The upside to home automation

Complete home automation may have gotten off to a rocky start – companies have been trying to integrate appliances and electronics for dozens of years. I’ve been skeptical and even critical of the idea in previous posts, but I can see an upside too.

As others have pointed out integrating our devices, appliances and automobiles could have advantages. A smart home could theoretically follow us through our daily routines – turn appliances on or off when needed, move our media around so that we have access to it wherever we are, adjust heating and cooling so that it is more efficient, protect us from intruders and lots of other handy things.

I can also see a future where our personal automation systems track where we drive and where our smartphones are so that if someone uses our credit card in one location but we happen to be in another location it sets off an alert. Or if our car or smartphone or tablet or whatever is stolen our system could find them and possibly notify the police.

I can also see an interconnected system being used to solve crimes. If someone robs a bank or shoots someone on the street the police could get an instant snapshot of all the smartphones and smartcars in the area (and possibly everywhere those devices have been and gone over a certain period of time). By using tracked patterns of the owners of those devices (where they live, where they work, where they usually shop, etc.) they could trim down the list by eliminating people who normally use that bank or live nearby or drive past that location on a regular basis.

It wouldn’t eliminate everyone, but if the police had a list of twenty people who didn’t have an obviously legitimate reason for being in that area they could certainly check them out. And if one or two of those people were particularly suspicious (say they had been convicted of an armed robbery in the past) then the police could request phone records – and possibly actual conversations. I imagine that these days just about every bank robber and drive-by shooter calls their buddies or families within minutes of committing a crime to boast about their exploit.

And I can see a day when you see an ad on television for a spiffy new car you might want. You press a few buttons (or simply talk to your digital assistant) and find out if you can afford to buy one (possibly by giving up pizza deliveries for a few years). Then your system finds the nearest dealer, negotiates a price, contacts your bank for a car loan and the next day your new car shows up in your driveway with all your tunes and movies already loaded.

And the next time you try to order a pizza your digital assistant politely reminds you that you traded that pizza for a small slice of your new car.