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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Confessions of a Home-Automation Junkie

Who needs servants when your house itself is at your beck and call?

Bring on the robots! I’m a home-automation junkie and unafraid to admit it.

From lights to locks, I’m on a quest to connect everything to the Internet, with mobile apps to control the whole house from the palm of my hand.

Not everyone understands this mission. I get it. My fiancé scratches his head whenever a light seems to turn off randomly or the temperature suddenly changes. Some are concerned about the privacy implications, and others worry about the possibilities of being hacked by Vladimir Putin (he does that stuff, right?).

These concerns exist, but they won’t deter me from establishing an IP address for almost everything inside my home.

A Thermostat that Emails You

A recent addition is a Nest Learning Thermostat, which, aside from looking sharp on the wall, allows us to save energy and money with the added benefit of being able to control the temperature from anywhere.

The Nest is a great way to change energy consumption habits with both technology and information.Government subsidies aside (I only feel slightly dirty for taking advantage of our local electricity monopoly’s offer to buy the Nest unit for $100 off), the Nest is a great way to change energy consumption habits with both technology and information.

Every month, my thermostat emails me (!!!) my latest usage statistics. Not only did we earn one green “leaf” each day last month, but we also, apparently, had much lower energy usage than our neighbors. Given that we haven’t yet followed most of our neighbors in upgrading our windows to double panes (do you realize how expensive windows are?), I consider this a mild achievement.

It doesn’t really matter that only I actually use the Philips Hue app to control the three lamps connected to it; I love being surrounded by things that are talking to each other.

Peace of Mind

This weekend I will install an August Smart Lock, which will allow me to keep tabs on who is entering the house and offer temporary digital “keys” to visitors. I’ll be able to leave for a run without having a key flopping around in my pocket. It’ll also give me peace of mind when that inevitable question arises: Did I lock the door?

I live, sleep, eat, and work amidst a swarm of chattering devices.Pull up the app and “boom!” contentment is, once again, established.

Almost suddenly, many 20th-century conveniences in my 1926 home are automatic, remote, wireless, smart, and green. I live, sleep, eat, and work amidst a swarm of chattering devices.

I truly live in the future, with the added benefit of walking on creaky hardwood floors, which serve double duty as my analog security system.

All of these new gadgets are thanks to the powers of silicon and radio waves harnessed by a few brave entrepreneurs who smelled opportunities to have me pay them for something not quite necessary, but undeniably neat.

Neat but also pretty useful. It’s a wonderful thing not to have to wonder from bed on a drizzly morning if I have left the sunroof open on the car. There’s an app for that.

My Next Fix

What’s next for my automation obsession? Possibly the Amazon Echo, which my 20-something deskmate tells me is essential when I don’t quite feel like unlocking my phone to Google the origin of the term “sabotage.” Or more likely it’ll be the Google Home, which looks better than the Echo and may do some nifty things along with I read today about a Bluetooth-enabled pillow that seems a bit new Google Wifi mesh network. That despite the fact my younger colleague says she doesn’t think of any source but Amazon when it comes to modern conveniences. (I’ll take her comments under advisement.)

Can home automation go too far? I still need to load the washing machine manually, so I don’t quite see the point of talking to it. And I read today about a Bluetooth-enabled pillow that seems a bit excessive.

The real question is: Does home automation remove us from “real life,” or does it allow us to experience life more fully?

No idea.

I will say an automated gutter cleaner, the moment some brilliant mind invents it, will be a necessity. I won’t mind one bit ordering it to flash my living room lights green and play the Hallelujah chorus when all the leaves are vanquished and it docks itself back into its solar charging pod.

  • Richard N. Lorenc is Chief Growth Officer of Iron Light, an award-winning strategic marketing firm specializing in helping purpose-driven brands change the world. He served at FEE from April 2013-November 2021, most recently as FEE's Executive Vice President.