2008 Brings Smart Home Utopia?

Huge news! By the end of 2008 “X” will be available and built into almost every electrical device!  Your home cinema AV amplifier will come with X.

It will ramp down the volume when the doorbell or phone rings, and its on-screen display will superimpose the phone callers details or live video from the front door X enabled wireless CCTV camera.  Of course every new display device you buy from now on will have the same abilities built in.  So whether you are near the digital photo frame in the kitchen, or the new flat screen TV in the bedroom, you’ll see the same information instantly displayed.

You’ll walk into your local electrical retailer and look at the washing machines.  The cheapest ones will have limited X, perhaps the ability just to send an X packet when its finished a load.  Other machines will have top of the range X features.  They’ll be able to report the time they started, the estimated time of completion.  They’ll let any other X enabled device know the instant they have finished and you’ll be able to query them on how many loads they’ve done this month and how much electricity they used.  They’ll even send you an email to warn when their parameters are outside of normal and you may need a visit from an engineer.

Sonos and others will launch their X enabled firmware.  Suddenly your house has a voice.  Now the washing machine can announce it’s finished and ready for the next load in all the rooms you choose.  Need a reminder to put the bins out each week?  X will make the announcement in the zones you require at the day and time of your choice.  The AV amp will use its OSD to show a brief message too.  A simple press of a button on your remote, your mobile phone or any of a number of devices around the home will stop the bin reminder playing again after the pre-programmed 30 min “snooze” time.

Like all other X enabled devices the washing machine will use TCP/IP to communicate.  As every electrical device in the home now has an IP address and they can communicate directly with one another. You can expand your X setup with an inexpensive USB device and software package that will provide even more intelligence to your system, whilst providing a web interface to monitor and control everything from anywhere on the planet.  However, the appliances will always retain the ability to talk directly to one another, should the central controller go off-line.

Your security system will be X enabled too and so the house can make many other decisions based on safety, as well as security.  If the smoke detector trips at night while the house is occupied, X will enable the security panel to talk to the lights and the phones.  Turning all the lights on and ringing all internal telephones will waken everyone in double quick time.  Of course if the house is unoccupied X’s integration with the internet and phone system will produce a flurry of email, SMS and voice messages to make sure you get the news as soon as possible, along with your neighbour perhaps.

As the HVAC controller also talks X, the simple action of arming the security system is enough to have the heating system drop a couple of degrees as it gets the message that the house is no longer occupied.  Many other similar simple routines will be triggered without a second thought from you, allowing your home to better manage use of utilities, reduce its own carbon footprint.

X will of course integrate with older systems like X10 with X Gateways.  But the true power of X will be best served with two-way systems like Z-Wave that have status reporting.  The open source community will have a great involvement.  Anyone can write applications for X as it is an open standard.

So what what is X and will it really be available in 2008?  Well, so far X is just in my imagination.  X is my utopia.  Most of the senarios above are achievable now, but only with a huge amount of work and a geek to ensure the many stages of translation between each sub-system’s disparate “language” are achieved.

After 10 years of writing about the “smart” home, isn’t it time the hardware manufacturers and software companies got together and sorted this whole integration standards thing out?  We’re more than a decade into the widespread use of the internet.  IP is the standard.  Wifi is built into everything from watches to games consoles.  There’s more computing power in my phone that on the Apollo rocket that first landed on the moon.  Surely it’s not beyond the capability of man in the 21st century to sort out this mess.  Isn’t it time your washing machine could talk “X”.

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