Chapter 16

Smart Home

Let me start this scenario by playing the cynic. I have been in high-tech businesses my entire career, and there have been, for that entire time, two technologies that were always “about to be huge”: artificial intelligence (AI) and home automation. These are technologies that, on the surface, make enormous sense. They promised all kinds of benefits, advantages, and conveniences. Your AI-enabled computer would become like HAL (from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) and interact with you like a human. Your AI-fortified house would recognize patterns, predict situations, and provide bulletproof security. Home automation has been working on its own core concepts for decades. Wouldn’t it be great if your alarm clock could talk to your coffeemaker so it would start to brew a fresh pot as soon as you got out of bed?! Or wouldn’t life be easier if your lights all responded to you locking the front door? There have been many interesting ideas proposed and prototyped, but none have gone mainstream. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find much of anything home automation related at your local hardware store (though Lowe’s did just introduce a product called “Iris,” but as of this writing it’s unclear if it will be a success).

Delving into the hows and whys of this situation is not the point of this scenario, but I will argue that when it comes to technologies focused on making homes more comfortable, safe, and efficient, adding a social layer to the mix will help significantly. ...

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