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Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future

Dan Jones
2/27/2012

2:10 PM -- BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2012 -- Step into tomorrow's world of wireless as your TV, cars, refrigerator and, er, more TVs seamlessly work together to help empower your m-life.

Yeah, yeah, stop me if you've heard this one -- the industry never gets tired of the wireless concept home, does it? I've been hearing about how you could control your fridge from your phone since 1998 if I remember right. Yet no one has ever really successfully explained why you'd want to. ...

Nonetheless, here we are again in Barcelona for yet another connected home demo, from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), GSM Association (GSMA) and KT Corp. As usual, we're focusing on mobile entertainment, mobile home security and m-health, all laudable applications of wireless technology. But, overall, the m-home appears more like a way to seamlessly remove marketing budgets from large companies.

The problem is, these places always feel like they're designed by people who spend their lives living out of hotels to design wireless show homes for tradeshows. There's almost never a kitchen, and mostly just a shell of a bathroom. Apparently the connected home expects you to shuttle between car and sofa being spoon-fed by your devices. Oh, wait! Anyway, step with me into the slideshow of the future and see for yourself:



You gotta pay
But the real elephant in the corner of the connected home is how will we -- as consumers -- pay for it all?

Do carriers and gear providers expect you and me to add $10, $15 or more for each connected device added on top of our current payments? And that doesn't even get into the cost of the devices themselves. Clearly at some point that model improves for the consumer in a home where every device can talk to each other, yet carriers want to sell more devices to existing users so they can boost revenues in a saturated marketplace. There's a tension there I'll try to explore more at the show.

Of course, that's not the only way you might pay for an ultra-connected life: Perhaps, in the future, your wirelessly connected fridge will endlessly pump out adverts for the latest high-fructose treats because it's the only way to cover the data plan. But every time you get tempted by the gooey delights and reach into pandora's ice box, the mobile blood pressure monitor in your phone (mandatory, if you want to get an m-health insurance policy) shrilly beeps out a warning. ...

Future's so bright, people.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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DCITDave
DCITDave
12/5/2012 | 5:41:18 PM
re: Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future


The question, I think, is: How useful is this stuff?


Reporters at trade shows often frame all these variations of the connected home as an all-or-nothing proposition.


In reality, I'd like to see some things connected and some left alone.


You can go ahead and let my fridge update me on its maintenance schedule and any wild variations in temperature that might tip me off that it needs servicing before it breaks. But I don't need it to be any "smarter" than that. 


And a connected car is fine if "connected" means Wi-Fi capable and GPS-enabled. But I had to assume a lot since the photos didn't really give a clue.


If I find those types of connectedness valuable, I'll pay extra. If I don't, or they seem annoying, then I won't. The trick, for service providers, is showing off the value of such services often enough that consumers actually recall these scenarios the next time they're in the market for a new fridge, car, etc.


 


 

joset01
joset01
12/5/2012 | 5:41:18 PM
re: Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future
How much you want to pay though? Carriers seem to seethis as another data revenue stream. I'm not really sure how much more the average american wants to pay for services and I'm certain they don't want to pay extra for wireless devices. More control from the iPhone you already own. Streaming TV. Sure. After that? Not so sure....
kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 5:41:17 PM
re: Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future


In light of AT&T's proposal today, why not have the appliance manufacturers pay the wireless freight? You know, "buy this refrigerator and never worry about it defrosting in the middle of the night." Or something like that to Phil's point about maintenance. I think that is a much more realistic use than the tricked-up stuff shown at these now-passe demos.


Most cars today come with an OnStar-like component... at least a toll free number to call for assistance. Why not a wireless connection that links up when the device senses trouble? Or needs a new filter? Of course as we have seen with printers that can be costly and unnecessary -- "time to replace that $70 color cartridge!"


So the home of the future might have some wireless links... but certainly not the kind the marketing folk dream up. Just once, it would be nice to have one of these things grounded in reality... with an interactive kiosk so you could answer Phil's questions. "How much would you pay for this service?" etc.

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 5:41:17 PM
re: Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future


In light of AT&T's proposal today, why not have the appliance manufacturers pay the wireless freight? You know, "buy this refrigerator and never worry about it defrosting in the middle of the night." Or something like that to Phil's point about maintenance. I think that is a much more realistic use than the tricked-up stuff shown at these now-passe demos.


Most cars today come with an OnStar-like component... at least a toll free number to call for assistance. Why not a wireless connection that links up when the device senses trouble? Or needs a new filter? Of course as we have seen with printers that can be costly and unnecessary -- "time to replace that $70 color cartridge!"


So the home of the future might have some wireless links... but certainly not the kind the marketing folk dream up. Just once, it would be nice to have one of these things grounded in reality... with an interactive kiosk so you could answer Phil's questions. "How much would you pay for this service?" etc.

DCITDave
DCITDave
12/5/2012 | 5:41:17 PM
re: Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future


Exactly. The more mundane the application the better, but stuff like that doesn't make for great trade show demos.


As a consumer, I want technology to rid my life of the mundane stuff. No, I don't want to sync anything or keep separate address books -- I want it to magically show up on any device I pick up and use (and it does. Thank you, iCloud).


If a home monitoring service could get the weather forecast from the Internet, my utility costs, etc. and project how much I'm going to spend on heating my home and give me that number after the first week of each month, I might save enough each month to pay for the service and then some.


Anyway, these things do have potential but it's tough to see when we're not clear if we're looking at pie-in-the-sky ideas or fully-formed products.

DCITDave
DCITDave
12/5/2012 | 5:41:17 PM
re: Dan's Guide to the Home of the Future


It depends on what "it" is. Again, back to the photos -- we see a lot of snarky asides about connected stuff, but what is that stuff doing? Is it doing something valuable or just a solution looking for a problem? 


I think what carriers are fixated on is the nearly $50 per household per month that home security services from the likes of ADT get from consumers without even providing a broadband connection OR a phone line. They want in on that cash cow so they're taking swipes at it in different ways. 

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