Don’t let smart home technology engulf spontaneity
At the recent Connections Conference in San Francisco, sponsored by Parks Associates, I listened to a very interesting keynote speech from Miles Kingston, general manager of the Smart Home Group for Intel Corporation. His presentation, titled ‘The Smart Home: A Domestic Revolution’, was an insightful look at the potential of the smart home.
In the presentation, Miles cited a quote from Amanda Talbot, a well-known Australian author and stylist, which summed up his message perfectly.
“Our houses are no longer simply homes, but where we work, study, socialise and shop. We demand dwellings that celebrate the rituals of domestic life and allow for privacy and a change of mood.”
Can anyone possibly argue with the accuracy of this observation? According to Miles, the smart homes of today and tomorrow are becoming increasingly “perceptive, responsive and autonomous.” They are not only capable of catering to our every need for comfort and convenience – in many cases they can anticipate those needs (e.g., smart thermostats that learn temperature patterns). Not simply a roof over our heads, our homes, through the implementation of smart home technology, have been transformed into a place where we can conduct virtually every business transaction imaginable; connect socially with anyone in the world and create a customised leisure experience with virtually no limits or boundaries.
To cap off his presentation, Miles offered a use case about a couple that travelled to Chicago for the wife’s birthday and stayed in an Airbnb that was replete with examples of the convenience and effectiveness of smart home technology. The owner of the home had relied on the technology to proactively prepare every possible creature comfort that the couple might desire, through information he had been able to gather about their likes, favourite activities and other personal data. The goal was to make their stay as enjoyable as possible based on their individual preferences.
A worthy goal to be sure but there was one aspect of the use case that made me sit up and take notice. The owner of the Airbnb had downloaded all the couple’s favourite TV shows through Netflix and Amazon, as well as their favourite music, so that they could access all their favourite entertainment options. Even though they would be far away from home, the couple would not have to miss any of their usual programs nor hear any music that was outside of their normal audio range.
From a technology standpoint, I can certainly appreciate this capability but when we think of the possibility of having a custom experience while away from home, one thing that is sometimes overlooked is a trusted mobile security solution. MivaTek developed the first software based IoT gateway by using a standard Android mobile device. Once you download the application onto your mobile device – and with a MivaTek camera for providing remote video-based security solution – you can have a mobile security system away from home. If you like you can add an additional sensor to connect directly to the MivaTek platform, all through the IoT Link application. In other words, the MivaTek platform can be taken ‘on the road’ so that our vacationing couple could have full security capabilities protecting them in their Airbnb.
Is there a point at which we, as an industry, can go a bit too far on the superficial wants and not the needs? Relating it back to our vacationing couple, what if they didn’t have all of their favourite TV and music already downloaded and waiting for them instead of focusing on the basics of safety and security? One assumes they could have preloaded and downloaded their own music and shows themselves. Or maybe they could just randomly flip through the channels and settle on something that piqued their interest and hope they’re safe at an unknown place?
This raises some questions in my mind. Does pre-installed smart home technology at a rental location have the potential to diminish our capacity for spontaneity? Does a vacation experience have to be 100% custom-tailored to the vacationers’ needs and wants and, if not, is it a failure? As a society, are we becoming so coddled in our leisure activities that we can’t occasionally just ‘follow our nose’ so to speak and seek out some adventure, however minor, that hasn’t been completely scripted for us?
Admittedly, these questions are somewhat rhetorical and they don’t all necessarily have, nor demand, answers. Perhaps this sounds like a bit of nostalgia on my part, yearning for the simpler days when we, especially as kids, ‘made our own fun’. Technology is going to continue to advance and allow us to further customise and tailor our leisure activities to the minutest degree.
My point is this: even though the technology will be there and will continue to evolve dramatically – and will allow us to create even more robust smart home environments – we might want to make sure that our daily existences don’t become so tightly scripted as to lose all opportunities for spontaneity.
Because in doing so we might lose, or at least diminish, our ability to discover new activities, expand our cultural and social circles, and just have some plain old, unexpected fun.