Smart Homes - empowerment or imprisonment?

A revolution is about to enter our homes any moment now. Whether we like it or not, we are about to be swamped by a myriad of ivisible/invisble elecxtronic appliances which all have one thing in common. Their online activity will be 24/7. How will this impact our lives for better or worse? How will this change our approach to every day life? Will it have a significant impact on our privacy? Are we in danger of the Orwellian 1984 scenario? Becoming prisoners of our most private sphere called home? If so are there any ways to avoid it? Let’s take a look at the brewing revolution and what it will mean to us and our offspring.

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Let’s look at some general technological advances which will change our private sphere called home.

Adaptive Environments will make objects, surfaces, and coatings able to mold to people’s need. For example teh environments will become self-cleaning, self-insulating, or protective. The built environment will no longer be passive; it will become adaptive, functional, and smart.

The cloud will become more intelligent and will evolve from being a repository of data into an active resource that people rely on throughout their daily lives. For example, such agents might design a weekly menu based on a family’s health profile, fitness goals, and eating preferences, and automatically order ingredients.

“To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.”, Samuel Johnson.

The power of collective intelligence will enable us to accomplish cognitive tasks not easily handled by virtual agents and machines in the cloud. We’ll get advice and recommendations and solve problems by tapping into the social graph, and this cognitive outsourcing will be applied to both business issues and personal and lifestyle questions (e.g., “Which diet will work best for me?”).

Personal devices will be largely untethered from wired power and data connections. Access to the Internet will be ubiquitous. We will move beyond plugging in, and even beyond the “plug and play” model, to a world where data, power, and inter-networking are ubiquitous.

It will become possible for people to generate useful insights about their own habits and behaviors by fusing personal data (e.g., social media profiles, tweets, location data, purchasing histories, health sensor data).

Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserved; it is life’s undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind…cast-off and everyday clothing.”, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Intuitive interfaces will become the dominant form of interaction with personal electronics and computing devices. We’ll be freed from the rigidity of conventional input devices (e.g., keyboard, mouse, screen, remotes) and able to interact with the digital world anywhere—and any way—using a combination of gesture, touch, verbal commands, and targeted use of traditional interfaces.

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Personal Data analytics will become a consumer tool. This will open up analytics to a wide variety of personal and lifestyle applications. We’ll collect, store, interpret, and apply the vast amounts of data being created about ourselves during our everyday activities.

Many of our possessions will interact with each other and with the broader digital infrastructure. This will create a world of socially networked stuff, where things can actively sense, communicate, and share data. Rather than owning a fragmented set of possessions and devices, passively sitting next to each other, we’ll manage a dynamic ecosystem of belongings that interact and work in concert for our benefit.

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So an example could be a house or apartment which wouldmonitor you walking through the door at the end of the day and look for clues on how to best serve your needs. It might remotely sense body temperature or interpret body language; compare these with past arrivals, known schedule for the day, etc.; and “know” if you were likely returning from a workout at the gym or a 15-hour workday.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”, Maya Angelou

With this information, the system might adjust lights, music, and temperature in the house or display different information based on cues that it picked up from you. It might automatically pull up exercise tracking stats and healthy recipes after a workout, or carry-out food options when it senses that you might have just worked overtime. While this future may sound far-off, vending kiosks in Japan are already using sensors to detect age, gender, and emotional state in order to offer shoppers a more targeted selection of products.

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you”, Christian Morganstern

So all of this sounds just phenomenal. Or does it? Are we beign just too gullible thinking that all this progress will only be beneficial?

Or through getting connected on every level in our life, are we actually giving up our privacy just the way Orwell suggested. Maybe the only difference between 1984 and our own technologically hungry society is that we will more than willingly give up our lives to the system. For what? For a little bit more comfort?

So you might ask, what could be the dangers? Well, as an example, two years ago, a Cincinnati couple, Adam and Heather Schreck, were horrified when they heard a hacker shouting, “Wake up, baby!” at their 10-month old daughter, through a Foscam monitoring device they had set up in the baby’s room. The hacker could even swivel the camera back and forth to follow whatever interested him. Like many smart-home gizmos, the Schreck’s baby monitor was synced with their home Wifi network, so the parents could check on the child over the Internet via a smartphone or remote computer. Once a device is connected to your home network, however, it’s vulnerable to any hacker able to get in. Your smartphone is another vulnerability, since anyone who can crack into that might be able to access smart-home apps — a threat that surfaced recently in Australia, where several Apple customers had their mobile devices frozen, with hackers demanding a $100 ransom to unlock them.

Although these examples are far an inbeetween right now, they seek to illustrate hwo easily it is to breach our home. How easy it is, if one has the technical knowledge, to access any part of the people’s private sphere. As the homes where we will live in the future, gradually will come pre-eqiupped with all the bells and whistles, we will probably not even know where, how and in what way our privacy is being breached. Is this 24/7 suriveillance the prospect of our future?

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You might say a few innocent hackers are fine and can easily be avoided. But a bigger concern areactually the governing forces which through this technology might find a myriad new ways to police the population.

It would be way more convienent to police a state instead of coming to your doors with a search warrant. Just tap into every audio/video appliance in your house to learn everything about you. Want to hear the latest intimate gossip you have with your wife, just tap into the smart tv microphone. Or learn about your every habit at the toilet, hack into the washing machine sensors for audio feedback. If that’s not enough then surely cracking into your personal phone, computer, kitchen appliances and webcams will give out all the info the police would need to get a full picture. The beauty of it, you would never know this happened.

Who needs a prison if oen can tap everything in your house, and even lock you inside so you won’t get out. Will our homes become the prisons of the future? Orwellian nightmare, here we come.

As murky as this subject can get, there is being created a lot of awareness about the security issues which might arise. So maybe the next generation appliances won’t be so easily accessed from the outside. But the main issue is how the governing state will approach our online privacy. Will the individual’s voice win it’s rigth ro privacy? Especiall in the most sacred place of all, home./

Or will we by getting connected on every level in our life, give up our privacy just the way Orwell suggested because it will be the safest options to police the population? Maybe the only difference between 1984 and our own technologically hungry society is that we will more than willingly give up our lives to the system. For what? For a little bit more comfort? Let’s see what the future brings.

 

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