A few days ago, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and face of Facebook announced an ambitious New Year’s resolution: to write the code for a virtual assistant (VA). The artificial intelligence (AI) creation would combine the existing “Internet of Things” technology with voice control and artificial intelligence. He and his wife could control devices at home and visualize data using virtual-reality technology. The VA would serve business and personal needs. Chart the graphs of Facebook business strategy and keep an eye on Max, the newborn daughter.
The “Internet of Things” for your home
While your budget may not compare to the Zuckerbergs, you should not ignore practical improvements you could make to your home. While the attributes of smart technology are fluid we can categorize three ways: Security and Safety, Wireless Connectivity, and Cloud Entertainment. The two watchwords for all three areas are digital and cloud.
Home security and safety
If your contract for one of those old-fashioned security systems with annual commitments is ending soon, you probably should not renew it. The Internet proved to be a game changer for home security. The old-fashioned system was tied to a landline home phone, and the police showed up for false alarms. The new security systems are digital, connected and controlled by you from any digital device, like a smartphone. Most important, you can see what’s wrong.
Your home security and safety is more than video surveillance. The real-time control of your home includes the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors. Both devices are required by law in the State of Washington. But, as they say in the late-night commercials: there is more. The same company can put you in wireless control of temperature and lighting. One of the main players in the smart home space is Samsung.
The idea is to make our homes safer and more efficient. The promise is that the Internet of Things will make our homes smarter. The proof can be found at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas where smart home appliances and devices dominate. Take a look at some of the featured products and read the Editors’ Guide.
The desire to make it easier to control devices and lights is not new. One gadget of the 1980s exemplifies that. It was called The Clapper. In case you are not old enough, here’s the memorable, mostly midnight commercial.
Cloud entertainment and information
We have progressed from clapping to control to voice commands. Talking to inanimate objects does not come naturally to me, but that’s probably a generational issue. The centerpiece of many smart homes is Amazon Echo, a sleek, black device about the size of a can holding three tennis balls. I met Alexa first in a client’s kitchen. When I arrived, the homeowner said to no one in particular: “Alexa, lower the volume,” and Alexa did. Amazon Echo is the swiss-army-knife smart home control device. You can ask Alexa about what’s on your calendar and if it will rain tomorrow. You can tell her what to put on your shopping list. You can ask her to play your favorite music, lower the temperature and, with the help of another device, find out where you put your keys.
How to become smart about the smart home.
This article is only a starting point. Search the web, talk to friends who’ve purchased some smart things. If you are as old as I, ask your children. Millennials are a good source. Keep in mind that some of these improvements are portable like the Amazon Echo, while built-in speakers are not. Thankfully, your new whole house entertainment system will be wireless which greatly simplifies installation. If you are buying a new home, make certain that the home is reasonably smart. Builders are looking at smart home technology as a money maker. So expect to pay a premium for a newly constructed smart home.
Will you profit when selling your smart home?
As with all home improvements, my advice is to keep first your own interests in mind. Whatever you buy should have a recognizable brand. Home sellers that own Bosch dishwashers or Viking ovens mention these upscale appliances in their listings for good reason. You may not be able to calculate the return of your investment in a smart home. On the other hand, you may not be able to attract the many buyers who expect to purchase only a smart home. It’s better to get ahead of the curve.
The ultimate smart home device
Being a multi-tasker, I started to write this article while watching the most recent episode of Upstairs Downstairs. Assuming for the moment that I would be living Upstairs, I wouldn’t have to raise my voice to summon for help. I simply would ring the bell. The robot that will serve me breakfast in bed is still only a sci-fi movie figure. Perhaps by the time the daughter of Mark Zuckerberg is grown up, there will be such robots. If so, I’m afraid they will be programmed never to serve breakfast in bed.
© 2016 Gerhard Ade