The advantage is somewhat debatable. Never mind if your facial recognizer doesn’t recognize you, the security system considers you the intruder or your robotic parking garage decides you’re staying home. It seems many of these gadgets introduce new complexity into our lives. And that raises a question: When does the smart technology in our homes become stupid?
Here are a few of these inventions:
- Facial recognition technology. Used by a variety of devices to identify homeowners before performing mundane tasks like opening a door or calling an elevator. The technology (rather unpredictably) analyzes skin texture and the relative position, size, and shape of your eyes, nose, cheekbones, and jaw. Just don’t grow a beard or let those bangs get too long.
- Robotic parking. Now used in new condominium construction because of the capacity to accommodate more vehicles than a traditional parking garage. While a laudable goal, faulty computerized parking has been claiming victims since first installed. Last year an automated facility caused a fatality. The incident was ruled an accident. Conceivably the robot was the judge.
3. Aerial drones. Not just for the military. For as low as $300 these remote-controlled aircraft take excellent photos of your property—or your neighbor’s. And while it may seem inconvenient when they’re crash-landed or piloted into bystanders, drones are becoming more popular every day.
- Intelligent toilets. Complete your lavatory experience with soft light, relaxing music and a warm blast of dry air. Some even come equipped with gender recognition and Bluetooth for your mobile phone. Alas, these toilets have become the target of hackers. According to cybercrime fighter Trustwave, “attackers could cause the unit to unexpectedly open/close the lid, activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to user.”
- Self-sterilizing door handles. One new concept any hypochondriac should love. The one I’m familiar with is designed by Choi Bomi. Turning it triggers an ultraviolet lamp, which kills germs.
- Controls for your entire home. Luckily, it isn’t just the commode that can be operated by your mobile phone. Now you can use your phone to set your appliances, lighting, climate-control, electronics and security systems. The underlying software lets all the devices communicate with each other. Unsettling, perhaps, but that’s an idea worth billions. Nest, one of the companies at the forefront of this futuristic movement, was just purchased by Google for $3.2 billion.
So are you ready to surrender control of your home? It’s certainly a move Joaquin Phoenix’s girlfriend in the Oscar-nominated movie “Her” would endorse. But then again she’s an operating system with dubious motives.
Even in real life, the consequences of our reliance on technology can get the better of us. An entertainment exec I know set up an elaborate home security system—then used it to accidentally lock himself in his basement music studio. He spent more than seven hours banging on the window trying to get the attention of his guards, but gardeners mowing the lawn muffled his distress calls. Eventually his wife returned home to find him.
How energized we are to rely on these contraptions when we can’t even get music playing in the right zone. And really, how many times must we reset the router?
When it comes to our homes, smart becomes stupid when the modern technologies accepted as necessary become obstructions to daily life. Like when your home is so technically complicated that someone under the age of 18 must show you how everything works. Or when there’s not enough time in the day to write out all the instructions necessary to leave Mom home alone.
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