According to CNET, there were about 1.2 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in 2011, mobile computing is quickly becoming the primary computing platform. As a developer, mobile is an exciting place to be and the technology and landscape is changing every day. So what do we make of products like Google TV?
With so many companies trying to shoehorn every possible online service onto a tiny screen, do we really need to think about a technology that is stuck in one place, where people spend very little time these days? Web TV came and went in the 90s, with little success at bringing web services to the sofa; but, is cramming everything into a mobile device the right way to go either?
Mobile Technology is the Key
The latest mobile craze is the iPhone 4s and it’s virtual, all knowing personal assistant named Siri. Speak a question into the iPhone and Siri will respond with a humorous quip or the required answer. This is revolutionary. No longer must we stop what we are doing to fumble with a virtual keyboard, searching for information in a tiny web browser, a past email or map application. With all the efforts spent in the development of search engines, user interfaces and these remarkable computing devices, there has never been a more efficient way of obtaining information, then asking a simple question and receiving a simple verbal answer.
The Makings of the Smart Home
Making the TV the hub of our digital world could be be short sided. With the technology currently available, we could create a home that resembles those depicted in Sci-fi movies and TV shows, such as, Minority Report and Eureka. The smart home will be a growing trend 2012 and so far most solutions are focused on turning on and off lights and adjusting the thermostat from your phone, like a glorified clapper. The real destiny of the smart home is to become the new personal, home based, headless computer.
Apple computer currently sells Time Capsule a home backup server and wireless router. This device uses an application on your desktop or laptop called Time Machine to connect to Time Capsule, once contacted your computer is backed up over wifi. Imagine if Time Capsule was expanded to connect and backup our phones and tablets.
Note: With a Jail Broken iPhone, you can backup and restore your iPhone directly from Time Capsule, without the need for a laptop.
Besides backups, Time Capsule is also a router, which could trigger events when your cell phone makes a new connection. This would allow Time Capsule or other devices to know when we are at home and when our phone was away from home and out of range.
The Welcome Home App
After a long day, we arrive home, Time Capsule gives the iPhone an ip address and starts to backup. Siri says, “Welcome Home”.
There are many ways to accomplish this functionality without Apple products, but this is a demonstration of how close one company is to providing the ultimate Smart Home experience.
If we arrive home, Siri welcomes us, she knows it is pizza night because it is on our calendar, so the TV turns on (because we have Apple TV, now with Safari) displaying the menu and number to the local pizza joint. We say, “Call Ray’s Pizza” and pizza is ordered. Siri also knows that with our pizza we like to watch a family movie with the kids, so Apple TV then displays recommendations based on our video history. Again, all we have to do is say, “Play Movie” and we are watching our family movie.
After the kids are in bed, Siri could inform us on new episodes of our favorite TV shows.
Now lets expand things a little further with a few wireless cameras containing speakers and mics. If Siri were built into a new device, like the Apple TV, most likely called iHome or Apple Home, we could interact with Siri, our virtual assistant, anywhere in the house. Now add the electronic locks, light switches and thermostat, we now have an amazing smart home.
Could this be the next boom for Apple? Just think if Apple added takeout restaurant apps with in-app-purcahse to the iTunes store which allowed them to get a piece of every takeout order. That may be over the top, but really, Apple has the technology and products that are so close to making this a possibility and set the standard of this industry form the beginning. The biggest plus would be the price to setup the home would be so much more consumable.
The Pieces to the Perfect Smart Home:
1. A Siri API, to allow developers to create new apps that can be controlled by Siri, for building voice controlled Smart Homes and other lifestyle applications.
2. A common protocol for cameras, lights, locks, doors and thermostats. Sometimes Apple likes to build their own which would be sad.
3. An advanced router that allows all these devices to talk together.
4. An iPhone, iPad, mini PC or new Smart Home command center device with Siri.
5. Voice recognition for security and user accounts. Settings could be assigned to each individual in the family. With good voice recognition, Siri could control individual accounts based on voice.
How close is Microsoft to something like this?
With the xBox as the new hub and their partnership with Verizon which relies on the Fios router, they could have connections with Verizon Fios’ Home Control service. This service allows you to lock doors, turn off lights, adjust thermostats and monitor home security from anywhere. Without a Siri type virtual assistant, Microsoft or Verizon, just doesn’t have the complete package. Microsoft’s focus on just the TV, could leave them playing catch up again, as they have with smart phones, mp3 players, and tablets.
Google is working on a Siri type assistant for their mobile Android software that could prove to be great competition to Apple. Without any home-based devices on the market besides Google TV, they would need to develop a router to connect all smart home pieces together as Verizon does and Apple could. They have proven very capable at moving swiftly into a market they see potential in; and with plenty of partnerships with 3rd party device manufactures in love with Android, you may be seeing many non-mobile devices coming out running Android this year.
Amazon is a company that has made some great decisions lately, where they end up could be surprising. They provide top tier web hosting and cloud services, a huge retail machine, and a video/entertainment service. Amazon would have a lot to gain by getting into the smart home market. They have a large infrastructure, similar to google, to be a contender. Imagine light bulbs being automatically shipped from an Amazon vender when a light bulb burns out. Even if they wanted to take a back seat to the Smart Home revolution, all the hardware to setup these smart houses will most likely be purchased through Amazon anyway.
There will be a day when the home itself becomes the new personal computer and hub to our digital world.
If you already have a Smart Home, tell us how you did it.