Turn It Up! – By Mike Spry

Every once in awhile—when the eternal race slows and we’re given the luxury of a moment to take stock of our lives—we come to the humbling realization that we live in the future. The science fiction of our youth—from the speculative fiction of writers like Isaac Asimov and Michael Crichton to the predictive texts of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley to augural films like Back to the Future and 2001: A Space Odyssey to oracular television series like Star Trek and Max Headroom—the prescient works of our childhoods have become the reality of our adulthoods. What was prophecy has become the phenomena of truth, and technology now informs and impresses upon our lives in ways we used to only dream of.

The early part of this century has been spent revelling in the opulence of what was once simply imagination. Digital technology has changed the way we socialize, the way we commute, the way we communicate, the way we work, the way we play. Our cars are more efficient, our computers more powerful, our offices more productive, our children more inquisitive, our parents better cared for, our entertainment more interactive, our everyday more ambitious. It seems like every facet of our lives have been connected, and we have harnessed the capacity of our resources. But one entity has been reticent to embrace the digital revolution and just as it seems as if we’ve reached the limits of imagination, the final
frontier of smart technology has arrived where we need it most: Our homes.

How much time do we spend at home? Half of our lives? Three-quarters? It is our refuge, our sanctuary, our respite from a world that moves quickly and asks a lot of us. And yet, besides streaming entertainment and wireless speakers, the digitized homestead has been a slow arrival. Interestingly, the home was among the first places where technology was introduced into our lives. The challenges of maintaining a home, of managing a family and tempering the demands of the domestic gave way to ambitious invention. Power grids and urban centres of the earliest days of the last century gave way to home energy and heating by advanced means. Refrigerators, freezers, ranges, washers and dryers were all introduced into the home in order to reduce our domestic workload and increase our time for luxury and abundance, to promote family time above the inherent labour of the domicile. But somehow domiciliary technology plateaued as we digitized other aspects of our lives. Now that we have connected the rest of our days to an appliance in our pockets, household technology is coming home—quite literally.

The golden age of home automation—or the “smart home”—is finally upon us. A cursory understanding of the implications of the technology would suggest that the smart home is simply a way to control our thermostats from afar, crank the stereo while three rooms away, or turn off the oven we’ve left on after we’ve arrived at work. But the smart home is more than digitized convenience—it’s the future of luxury living. From wireless speakers in every room to robotic lawnmowers to efficient energy consumption, home automation allows us to achieve perfection, all from our smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and laptops. The benefit and extravagance of smart homes are seemingly limitless, and after a long wait the digital hearth is about to warm all of our households.

A home is made up of an infinite number of technologies and appliances. Home automation aspires to make the infinite singular. Smart homes are born of the internet of things, “a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies” according to the Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things, a group established to cultivate the success of the manner in which connectivity informs and improves our lives. Allowing embedded technologies to share information, to be connected and controlled, has led to the integration of digitization in every aspect of our lives. In the smart home realm, this connectivity has allowed us centralized authority of all manner of the homestead.

Smart homes allow us to control our households from anywhere, at any time. It’s not simply about convenience, it’s about maximizing what your home can offer you. When we’ve invested in a house or cottage or condominium or loft or any abode we’ve invested not only in a construct, but in a lifestyle. Smart home technology augments your home’s efficiencies and amplifies its possibilities. Consider being able to tailor each light bulb to the seasonal requirements of a room, the hourly requirements, the climate requirements. Control and automate your heating based on the time of day, the time of year, the time of
sundown. Protect your cherished habitat with security cameras and two-way microphones that allow you to be in your home even if you’re a world away.

No company represents and revolutionizes smart technology like Apple. Ten years and seven iterations into the iPhone we can barely recall what life was like before we could ask Siri how to get from point A to point B, before we could work from our pockets, before everything was at our digital disposal. Six years removed from the introduction of the iPad, we can hardly remember days without our tablets close at hand. Only a year ago we were presented with the Apple Watch, a product born of youthful SciFi if ever there was one, an accessory of imagination that strives to further ease the burdens of modernity, to free us from the tether and bulk of responsibility. With the release of the conveniences’ latest operating system, we can see that home automation has found its place within the culture of digital necessity. The iOS 10’s Home app allows us to control HomeKit-enabled smart home technologies with our iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. Apple claims that HomeKit can connect with any smart device, furthering our connectivity and enhancing our ability to interact with our homes. Voice controlled, highly customizable, equipped with an “autopilot” that commands your home when you’re unable to, and the option “to set scenes, which enable multiple accessories to work in combination — all with a single command. So you can create a scene named ‘Leaving home’ that turns off the lights, locks your doors, and lowers the thermostat,” Apple has made home automation a standard of digital affluence.

The list of items that can be connected to your smart home integration is endless. To list them all would be folly, for the list defies completion. What is most important to understand about home automation is that it is soon approaching ubiquity. It will be the standard of the domicile. Furthermore, it is the perfection of life that you can’t possibly do without, for it is the very definition of perfection itself. Your home is the single largest investment you will make in yourself, in your family, and home automation is the full realization of that investment. To have a luxury home without digital automation is like driving a Mercedes-Benz with a Lada engine. Smart homes empower a construct. Turn everything on, off, down, and up from wherever, whenever. The future is here.