The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.
William Ford Gibson
For those peasants who are unaware, let me illuminate you on the benefits of a smart home by taking you through a typical day of one of your betters - in this case, me.
Most ordinary people are shoved into the responsibilities of a new day with an awful, blaring alarm, and since you are ordinary people, you hit snooze no fewer than six times, giving you a grand total of 5.5 hours of sleep, and 1 hour of drowsiness punctuated by a periodic fog horn you insist is actually a clock.
I on the other hand am wafted down from my restful fantasies on a the finest butler technology has to offer. At 7:30, the lights in my abode gradually turn on so that by 7:50, they are at full brightness. Precisely at 7:55 the dulcet tones of Beethoven lift me into the start of a wonderful new day. The bathroom lights automatically turn on at 8, as I do tend to enjoy pondering Ludgwig for just a couple moments before I get on my feet, and at 8:05 the bedroom lights dim.
By 8:20 I will have showered, and the bedroom lights come on once more for me to grab a change of clothes, pack my bag and seize the day. As I leave my smart home, it automatically locks the door as I shut it, turns off all the lights, puts itself to sleep, awaiting my return.
After a day full of doing extraordinary things (I’d try and explain, but you ordinary people would just get confused, really), I return to my restful domicile. The door unlocks automatically, sensing my presence, and at once all the lights turn on, this time configured automatically to the evening theme, featuring cooler, more relaxing colors. Pandora turns on Chopin, and as I hear the satisfying click of my door automatically locking, I peruse my bookshelf for the Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
After oiling my mustache and grooming my man bun to satisfaction, it’s time for sleep. The lights automatically dim and the music shuts off at precisely 11:30, and a day of extraordinary successes is at long last over.
1995: Every object in your home has a clock & it is blinking 12:00— Michael (@_cypherpunks_) January 1, 2017
2025: Every object in your home has a IP address & the password is Admin
I think this is how Apple and company want it to feel, except it rarely ever feels like that. If you have Comcast’s shitty modem (please don’t), randomly your Hue Bridge or Kevo will disconnect for literally no reason. And this is just one of those things that if it works 80% of the time it’s significantly worse than just never working. Because rather than just accepting that it doesn’t work and finding an alternative, you’re always stuck with this expectation that it will work.
Every time the router / modem stops working and you have to reset the system (which I suppose isn’t too bad - unplug and replug the router/modem, press that giant button in the middle of the Hue Bridge, wait for a couple minutes,) but Siri and Alexa are unconnected too! So you have to manually re-enable all the Apple Home room/light configurations. Thankfully, this is super easy since they’re all labeled Hue Light Bulb 1 through n, so it’s super easy to figure out which bulb is in which room… Seriously, why was this a good idea?
Don’t get me wrong. The out of the box set up is quite easy and takes probably 10 minutes. And if you only ever had to do it one time, that would be fine… But what about once a month? Perhaps the most telling example of why the Smart Home is just clearly not ready for wide adoption is that traditional switches are just plain faster. Scheduling helps for most use cases, but for non-scheduled adhoc cases, it’s just way easier to flick the switch. If I’m going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’m not carrying my phone, finding the app, navigating to the ‘bathroom’ tab and then enabling it. I think I’ll just quickly flick the switch on and off, thanks.
If you too would like to make your non-sentient house into a dumb house, you’ll need an Amazon Echo Dot (since the regular Echo cannot connect to my preexisting surround sound system), many smart light bulbs, such as the Philips Hue, and even a smart Kevo lock for my door.