When Smart Homes Become Smart Communities
On Sunday morning, many residents the San Francisco Bay Area awoke to the dramatic effects of a 6.0-magnitude earthquake. As we begin the cleanup process, a lot of our friends, colleagues, and customers in the affected region let us know of an interesting finding: their smart homes registered the earthquake’s vibration at the exact minute that it shook.
As our thoughts remain with those affected, this phenomena triggers an interesting conversation about the potential for smart homes to contribute to smart communities, and how those smart communities can sense environmental changes and potentially even react to them at both a local and a global level.
We’ve always believed that some of the most powerful aspects of an open, democratized smart home Platform will be the secondary implications that spring from it. As the everyday objects around us become intelligent and start to tell us things that we never knew about our homes, what can they tell us about the larger area where we live? Like a photo mosaic, we believe that when you look at the granular data about what is happening inside our walls from a larger vantage point, it can paint a fascinating and valuable picture about our communities.
Just think: If the built-in accelerometer inside a SmartSense Multi sensor can register if homes within certain Zip codes did or didn’t experience a vibration above a certain threshold today, imagine what is possible in the near future.
Instead of relying on flash flood warnings that alert entire cities and counties about the potential for water damage… what happens when you can analyze water reports and patterns from your exact street, as reported by moisture sensors placed in peoples’ basements?
Instead of putting on clothing and planning what to wear based a forecast that’s several hours old for your city… what would happen if we could easily look up micro-climate sensing from devices like an Aeon Multi-sensor, Netatmo, and others to measure variations within cities?
Instead of waiting for a traffic report on the radio or scanning Google Maps to gauge commuting times…. imagine being able to opt in to public geofences placed along highways and popular roads to pinpoint travel times to the exact minute?
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. As our individual homes start to wake up and breathe intelligence into our surrounding communities, we have the potential to all be connected through a safer, smarter planet.
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I have some respectful ambivalence here: The readings from our own purchased sensors, should be considered 100% personal and *private* information, even though we know that our hubs transmit this to the SmartCloud (and, I presume that the Terms of Service explicitly legally limit the expectation of privacy). Yet this is precisely an *example* of the type of privacy violation that *some* substantial number of people oppose.
By requiring the use of the SmartCloud, the “best case scenario” that a privacy advocate can hope for is that their activity information (history and live) can only be obtained via judicial warrant. The worst case: by hackers, and middle case: unexpected uses by SmartThings (e.g., seismic aggregation, power outage, heat waves, individual usage patterns, etc.; for altruistic, scientific, and/or marketing purposes… ).
My personal ambivalent concern is not the issue: The question is: are SmartThings customers ALL capable of understanding the privacy risks, and do they give “informed consent” for each scenario?
On the other hand, even though I agree with Terry. The data is valuable for many reasons, and as long as we the customer can track who uses the data and who is allowed to see the data (outside of ST) then I am ok with this.
You have to put some trust in a Company like ST to try to do the right things. Given full control to we the customers will go a long way to convincing consumers that they are ultimately in control of these data points.
Going with a cloud service, you already have to trust the company involved.
I agree with the sentiment of your comment, Edward. In practicality, however, I wonder how much control and knowledge of the data distribution will always be. Banks are required to send out annual (?) privacy notices, I believe, where you have the option to explicitly “opt-out” (the default is opt-in) to data sharing to partners for marketing or other purposes. This is not yet a legal requirement of SmartThings and other cloud services, so we can be justified in hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.
Well hopping that SmartThings sets a president and creates a system that allows this to a granular level. I used to work for a bank and one of the reasons they do it that way is more for their protection than concern about the customer. I truly feel that the customer is number one with SmartThings.
Taking a wait and see…