― John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar
We call them smart phones because they come with a disembodied voice named Siri poised to spit out directions along with often comical web search results and one-liners for every possible question.
When I recently asked my phone why she/him/it/they is named Siri, she replied, “Wherever you are there I am.” Which sounded marginally biblical and a little scary. But not as scary as the daily conversations being recorded (streamed) in your home by the new ever-listening Amazon Echos & Alexas of this convenient new world we have wrought.
In the recent article titled, 'Why Alexa is always listening," Jean Baptiste is Vice-President of Advanced Technologies and Principal Analyst at Atherton Research states, "However, that's where it gets worse.
Amazon has actually hired a team of people around of the world to analyze snippets of conversations that Echo devices secretly record and upload—without the user's consent or knowledge—to the cloud, claiming it will improve Alexa's "customer experience". Unfortunately, the data is not really being anonymized and can be traced back to the actual owner of the smart speaker."
Fortunately, according to Baptiste, next-generation Google Assistant are paving the way for a new kind of smart voice-assistant, designed with privacy in mind, that do not require uploaded user voice samples to improve their performance and customer experience.
No matter how you look at it, these smart home devices do make life better in many ways. But it is up to us to determine when it's doing too much for our own good. While it's nice that Google's Home Hub can learn/play your favorite music and help you with recipes while your hands are deep in cookie dough, it probably shouldn't replace you as the best joke teller or story reader to your kids.
So what about the kids? What about learning those lessons of responsibility and hard work by taking out the trash or mowing the lawn? Sorry, your new Ai kids will be doing that soon— Roomba® has your floors covered while Robomow trims your lawns. And they never talk back either. You're probably never going to hear your roborake say, "Ahh man, do I have too?"
Needless to say while we're trying to figure out where the dependency line is drawn on these products, new advacements continue to be explored. Take for instance Graphene.
This is a nanotech product in development that could eliminate contaminants in tap water, protect kitchen surfaces, end insect invasions, kill household odors, keep paint colors from fading, and improve entry security.
This graphite derivative is a single sheet of carbon molecules arranged into a hexagonal lattice. It is 200 times stronger than steel, weight for weight. It is also a perfect conductor of electricity, bendable, and transparent even though graphite is black.
Graphenstone is composed of a lime-base with a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms one atom thick. And thanks to the inclusion of graphene, this lime-based paint has superconductivity, which means it can improve the thermal regulation of buildings.
According to The Graphene Company director, Patrick Folkes, ”When used on interior wall surfaces, rather than heat being radiated through the walls, the graphene within the paint captures the heat. It then conducts the heat through the paint, and across the whole Graphenstone-painted surface of interior walls. This enhances the insulation measures used in buildings by slowing heat conduction through walls and out of buildings.”
Because graphene is one atom thick in the paint, less is required to achieve a durable finish that is resistant to corrosion. One liter of paint would cover two eight-meter-square coats, says The Graphene Company. And no fumes either.
There are several control systems to consider, Nest, Amazon Echo Plus, Insteon Hub Central, and the Control4 Smart Home, just to name a few. All of these will dim the lights, play music, turn up the heat, lock the doors and arm the security system and allow you to check in on your home from your smartphone. With Control4 your can press a “Goodnight” button that will put your whole house to sleep, turning off all lights and locking all doors.
However one of the coolest advancements this week has been the introduction of the truly smart bulb. At only $7.99, this offering from Wyze adds one more brilliant idea (no pun intended) to their other security smart home products.
The Wyze Bulb is controlled via their app, will let you change brightness and color temperature, set up schedules, create "scenes" (like dimming all the lights for movie night), enable "vacation mode" and much more.
You can also control the bulbs with voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant, and they're compatible with IFTTT as well. The bulbs connect to your Wi-Fi network, but there's no hub required. It is even purported that you can improve your sleep by altering the light brightness and temperature during the course of the day to impact melatonin levels.
According to a recent Coldwell Banker Real Estate blog on smart home device popularity, most offerings fall into these categories:
In the final analysis what we all want from technology is simplicity and convenience. What we don't want is for technology to become so pervasive in our lives, that it lives our lives for us.
“Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.” ― Arthur C. Clarke