Monday, August 10, 2015

Home sweet not-so-smart home

For those not in the technical thick, today’s techno-talk is all about the Internet of Things.

The definition is fairly elastic, but fundamentally it’s all about all the smart stuff connecting up. Think about your smart fridge reading your smart milk carton and finding it’s expired and alerting you on your smart watch to pick some up on the way home. Before you get home, your smart watch will have alerted your smart outdoor lights to turn on and your smart thermostat to start warming the place up for you.

Meet George Jetson!

I actually have a smart thermostat, but I haven’t gotten around to setting it up so that I can remote in and adjust the heat/AC. I did wi-fi enable it, and it sends me (unwanted) email alerts when I adjust a setting, but I haven’t automated anything beyond that.

With a home reno project nearing, I will probably want to figure out how to do this so that the construction guys don’t leave the AC on overnight and weekends.

Mostly, though, I prefer what’s in my home to be not-so-smart.

So no smart new fridge ordering more yogurt and grapes. No smart new range surprising me with a pot of soup. No smart new dishwasher reporting a chipped plate. No smart new lighting that detects when I’m trying to figure out if those socks are black or navy. No smart window shades modestly closing when a neighbor gets nosy. No smart new home entertainment, detecting my mood and deciding whether I want to listen to The Boss or watch “My 600 Pound Life.” No smart security system keying off my eyeballs and thumbprint. (What’s wrong with the chain lock?)

Me, I’m just as happy with not-so-smart.

Smarty-pants everything sounds too dangerous, too invasive, too error prone. I’m the one who wants the manual override. (I’d be just as happy if cars came with an option that lets you hand crank a power window if the electronics fail.)

I have visions of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice – minus Mickey Mouse grinning goofily. Just an endless parade of brooms and water buckets ordered up by a smart floor that’s decided it could do with a swab…

So I was somewhat relieved to find that, even some of the pioneers who’ve invested heavily in “smart homes”:

At his home in New York, hotelier and real-estate developer Ian Schrager has a “smart-home” system that allows him to remotely control the lighting, window shades, entertainment and even the temperature of the swimming pool. It drives him nuts.

The system breaks so often—about five times a year, he estimates—that he has installed a second system, with a hard-wired electrical switch to override it.

Mr. Schrager decided not to include a smart-home package at his company’s new luxury-condo development in the Bowery district of Manhattan, and hasn’t included one in any of his previous projects.

“It can be a lot of bells and whistles that people don’t like,” says Mr. Schrager, who recently returned from a hotel in Italy where the minibar lights automatically went on when he walked past it to the bathroom in the middle of the night, waking up his wife. (Source: WSJ Online)

No bells, no whistles.Count me in.

The only bell I want is the doorbell, and the only whistle, the teakettle.

It’s easier on the sanity, and cheaper that way. The folks cited in the article had spent tens-of-thousands of dollars on making their home smart. (As opposed to those of us spending that kind of moola just making their homes comfortable and up to date.)

One couple uses their smart video system to spy on monitor their contractors to make sure that they’re actually working.

I’ll just be doing that the old fashioned way.

I’m going to be out of home for 6-8 weeks, staying with my sister. But I’ll be buzzing by to pick up my mail (or to make my way through the plastic coverings to pick up something I forgot to take) every couple of days.

I’m not not going to make a pest of myself, but I will be doing a look-see often enough to keep the boys on their toes. And unless they have something rigged up that I’m not aware of, they won’t even see me coming.

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