Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 8: Knowledge Management & Infotainment

Smart Appliances

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Smart household appliances such as coffee makers, electric blankets, smoke detectors, mixers, bathroom scales, and an assortment of health monitors are poised to make the Jetson home of the future a reality today. These products utilize protocols that leverage existing electrical wiring and phone lines to talk to each other, all controlled by Mama Jetson from a central console. The implication is that all of these contrivances will make life easier, but that remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain, billions of dollars will be invested by an odd combination of bedfellows in order to make the Jetson household a reality.

Some unusual partnerships are forming in the business world today, alliances between leaders of high technology and—of all things—companies that manufacturer ordinary household appliances. Microsoft has teamed up with Maytag, Sun Microsystems with Whirlpool, and Sunbeam, working with Zilog and emWare, has formed a new spin-off called Thalia. The purpose behind all this collaboration sounds like the stuff of fiction, since these companies plan to provide us with smart appliances and intelligent homes, all based on embedded chips and linked to the Internet for sending and receiving information.

I have serious doubts concerning how quickly this market will develop, let alone mature. If the present is any barometer of the future, then aspiring average Jetsons will just have to wait! Currently the Leyva household has four remotes for controlling our stereo and television. It pisses me off to no end when I can’t remember that one arcane option that I need, when I desperately need it. What pisses me off even more is that I have to ask my wife how the fucking gizmo works again (for the hundredth time)!

Despite making a living in high-tech, I am not a gadget lover. Why? I spend my working life climbing learning curves and reading manuals. The last thing I want to do when I come home is to read yet another fucking manual to figure out how to program my digital thermostats. Chinese water torture would be preferable. In fact, I had some digital thermostats and I wound up ripping the fuckers out after losing the manual. I couldn’t figure how to re-program the blasted things!

Only a high degree of usability and content sensitive rich content (as previously described) will work for me. I don’t want smart appliances that know how to talk to each other. I want smart appliances that allow me to talk to human beings when I need them! The inmates have been running the technology asylum for a long time now and I will be damned if I let them loose in my house anytime soon.

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