The Internet of Homes
It’s not news to say that tech is affecting nearly every facet of our existences: how we consume and deliver information, how we communicate, how we get around, how we use and share goods and on and on. The term “internet of things” goes even further, speaking to how one day everything in our lives will someday be tech-enabled and connected to the intelligence of the web via sensors, learning how we live, responding to our commands, collecting and delivering data, all in the name of making our lives more comfortable and efficient. The Intel corporation recently released their Smart Tiny House to serve as vision of how our homes might fit into this equation. The 210 sq ft home is packed with a variety of systems meant to both improve the quality of life for residents, but also tap into the greater intelligence of cloud systems.
Tech greets you at the door with their True Key system, a fingerprint and facial recognition based security system that lets you in the door as well as providing security for all the home’s systems. Most of the house can be controlled via a tablet or voice command. Lights can be dimmed and colors changed. Shades can be drawn. Some appliances can be turned on and off. There are leak sensors placed in trouble spots (under sinks, near showers, etc) that will notify you if there’s a leak. You can find the alert on the tablet and even book a plumber all in one fell swoop. I suspect the idea is to bring this type of system to every aspect of the house: a sensor will tell you if your roof springs a leak, if your dishwasher breaks, etc. At this point, Intel is dealing with leaks.
Intel is trying to position themselves as the brain of the smart home. They say this:
Intel creates the processors and other computing technology that serve as the brain powering a myriad of devices. Increasingly, as the home moves from connected to smart, this technology will enable a new breed of consumer electronic devices – everyday things such as lightbulbs, thermostats, smoke detectors, electrical outlets and cameras – to become connected and smart. These tiny brains inside “things” throughout the home will compute and produce data at the device level for real-time intelligence. Intel-based gateways connect the home’s smart devices, providing advanced analytics and storage, allowing the home, people and devices to work together in an intuitive, intelligent fashion. Cloud connectivity, advanced device management and built-in security will connect consumers to a variety of new services, features and cost savings.
It’s still early days for this type of tech and there are several different connectivity “smart home” protocols. But a colleague of mine noted that in the early days of telephones, there were hundreds of rival telephone companies and little interoperability. Eventually, things get sorted out. Intel is trying to address some of these interoperability issues. They have created their “Smart Home Development Acceleration Platform,” and claim they were able to enable interoperability with between three distinct lighting solutions: Philips Hue, Cree and Osram. This augers well for creating interoperability for scores of systems: wearables connecting to HVAC systems connecting to mobile devices and so on.
Frankly, the benefits of the tech on display in the Intel’s tiny house are underwhelming. But again, the house represent a start. They say in a press release, “The home is an experimental showcase that will evolve over the next 12 to 18 months as Intel explores the opportunities, experiences and tensions of creating a smart home.”
One thing that is definitely cool is that Intel chose a tiny house as the vessel for the house of the future. The motivation may have had more to do with the relative ease of working with a small space versus a large one. But tech is also making it possible to live with less in numerous ways such as the digitization of physical media and giving us access to shared goods. If you are really trying to make your home “smart,” few things are as smart as small: downsizing has the ability to reduce our spatial and carbon footprints, simplify our lives and save a buck or two.