I have a swimming pool with a pump that keeps going wrong. Why do I have to go look at the pump to find out it is not working, after it has already failed. And do this while my friend in Berlin has attached the baby monitor for his toddler daughter to an SMS text alert service, so he can pop downstairs to the coffee shop for a meeting, and rush back as required.
I think it is time for Gen-X – the 26 – 46 year old generation – to break yet one more thing on our path to eventual senility and death. And this time, we want sensors.
For around us, we are bemused to find that we are living in a world without smarts. The objects we use, that we need to operate successfully in life, are as intelligent as the raw materials of which they are comprised. And yet, life does not have to be this way.
Gen-X propelled the Internet and before that, the long distance phone revolution. Why should you have to pay $3 a minute for a phone call across the States. Why shouldn’t I be able to have access to the entire Library of Congress, Prince’s Purple Rain, and an English translation of Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ … at 3 o’clock in the morning, whatever time zone I am in??
The new trend, I believe, will be the increasing demand for smart, connected objects, using sensors to track what is going on, and management tools to control their activities remotely. Rapidly, as leading edge thinkers and opinion leaders start down this direction, we will start to look around us and ask the question: why not?
As we get onto this movement en masse, we will see many opportunities to put smarts into the objects and systems we use and see around us every day. One can imagine foolish things, like a sensor on clothing that tells if it is ‘too worn’. Or smart things like sensors that tell current electricity pricing, and automatically starts (or stops) charging our electric devices and cars based on price signals. In London recently I saw Tom Standage, Business Affairs Editor at The Economist, kick-off in this direction with his personal crusade around electricity pricing.
And we do not see any reason to be physically present to check these sensors. Why – we have wifi and Internet connections. Already I do not have to go to the store to see if a book is available. Why should I move myself to check on a sensor reading? Instead we will get intelligent alerts, to whatever device we choose. And we will have the management tools – and likely service companies to help us – manage the settings for optimal performance and experience.
Obviously there is more work to be done on this. I see this as part of a general trend of greater transparency, just of objects and their status in this case. I see this as a way of utilizing the power of the masses, as sensors and objects start to cooperate, perhaps to reduce electricity consumption in an entire neighborhood automatically. And fundamentally, this is yet another step along mankind’s use of tools and technology to make life a little bit easier, and hopefully, this time around, make our never-ending consumption habit a little less damaging to the world around us.