Taking stock of all the technological wonders we have at our fingertips, it's easy to compare our modern marvels to those found in a futuristic wonderland. Computers, once relegated to performing only specialized tasks in rooms built just to house them, are smaller, cheaper and more powerful than ever before. Their automated processes have made their way into countless facets of our lives, from the workplace to public utilities. Even our homes, the last line of defense from the chaos of the outside world, are more automated than ever before. The simplest mechanisms, like door locks, thermostats, and garage openers, are always-on and ready to help. It's as though the removal of menial tasks promised by pop culture staples like The Jetsons have finally come to pass.
But for all the "one day..." wishes it inspired, The Jetsons, and shows like it, were missing a crucial element in their stories of future society – the power of the internet, the unseen but powerful force that is only now beginning to drive the Jetson's like dream of a home that runs on autopilot.
In my home, the garage door and interior lights, thermostat, and even security system have an internet connection and companion smartphone app. On a typical morning, we flick on the lights, deactivate the security system, and even adjusted the temperature of the house before even leaving our bedroom. These systems notify us of important activity when we are not at home, and should there ever be an emergency, the authorities are immediately and automatically notified.
These are just a few, convenient examples of how more advanced technology is beginning to find its way into the homes of average people. They are tools, always convenient, rapidly improving, and often helpful under special circumstances like being away for extended periods.
They are, however, siloed in their own worlds, with their own apps, and their own way to doing things. This approach is fine when it comes to making a new game or photo editing software, but my home isn't broken up into fiefdoms. It's a single state and, like the family that lives inside of it, the technology that powers my home deserves to be unified. Take that devices noted above. The convenience of having them is somewhat offset by the three sets of notifications that display on our iPhones, along with the three sets of notification preferences that must be managed.
While these systems are very much aware of our presence, they are not aware of each other. There is no communication, no common interface, no single story that brings the whole package together. The apps may be simple to use in themselves, but they are definitely not simple to use in a cohesive home setup.
The automated home, one that is truly aware of all of the devices as well as the people who live in it, must tell a single story, and extend it to everyone who walks in the door. Upcoming platforms such as Apple's HomeKit are an attempt to attempt to do exactly this. The internet may be the heart and soul of home automation, but the web is what ties it all together, with our smartphones at the center.
Platforms like HomeKit have the potential to seamlessly unite these connected systems and if our collective pop cultural love with futuristic homes is any guide, there is reason to be optimistic. If any company can finally unify all this great technology, it's Apple, a company that prides itself on making consumer technology designed with a story at its very core. But until the value of a connected home is on par with plumbing, the idea will remain cordoned off from the world in its own little silo.