There is a great Simpsons’ episode where Springfield is hit by a wave of cat burglaries (Spoiler: it was Molloy). It being Springfield, the citizens are incited to panic very easily and willingly. All sorts of outlandish solutions are proposed, none perhaps more absurd than that of Professor Frink, nerd scientist and Jerry Lewis soundalike. He demonstrates a house that sprouts legs when danger approaches, so it can run away. Needless to say, the model of the house stumbles on the demonstration table and bursts into flames, with the little wooden bodies of its inhabitants tumbling out on fire. “Well,” says Frink, “the real humans won’t, uh won’t burn quite as fast, in there.”
It’s ridiculous, of course, and funny, but it also shows something real. When danger strikes, it would be of great comfort to know that our houses could take care of themselves, and of us. It gets into the classic sci-fi trope of being able to communicate with your house and have your house not only anticipate your needs, but cater to them. Amazingly, it isn’t that far-fetched. In everything from security to making your breakfast, a fully-connected smarthome, a vital part of the Internet of Things and deeply connected with our mobile technology, is going to change the way we live sooner than you may think. Right now, we’re going to look at how it impacts your safety and security. Legs, though, are probably not included.
Always watching: security and the smarthome
Security is probably where people are going to most immediately notice their smarthome, even if they don’t consider it as such yet. Major cable providers are also offering security packages, which are enhanced by being connected to your mobile device. You can already use your smartphone or tablet to lock your doors from anywhere. You can also turn lights and your TV on and off, either to save energy or to trick burglars into thinking you are home.
Where it gets really smart, though, is when it allows you to see what is going on seamlessly, from anywhere. Advanced facial recognition technology allows home security systems to identify who is at the door. Imagine watching TV and having an alert that not only says someone is coming up the path, but also lets you know if it is a stranger or your buddy Jerry. The image can come on the screen, or using its facial recognition abilities, you can get an alert on TV (or your phone, or tablet) that says “Jerry is approaching” or “unknown person is approaching.” This is great for both convenience and deterrence.
A system like this is smarter than just a camera. A facial recognition system that is fully integrated into your house and the internet can see if someone is approaching late at night, especially after you have gone to bed, and can quickly identify if you know them or not. They can alert you and let you decide what to do before they are even there, also alerting the police.
A deterrent to outsiders; protection from yourself
This works not just to help you react to scary circumstances but to prevent them. A system like this lets criminals know that everything they do can be recorded on more than just a camera – they know that their moves are actually being anticipated by an unsleeping house. Samsung estimates that this can cost less and do more than a normal security system.
It’s more than just the burglar, though. As a CES panel at Las Vegas agreed, part of the thrill was never having to walk into a dark house, which is the scariest thing most people do all day. Before you’d have to leave your lights on, or maybe program them to turn on at a certain time and hope it aligned with the realities of your day. Now, you can have the lights turn on 1 minute before you walk in, all through your phone or tablet.
Your connected house can also tell if there is smoke and alert the proper people, including the fire department and you. It can eventually be smart enough to handle an emergency itself with a minimum of fuss, theoretically. A smarthome is not one that controls you, but one that you don’t need to worry about, thus providing you with more freedom.
There is a lot more than security, of course, and we’ll go over that in future articles. The CES conference that just wrapped up was dominated by the idea of a smarthome, and there is a lot to unpack. Why, who knows – in the future, my house could even anticipate if I feel like watching a Simpsons rerun. Or, you know, it could do something challenging as well.