I had to reboot my house this morning. The recessed lighting units in the kitchen and dining rooms weren't working; clicking the on-off switches and sliding the dimmer buttons didn't produce any effect. And I noticed that the cable TV control unit had relapsed into a state called "Setup" and I couldn't get all the channels. So I decided to just flip the main breaker switch and turn off power to the whole house and then bring everything back up again.
It worked. Lights came back on, TV went into regular operation mode; and all I had to do then was run around and reset all those blinking digital clocks on all the appliances. This got me to wondering; why isn't there an operating system to run my house?
It seems like my house is increasingly becoming an electronic entity that enables my lifestyle. Electronics like sensors, computers, appliances, and display screens permeate my living, cooking, and sleeping space. But they are all separate; why aren't they more integrated and easier to monitor and control?
I made a quick list of electronics in the house that have some smarts built into them and are more than just a plug in toaster or a light bulb (and I'm not a serious gadget person); here's what I came up with:
When I think about it, an analogy comes to mind that might be a bit far fetched (but maybe not) so consider this: it was the appearance of robust and easy to use operating systems that tied together a bunch of different pieces of computer hardware (like keyboards, display screens, CPUs, and storage devices) that made the personal computer a reality.
The hardware was already there and hobbyists and early pioneers were tinkering with it but not until the appearance of Apple DOS and MS-DOS did that great creation called the microcomputer or PC explode upon the scene and change the world for ever after. Those operating systems enabled all that hardware to work together, and in doing so, they became greater than the sum of their parts and a new whole new entity was born.
What would happen if my house got an operating system? It seems like it would start to come alive in the sense that it could start optimizing my use of power by continuous regulation of heating and cooling and lighting and music based on sensing my presence and the presence of others in the house. It could act on schedules and programs to place orders for food and supplies when needed, start up coffee makers and ovens and microwaves, and take voice mail messages for me and select what to wear based on what's in my closet and what my schedule calls for that day. It could also call repair people when it senses something has broken.
What kind of interface would it have? I think it would need to be based on a 3D image of my house inside and outside. I could call up rooms and address operations and gadgets in each room. I think I'd also want the interface to handle voice commands, touch screen input, cell phone input, as well as keyboard input.
This looks like a major market opportunity. Operating systems on single gadgets (like PCs or laptops) are fine as far as they go. But the future is about tying all these gadgets together into coherent entities that become greater than the sum of their parts. Who is working on this?
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