From Smart Phones to Smart Homes

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In the past 10 years, we’ve seen exceptional technological growth and amazing progress that is probably in your home right now. And it’s not in one specific field, either. From the development of HDTV and flat screen TVs, to iPods and pretty much all Apple products, to countless others too numerous to mention by name, we seem to have covered all the bases. Remember those enormous brick phones from the 90s? Ancient history.

Now people want to link all these gadgets and gizmos into an interdependent community, a controlled at home environment. According to an Amdocs survey, half of those polled think that this connectivity is priority one industry development by 2011. This could have significant impact not only in our homes and with our favorite toys, but also in areas like medicine and healthcare, non-profit work, or even education. A linked web of different devices and tools used on a day-to-day basis in such industries would provide more real-time information, integrated learning systems, and a prompt response to emergency situations.

In terms of the environment and public safety, a connected home could also vastly improve on current efforts. Recently, Verizon has developed just such a service that has very interesting implications for the future, as studied by Paula Bernier, fellow TechZone360 contributor, the implications are far-reaching. “The service will enable customers to use their smart phones, computers and/or FiOS TV services to lock doors remotely; see what's going on at home via networked cameras; and adjust, control and set their appliances, lights and thermostats.” Verizon’s Home Monitoring and Control is currently being tested by their employees, and is projected for release later this year or early 2012.  

So why hasn’t this happened before, if there are such substantial benefits? Well, there are multiple reasons. First, look around your room or your house. Is every technological device you have the same brand? Probably not. It’s a competitive world we live in, and companies don’t want to lose their edge by playing nice with their biggest rivals. Moreover, the logistics of splicing together a network and connecting everything are proving to be incredibly difficult. Our home devices all run on different types of power, Internet connectivity, wiring, etc. Before we can live in this house, these products must be modified so they are compatible.

Another concern is one that’s endemic to many of life’s complications: power. Some critics argue that our obesity problem is linked to laziness and inactivity, which are fueled by video games, the Internet, and others that encourage sitting still. I remember hearing about somebody in South Korea who died of scurvy after a 50 straight hours of the online sensation “Starcraft.” He was only 28. With such poignant and heartbreaking examples of technological abuse leading to personal detriment, it is unavoidable that a similar issue will crop up here. If all the myriad gadgets that contribute to our daily ability to function were controlled by one device, will that give people even less incentive to be pro-active?

As with any progress, change is not easy. That is vastly oversimplified, but nonetheless accurate. What this all boils down to is how everyone involved will adapt to such change. At the end of the day, progress is limited by the willing participation of our vast technology market. Are the uber-sucessful corporations willing to put aside their differences and work together to achieve a coherent and controlled at home smart system? In the name of a better future, that’s what needs to happen. It will be very interesting to see who works with whom, and how far these groundbreakers are willing to go in order to achieve such a feat. It will also be interesting to see what we, the people, will do with such progress.




Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Contributor

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