Outsmarting the smart home
How to find your place in an automated house
Prepare to have your brain explode.
At least, that’s the warning I’m giving my family.
Unless you are currently in sixth grade or younger, you soon will not be able to perform basic life functions in your own home. I’m serious! Want to make a pot of coffee? Well, forget about it. Because if you misplaced your phone or have 20/65 vision and can’t quite see your mobile touch-screen device, you are out of luck.
Light switches just aren’t good enough for people these days. Nope. Apparently, we require access to the International Space Station in order to turn on the fan in the bathroom. “Attention: Cosmonauts! How ’bout a little help down here!”
That’s what we have to look forward to in tomorrow’s Android-powered home. The techies may read this column and scoff at my future frustration. But they do not suffer the same aggravations that normal people encounter on a regular basis. For example, my dad recently built his “dream home.”
Yeah, mom and dad were going to retire in comfort in a state-of-the-art custom home. It was beyond beautiful. The views were amazing. The woodwork and masonry beyond compare. And the electronics! The home boasted a fully functional integrated system — the top of the line.
Each room had its own light settings for morning, afternoon and evening, played preprogrammed musical selections, and had a remote-access security system. The blinds (among other things) were also on a timed system. In theory, you would arrive home from vacation (or a long day at work) to a warm home, comfortably lit, with soft music playing and a tub filling with lavender-scented bathwater. Hmmm. That sounds nice.
In reality, mom would be cooking dinner and watching a movie when all of a sudden all the lights in the house would turn off, the drapes would go up and instead of Robert De Niro on screen she’d be watching static in an eerily dark house.
She’d shout something unrepeatable about the automated system, and stumble her way across the room to pound on the in-wall panel. Dad would be in the other room trying to read a book: “Doggonit, Charlotte! Why did you turn all the lights out again?”
Eventually, the two of them tired of reprogramming their home and longed for the days when one light switch turned on one light and a simple VCR turned the tape inside a simple VHS cassette. The future was too complicated.
But today, just a few short years later, everyone has smartphones, and we use them incessantly. It’s hard to have a conversation at a restaurant without also surfing the Web and playing Jewels.
And if you can do that, you can have a smart home, right? So in this era of the app, problems like the ones my parents bumped into presumably won’t occur again because it will be unnecessary to learn complex programs; all we will have to do is download an application, and we do that every day, anyway.
Back to those techies: They have a lot of great things to look forward to. They will whip out their phone at a restaurant and show their friends how they can start the dishwasher, get the dryer going, and set their coffeemaker on auto-drip — all from Applebee’s.
Of course, first they had to call an actual person to go over to their place and put dishes in the dishwasher, load the dryer with the wet clothes, and make sure a carafe sits safely under the coffee grounds.
As for my family, as much as we love our smartphones, we’ll probably all stick with the good ol’ fashioned, labor-intensive light switches. That being said, I am thinking of installing The Clapper (remember those “Clap on! Clap off!” ads?) in my bedroom. Getting up to turn off the light is such a drag.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.