korean homes is already over 20 percent penetration so their Internet-equipped refrigerators that auto order make sense at some level.
Of course, the delivery person would have to have access to the house to put the stuff away and we'll need better AI (artificial intelligence) to determine what is needed (what went bad) and what was delivered; but those little issues can be worked out.
So what's holding back the Home of the future? All of us!
Sure, we all know we have to manage our resources better, and intelligent homes will be a giant leap forward.
Support is Vital
But remember, we couldn't "manage" the VCR and a smart home has to be easy for real people (not geeks) to manage; and the systems, infrastructure have to be bulletproof. Information has to move seamlessly, effortlessly across the entire home network because ... it's My Home, My Sanctuary!
Face it ... something can/will go wrong.
Power Gone Wild - Nikola Tesla was arguably the first to develop electricity and wireless technologies which are the backbone of today's smart home conversion efforts. Retrofitting your home is not only expensive, it can also be a little dangerous.
That means you're going to need an expert technician to solve the problem ... NOW!
No one wants to listen to a pre-recorded voice that says the service/support people are busy right now but they are anxious to answer your call.
The smart home will move forward a little slower than analysts project - heck let's push it out to 2040 - as we replace products and systems in our homes
But the organizations have to think beyond "their" solutions, "their" silos of technology, "their" customer control/management share.
Sure, we care about the environment, the future. But companies, service providers, government/legislation entities have to look beyond their self-interest and work together on all of the issues, all the needs, all of the opportunities for all users.
The smart home, smart car, and smart phone all share the same thing for control fabric-the Internet.
Maybe it will take something like Gary Shapiro's CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) to launch a global enlightened self-interest initiative to move companies, providers and governments to leverage the power of the Internet and help folks change their behavior.
After all, retrofitting an existing base of homes that are out there is a huge undertaking; and if they can move everyone in the same direction, it could be profitable for all of their members.
And it would probably help us all.
But we still don't like the idea of our car and our home being smarter than we are, even if they do make our lives and environment better for tomorrow.
The Home of the Future, the totally connected home, can/will become a model of efficiency.
Technology isn't holding us back. We're holding ourselves back.
Hot Idea - The idea of automating your home and making it smart to serve you even more has been an idea that has been around since the early '60s. Everyone wants in on the act (and sales) - manufacturers, service providers, builders/contractors - except consumers who seem to still have other priorities today.
Of course, we don't care if Mrs. Townsend does tell us, "There's nothing like it on the market. Not at this price."
When the house tells us, "GET OUT!" ...we're outta' there!