What We Believe In
In the near future, it will be possible to communicate with nearly every device in your home. More importantly, the value to be derived from communicating with these previously dumb, lifeless things will far outweigh the investment necessary to learn their language. These things will be able to capture data, communicate vital information to us that we wouldn’t otherwise know, and perform actions when different events occur. And when enough of these devices are connected to the Internet, you will be able to choreograph them to work together based on your specific needs. While many people have labeled this forthcoming revolution the “Internet of Things,” a more accurate description is the “Programmable World.”
This wave of technology will wash over us and have an impact on every object that is tied to security, safety, energy use, and everyday convenience and peace of mind. Doors, windows, common areas, lights, and thermostats will all become smarter. Your home will wake up, start thinking, and be able to detect the presence of people, pets, cars, smoke, humidity, moisture, lighting, temperature, vibration, angle, and movement. Objects will get to know you and sense your habits. Things will become intuitive. This connectivity will extend even further, to the items we hold most dear, to those things that service the everyday needs of the members of the household, and beyond.
The Programmable World is in its very early stages and is gathering strength. Its inevitability is being driven by three complementary trends. First and foremost, the smartphone revolution. Second, improved standards for low-power, inexpensive, and highly reliable wireless communications. Finally, ever-decreasing barriers to invention due to increased automation of manufacturing technologies. These three forces are converging to create a tipping point that will lead to mass penetration of connected devices in homes during the next ten years.
While the secondary implications of massive technology waves are unpredictable, we can now see many of the core impacts that the Programmable World will have on our homes and lives.
We will have total knowledge and control of our home in the palm of our hand–anywhere in the world. In the same way that the last decade has led many of us to instinctively dig in our pockets wherever we are to check e-mail, manage our social media accounts, and settle trivia disputes with friends at bars; the coming decade will offer the same accessibility for anyone who wants a window into their living, breathing home, and the ability to control anything and everything in it from a distance.
Whether we’re in an office or in another country, we’ll be able to use our smartphone or tablet like a remote to control all of the lights, appliances, locks, and thermostats in our home. We can also check in to know who’s home, who’s away, what’s happening in certain rooms, and whether there are any risks or dangers like unexpected movement when we’re not there. In short, we’ll be able to know what’s happening in multiple places at the same time.
Considering that 85% of people in the U.S. state that they’d like a home security system, but less than 10% of households actually have one, this ability to monitor and control our homes from a distance will have massive implications.
In addition to being more reasonably priced than traditional home security systems and more compatible with other platforms, the home security functionality ushered in by this latest technology revolution will also be able to prevent potential risks from becoming disasters–both in and outside our homes. Smart systems will be able to automatically call the police when intruders are detected in a home, but they can also send you immediate alerts when leaks are detected, when valuable items move, or when kids try to access off-limits cabinets or areas of the house. The Programmable World won’t just make the world smarter, it’ll also make it more secure.
Secondly, the everyday objects and things in our home and office that we know so well will start to get to know us, too. Lights will know just how bright we like our bedroom when we’re waking up to ease us out of bed; our coffee maker will know when we’re in the shower and start brewing our coffee just the way we like it; and our dog’s collar won’t just know what time we leave each day, but also remind us to feed Barkley if we reach for the door before filling his bowl.
The intuitive, intelligent home has led many to equate the Programmable World as offering a sort of Jetsons-style convenience, but it also offers a far more meaningful possibility: widespread energy conservation.
It’s long been established we can reduce up to 30% of energy emissions simply by turning things on when we need them, and then off when we’re done. While energy conservation has been championed for more than 20 years now, the disconnect between knowledge and action is simply that habits are hard to break. The Programmable World bridges this by essentially cloning dozens of miniature Al Gores and planting them inside our home’s electrical wiring to ensure that we’re not just saving money on energy bills, but also helping to save the planet. Outlets automatically power down when our iPhone is fully charged, rooms adjust the temperature when we leave the house, lights shut off when we move to the next room, and appliances go to sleep when we head out to work.
In addition to facilitating green living, smart homes will also develop a sixth sense that allows them to nudge us when routine repairs are needed. In doing so, it will transform much of the service industry from one previously triggered by damage to one based on prevention. Excess water will trigger an alert and a list of local plumbers who can in time to prevent a flood, HVAC system will let us know when it’s due for a routine checkup before something goes wrong, and a recent storm may lead our roof to tell us that it needs the 15 inches of snow that just got dumped on it to be cleared now.
Finally, just as the smartphone revolution brought us cat gifs, Amazon.com, and Gangnam flashmobs, this latest revolution is destined to inspire us to create a mixture of practical, genius, and fun. There are reminders that can save lives by alerting senior citizens to take vital medicine if they’ve forgotten to do so, and also creations that automatically pour us a shot of Jim Beam when we get home from work. The same user who finds value in knowing when his or her child comes home from school each day may also love flashing the lights when they get a new Twitter follower, or blasting the theme song to Madden to remind them that the Redskins game is starting in ten minutes.
While the exact implications of this latest revolution are tough to forecast so early on, the positive commercial and social potential of the Programmable World is simply too widespread to ignore. More secure homes lead to overall crime reduction in cities, improved technology and automation has historically yielded greater efficiency, lower energy usage reduces our carbon footprint and helps fight climate change, and better care of kids and senior citizens results in greater overall independence and a higher quality of life.
The world is finally starting to wake up, and it’s connecting all of us.