Fanus Wallace

The disconnect of the connected home

It’s 2016 and everything is getting connected, reminding me of the Kids song ‘dem bones’. My watch connect to my phone, my computer connect to my watch, and my life connects back to my phones. We live in a constant state of connectivity. We never disconnect; even when sleeping, we are connected.

There is much to say for the connected era in which we live. There are plenty of advantages, too many to mention in fact.

The connected home is now becoming more and more prominent – personally, I am not that keen on the term ‘connected’ because it doesn’t take more than the simple absence of a zero and suddenly your home is not that connected anymore. I’d rather opt for the term Smart Home.

For many, having the label of connected attached to their home is a well thought out process, but for many this label also comes with a smartie box of mishaps and disappointment, and as such – the connected home becomes the disconnected home.

I am one of those people working hard to add the Smart label to my home. I have done research to see which elements of the connected home works for me and which don’t. I have gone down the unholy route of using an iPhone, as the market tends to be primarily designed around the HomeKit and iOS for the time being.

I have spent hours and hours planning, diagramming and labelling the setup to fit my needs. I can turn my lights off thousands of kilometers away. I know the humidity in each room of my home and what the air quality is in the most lived in rooms. I can tell if a door or a window is open, spy on my cat (finally settling the argument of who is tipping the flowerpots over) and set the temperature to a cosy level of cuddleness on my way home. I have lights connected to my NEST, I have the NEST connected to my phone’s geofence knowing when I am home. It is bloody awesome.

Being connected to all our services and devices does pose a risk of actually becoming disconnected from life and people around us. We have already seen a decline in social and emotional intelligence due to Social Networking Apps. We spend less and less time physically interacting with people, and the connected home will fuel this even further. It is only when things go wrong that we become aware of it.

Already today Hoover Wizard can provide me with the connected kitchen for my home. I can control the Hoover hob, oven, washing machine, fridge and other white goods from my mobile phone.

Last night a few of my friends came for dinner, but with them they brought some sort of evilness. Just as they arrived, my router decided to update its firmware, cut out and literally left us in the dark. Suddenly my connected home disconnected me from it and by the end of the evening – my carefully crafted and planned cloud number nine love affair was back to square one. As most of my music is stored in the cloud, I could not stream music, and trying to squeeze behind the boiler to override the thermostat nearly caused a trip to A&E. My lights were stuck in Disco Mode (yes, I know, but who would not want to have a glass of wine, music, and disco lights while cooking in the kitchen?) My alarm system was constantly warning me that it couldn’t communicate with my doors and NEST – well, at least NEST was quiet.

For all the good of the connected home – the connected life – it has one big, massive flaw: Everything is reliant on one thing; interconnectivity. Bypassing the setup is not always done in a quick and easy way. Connected devices communicating are nice, but once they stop talking to each other, then even threatening to dunk them in water does not work – they will put a stubborn teenager to shame!

Back to the drawing board, it is. So much for my carefully planned connected home. Not only did this make me rethink the whole connected home idea, but it does show that although we have come a long way, there is still much more to do and explore in the ‘connected life thing’. Because let us be honest – if your devices aren’t connected then they are just a device and most likely a broken device.

Fanus Wallace

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