I can remember watching “The Jetsons” during the 70s and thinking that before long our houses would be just like theirs. We would have automated equipment everywhere taking care of the stuff that people didn’t want to do. Most of the SciFi shows sort of pointed to a future that included different amounts of home automation. Alas, it hasn’t really happened as quickly as I thought it would. High costs, low usability and a lack of good products has been the norm for some time. I would have like to put up some cameras and the connected Nest smoke detector was looking pretty good as well.
It seems that Google like it as well since they announced today that they were purchasing the company Nest for $3.2 Billion. Right now, Nest has two products that they currently sell. They have a thermostat and a line of smoke detectors (both Wi-Fi connected). You can bet that if you are an up and coming professional that you have one or both installed in your house. Both are slick devices designed by a company found by ex-Apple designers. Good stuff, but unless they have about $2.5 billion stuffed in the basement of Nest then I think Google overpaid a little. Something tells me that they have a little something special cooking in the back room.
So is it finally time for home automation systems to come of age? If we lived in a vacuum then perhaps it would be time, but unfortunately (or fortunately) we don’t. Google has also recently bet big on wear-ables (Google glasses and is dabbling in watches). All of these items aren’t needed for basic human functions. With economy showing an overall slowing trend that looks to either get worse or get very worse, I don’t see a majority of middle America spending their rent and food money on home automation. Sure there will be a small percentage of yuppies out there that will buy them, so it might just be moderately successful. These are $150-200 devices and not an inexpensive item. Even if the price comes down, are you ready to change all of your locks and light switches (especially since they are all probably still working fine). Bottom-line is that I don’t see this industry moving very fast.
What does scare me are the moves that Google and others are making to have access to the information around us. All of these new devices have sensors that are constantly collecting info to help improve our lives. By that same token, they can also be used to control us as we become more dependent on them. The recent revelation of the NSA spying activities has me casting a more skeptical eye on the cameras and microphones around me. Having my home automation stay disconnected starts sounding better every day.
Just to close this little note out, I’ll remove my tin foil hat and say that you can expect plenty of news in this area of consumer goods. Smart watches will have to take a back seat for a little while as the tech news industry works itself up over this. You’ll see plenty of hand wringing about how Apple and Microsoft have missed the boat. To me, it’s not a boat that they really want to catch right now.