Smart Technology Makes Smart People

This is a good video on creating a smart house by a company called SmartThings.

Building on Facebook’s social graph where we are all connected in the social realm, SmartThings has developed the concept of the physical graph, where all things are connected and are programmable.

While most of us still don’t see the real need for our toasters and fridge to be connected to the Internet and wouldn’t pay more for it, SmartThings has some cool ideas that may just yet help the smart home market actually take off.

The obvious–turn on/off lights, fans, and appliances; adjust thermostats, and monitor your home through security cameras over the Internet.

The not so obvious–

– Add a “presence tag” and the home can sense when you arrive/leave and take appropriate action to adjust lights, temperature, security system, and so on.

– Add a open/shut sensor and you can know if you left a door or cabinet open or if someone (like the kids) is getting into the liquor closet or a small child into the cabinet with dangerous cleaners and chemicals.

– Add a “moisture sensor” and you can be alerted to broken water pipes.

– Add a “smart service” and you can notify the plumber about the water emergency at your home.

– Add smart apps by 3rd party developers and you can get notification when there is a severe weather alert and you left the windows open.

– Add “party mode” and you can have the patio lights, blender, music and disco ball going on for some fun.

I like the look of the app they’ve created to control all these things on your Smartphone–simply choosing your location (home, office, etc.), room, and then physical item that you want to remotely monitor or control.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal (23 Feb. 2013) take this “smart” concept yet further to where we actually start giving up control to the devices themselves and asks “Is smart [technology] making us dumb?”

Some examples…

– Cars sense when we are tired and attempts to drive for us or they detect we are driving too fast or reckless and notifies our insurance company.

– The scale sees that we put on a few pounds and contacts the personal trainer for an appointment for us or won’t allow us to heat up the pizza when we slide it into the microwave.

– The toothbrush senses that we brushed a little too quick today and urges us to brush a little more.

– The trashcan detects that we did not separate out the recyclables and splashes this embarrassing information on Facebook.

– The washer detects high water usage this month and suggests we hold off on the next load.

The WSJ comes to a distinction between “good smart” and “bad smart,” where good smart gives us more information for better decision-making and the control to execute on it, and bad smart is where you “surrender to the new technology.”

While I agree with Google’s CFO who said “The world is a broken place whose problems…can be solved by technology,” I also believe that “smart design” means that we remain the masters and the technology remains the slave.

Technology is a tool that can help us solve-problems, but we are the problem-solvers and we must learn through trial and error and a maturation process so we can continue to address ever larger and more complex problems.

Giving up control to technology may make sense if we are about to harm ourselves or others–like with having automatic stopping on a car backing out and about to hit a little child–but it doesn’t make sense in directing the personal decisions that we see fit for ourselves.

Sometimes we will be right and other times, very wrong, but that is living, learning, growing, and being human beings accountable for our actions–not being another automaton hooked to the physical graph. 😉

>We Need A Grand Vision—Let It Be Smart!

>We can build systems that are stand-alone and require lots of hands-on monitoring, care, and feeding or we can create systems that are smart—they are self-monitoring providing on-going feedback, and often self-healing and they help ensure higher levels of productivity and up-time.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 17 February 2009, smart technology is about making systems that are “intelligent and improve productivity in the long run…they [makes use of] the latest advances in sensors, wireless communications and computing power, all tied together by the Internet.”

As we pour hundreds of billions of dollars of recovery funds into fixing our aging national infrastructure for roads, bridges, and the energy grid—let’s NOT just fix the potholes and reinforce the concrete girders and have more of the same. RATHER, let’s use the opportunity to leap forward and build a “smarter,” more cost–effective, and modernized infrastructure that takes us, as nation, to the next playing-level in the global competitive marketplace.”

Smart transportation—the “best way to fight congestion is intelligent transportation systems, such as roadside sensors to measure traffic and synchronize traffic lights to control the flow of vehicles…real time information about road conditions, traffic jams and other events.” Next up is predictive technology to tell where jams happen before they actually occur and “roadways that control vehicles and make ‘driving’ unnecessary.”

Smart grid—this would provide for “advanced electronic meters that send a steady stream of information back to the utility” to determine power outages or damage and reroute power around trouble areas. It also provides for consumer portals that show energy consumption of major appliances, calculate energy bills under different usage scenarios and allow consumers to moderate usage patterns. Additionally, a smart grid would be able to load balance energy from different sources to compensate for peaks and valleys in usage of alternative energy sources like solar and wind.

Smart bridges—this will provide “continuous electronic monitoring of bridges structures using a network of sensors at critical points.” And there are 600,000 bridges in the U.S. As with other smart technologies, it can help predict problems before they occur or are “apparent to a human inspector…this can make the difference between a major disaster, a costly retrofit or a minor retrofit.”

Smart technology can be applied to just about everything we do. IBM for example, talks about Smart Planet and applying sensors to our networks to monitor computer and electronic systems across the spectrum of human activity.

Building this next level of intelligence into our systems is good for human safety, a green environment, productivity, and cost-efficiency.

In the absence of recovery spending on a grand vision such as a cure for cancer or colonization of Mars, at the VERY least, when it comes to our national infrastructure, let’s spend with a vision of creating something better—“Smarter”–for tomorrow than what we have today.