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My wish list for domestic technology

Genie Lamp resized

This is the next instalment in an ongoing series on accessible and everyday technology. Steve Dalby, iiNet’s Chief Regulatory Officer continues to explore what current technology can and can’t do and what he’d like it to do, at his place.

Last week, I shared some of my thoughts about technology and change. I also questioned just how ‘smart’ our new devices really are. Continuing that theme, I’ve come up with a wish list of sorts, for companies wishing to sell me their latest offerings. Not just a wish list of features, but also a request for how they could present them.

The list is long – as wish lists tend to be – so grab a cuppa and let me take you through what the future of domestic technology should look like, from my perspective.

Simplicity 

Present your offer simply. Focus on what the benefits are for me – the customer – and not just a list of features you’ve built in. Please don’t use jargon to describe technical features – otherwise my eyes will glaze over and you’ll lose me.  If you tell me “It has mega hurts radio”, I might say “So what?” while my mum will say “No way”.

Uncomplicated 

After a plain English explanation (without acronyms), perhaps you can just show me what it does. Pictures are always good.

If I can use it and make it work every time, without someone watching over my shoulder or without me having to scribble two pages of instructions on an old envelope, maybe I’ll buy it. If the other members of my family can do the same – you could be on to a winner.

Rationalised 

And, while we’re at it, I want to get rid of some of these other gadgets cluttering up my bench top, coffee table and power points. I want to use those power points for something my wife tells me is more important. Multiple cords and unidentified gadgets around the kitchen and family room runs the risk that they will be regularly ‘tidied up’. Four remote controls for one TV is also a drag. Can we cut down the number of batteries I need to buy or borrow from other remotes?

Support 

Not everybody is into this technical stuff, but they do know it might be useful – if they could just master its use. If it doesn’t work, though, can they ask for some help without that process becoming too complicated or time consuming? If it’s too intimidating to ask for help, maybe they won’t ask.

Lower costs somewhere

Have you seen the electricity bill !? What’s using all the power?

I bet it’s that Xbox – it’s on 24/7.

If we could just understand what’s using the power we could turn it down, switch it off or even get rid of it.  Controlling that remotely would be a bonus – like suddenly remembering the air-con is still on, as we sit at the bus stop.

Convenience

It would be really useful to switch things off at the wall, without me having to get down on the floor behind the couch… or under the bed. I know I should be switching power hungry devices off at the wall, but some power points are in very tricky to reach places.

Open standards

Customers are confused about different operating systems and don’t really want to have that as part of the buying decision. Why can’t this mobile phone have the same app as that tablet? Can’t they all get on together?

Modularity

I don’t want you telling me what I have to have. I want to add and subtract my options.  Can’t I think about it for a while and adopt other stuff later?  I don’t want to go the ‘whole hog’ just yet. I want to explore the features and have a bit of a play around first.

Automation

If I want to, I will want to do some simple programming – setting the date, time, day and location for a few things.  I haven’t worked out which ones, just yet, but I think that’s a good option to have. Our sprinklers are only allowed to only run on days with a ‘T’ in them.

Passwords and authorisations 

Someone changed the password for the Wi-Fi again, didn’t they? I’m fed up with having to remember all these obscure passwords. Can’t I just make everything 1234? Either that or give me just one password that I can remember – something simple like the name of the leading actor in that festival movie that I like. Good security and keeping out other people is fine – so long as I can access my own stuff without too much hassle.

Multiple premises 

When I get it sorted out here at home, I want to be able to have the same things accessible at mum’s place. I want to be able to check on her remotely to make sure she’s alright, lock the doors, and switch off any unnecessary appliances. I have to make sure the aquarium lights go off at night, she always forgets. So it’d be good if I could check that just before I go to bed.

What about my pets?

That’s something that would be useful. Can’t we have something that we can clip to the dog’s collar, so he can unlock the doggie door, just by coming near it? Getting up to let him out, then back in again three times a night is not fun. But I do want to know where he is. If I wake up and he’s not in, I want to be able to track him, without getting up. If he’s just doing his thing in the back yard, I can go back to sleep.

Touch to control

You know all those remote controls with 46 buttons apiece? Why do I have to use two controls just to watch Judge Judy? Can’t I have a touch screen with a few simple buttons? If you wanted to do more complicated things, you could go to another menu or page, or whatever, but leave me without all the extras. I just need TV on/off, channel, select PVR or EPG, volume control and pause/fast forward.

Any screen, simultaneously

And you know what would be really nice? All these screens synched, with seamless handover. So if I’m sitting out the back surfing the net on my tablet and the wind picks up, I could go inside and have that same screen displayed on the flat screen TV at the same time.

It would be great for Skype too. Sometimes when I’m talking to friends, others in the house want to join in so it would be handy to switch to the big screen instantly.

We have all of this technology at our fingertips and yet our digital lives seem more cluttered than ever. My wish list is long but I’m not asking for the moon. Just a simple way to integrate my digital life with what happens offline in the real world.

But this is not just wishful thinking. It is possible and it’s going to become a reality.

Stay tuned to the iiNet Blog for an announcement coming soon.

Photo Credit

3 comments

  1. Jack Cola says:

    Based on the last two lines, something sounds interesting.

    [Reply]

  2. Heather Magee says:

    Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!! We live in such a computer run society now that when the machines go bung or, god forbid, the power fails, everything else fails. No shopping – the tills don’t work, no services – all data is now stored and accessed on computers, and evacuate the building – no aircon, also computer controlled, and the windows don’t open any more!! what if your mother could turn your power on & off, & monitor your tv/computer access, etc. Cheers

    [Reply]

  3. anna says:

    In the future, living without the computers, would be like living without sewerage today. You couldn’t do it.

    Its like the Liberal party saying before the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built, “Why go to all the expense of building a harbour bridge and putting all Australians in debt, when we have a perfectly good ferry service!”.

    [Reply]

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