/ Technology

Smart homes – who doesn’t want to make their life simpler?

Panasonic smart home

I’m all for an easy life – so my ears pricked up when a press release about ‘smart homes’ landed on my desk. Do you want to watch your home from your mobile or tablet?

This is the latest trend for householders who want to control their homes remotely using their mobile phone or tablet.

According to bosses at Panasonic, which is has just launched its own range of smart home technology, it will help ‘simplify my life’.

Panasonic’s ‘smart home’

Panasonic says the system would allow me to check if I’ve left a bedroom window open, find out if my dog is misbehaving, or instruct a delivery driver where to leave a package. All from the comfort of my desk at work.

And although I’m somewhat of a luddite when it comes to embracing new technology, it sounds great at face value.

The Panasonic system includes cameras allowing for two-way communication, motion sensors and plugs which can all be switched on and off remotely from the same app.

You can also use it to turn your lights on while you are out or to receive an alert when your front door, shed or garage is opened.

But then I started thinking. Would these new-found powers really make my life more simple? So I find out I have left the bedroom window open, but I’m dozens of miles away at work. Imagine the worried calls to friends and family, attempts to get hold of a neighbour with a spare key, the fear of a burglary. That’s probably not going to make my life simpler. Much better surely to be kept in blissful ignorance?

Instructing a delivery driver sounds great. But think about how confusing it would be to explain to them over a camera that your home is “smart”, you’re at work, could they please leave the parcel a fraction to the left… And then they go out of camera range. And so on.

I’m really not sure that sounds so simple.

Smart home appliances

The trend for smart home appliances is growing. And even I can see the benefits of a smart meter so I don’t have to send meter readings to my energy supplier. Or a smart thermostat so I could come back to a warm cosy house after a weekend away. I’m yet to be convinced though why I would need a smart kettle I could boil from another room.

Perhaps it’s like most technology. After all, if you asked the average passer-by 15 years ago whether they would need a phone that could play music, take photos, offer breaking news alerts and 24/7 email access, I’m sure they would have thought you were crazy. But I’m sure few people would be without those luxuries now.

Are you convinced by smart technology? And does it really make our lives easier?

Comments
Member

Smart technology is also likely to make your wallet smart. It will give you more stress looking after it, more worry monitoring what’s going on, and take up too much of your time when you should be working. It’s bad enough now when people have phones glued to their ears.

And smart energy meters – only good enough to send readings at a cost of £11 billion. Don’t we have anything better to do with our money?

As a grumpy Luddite (I like steam engines, gardening and woodwork) the simple life to me is one where you don’t over complicate it, and don’t let yourself be controlled by technology. 🙁

Member

Given that you would have to spend quite a lot of money on various adaptations to your home and its fittings and systems to make much use of the smart home app I think it will take some time before it makes much impact on our lives. I can imagine the chit-chat in the office as people show off the remote functionality they have at their fingertips and compete to have the most cameras, remote controlled kettles, sensors and programmable lighting. As Ellie suggests, telling me a window has been left open is only half the story; I want a gadget that closes and locks it for me,

Why do these great leaps into the future always seem to end up with such banal applications, like putting the kettle on? Will it check there’s enough water in it? No; for that you need Cortana in Windows 10 to give you a reminder to fill the kettle before you leave home [ the sweet-talking girl having checked your diary to see that you’ll be bringing a colleague home from work for tea and will need more water in the kettle than usual and then checking how the trains are running to programme the kettle for your estimated arrival time and told you to pick up some milk on the way back from the station because it had a peek inside your fridge and found there was none within its use-by date]. Talk about making an easy life difficult.

Member

One advantage of age is that you have been through several iterations of must have technologies – and pretty much all of them were over-hyped and early adopters got stung for the novelty price. Some technologies of course died a death quickly and some lingered on for years.

Is this anything better. I doubt it.

Of course if you can monitor what is going on so can other people and they may not be friendly. There is a tale, possibly apocryphal, of a divorced husband using his knowledge of the former matrimonial home’s high tech gadgetry to put on the heating full blast when his ex-wife left on her fortnight honeymoon.

So it looks to me like a hackers delight which will be adopted rapidly by people with more money than sense … of security.

Member

I have never been an early adopter of technology, preferring others to discover whether new products are useful and waiting for teething problems to be resolved.

Sometimes I have waited too long. I regret that I did not buy a sat nav sooner than I did.

A friend used to make mock of smartphone users but he is now a convert, thanks to an app that his wife uses to monitor atrial fibrillation. Their son is a consultant cardiologist and keeps an eye on his mum.

Often technology arrives before a purpose is identified but I don’t see a problem with this.

Member

People need to realize that all computer based systems can be hacked . Beware. !!

Member
Phil says:
15 August 2015

A friend has CCTV fitted at his house which sends an alert to his smart phone when the motion sensors are activated.

So now every time a spider or other bug crawls across the lens…

Member

bisbut – couldnt be more right. ! Americans have had “smart meters ” for years and they are very angry about them . You are locked into an ever increasing contract -their meters are hacked and usage upped , their use of fridges/cookers etc are data controlled and sent back for use by US Utility companies to sell to big business -emails/post etc buy -buy -buy. But try arguing about the usage and you are locked in a long drawn out battle=YOU used it -pay for it ! Easily hacked German consumer help website tells Germans dont install them . But thats not all the transmission frequency used by the meters is the same as MICROWAVE OVENS !! thats right non protected waves of UHF aimed at you and your family and it goes through walls to your neighbour.-protection screens now being sold in the US -remove them -not a chance in the US . Check out US websites on the subject.

Member

One problem I see currently is that these are probably all proprietary systems, meaning the apps and communication protocols are specific to the manufacturer. Is this correct? It means if you have a variety of devices controlling, say, lights, radiators, blinds, appliances they may ideally come from different manufacturers (functionality, price for example) and you’d then need multiple apps. Industry standard communication protocols get round this problem. Is it happening?

Member

I can’t believe there is the level of demand yet to justify the investment needed to make this all happen, and while standardised protocols would be more convenient they might be more hackable, not less.