Thursday, March 25, 2010 - Why Isn’t My House Out-Thinking My Dog Yet?

[] Seen any sci-fi movies in the past decade? Good. Then this scene should be familiar: As you move through your sparsely furnished apartment, lights automatically flick on and off. Your heating system anticipated your arrival and raised the temperature to 72 degrees. Your oven is preheated and ready to cook that cryo-packed meal you picked up at Blade Runner Joe’s. Welcome to the smart home of the future! Or not.

On the spectrum of technology’s unfulfilled promises, home automation — or domotics — sits somewhere between flying cars and holodecks. As predictable as our personal routines may seem, there’s enough variability to make intelligent automation insanely difficult. It requires devices and networks that simply don’t exist. “There’s no consumer-level AI yet,” says Gordon Meyer, author of Smart Home Hacks.

But while sassy robo-maids and self-cleaning floors are still a far-off fantasy, remote-controlled homes are a reality. In fact, you probably own the device that would make it all possible: your smartphone. This sensor-crammed, Web-enabled wonder is perfect for monitoring and controlling your abode.

The software is already being developed. Between the iPhone, Android, and Symbian, there are dozens of apps that’ll let you tweak your thermostat and lights or cue up a little mood music from the road. Unfortunately, these solutions are usually tied to a single appliance or system and depend on proprietary hardware or services. Home automation needs a standard platform to go mainstream.

Burning Question: Why Isn’t My House Out-Thinking My Dog Yet?

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