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Technology in the Home

connecting-gadgets

As part of an ongoing series on accessible and everyday technology, we asked Steve Dalby, iiNet’s Chief Regulatory Officer, to give us his thoughts on the evolving presence of tech in our daily lives.

Change

The world is changing around us, influenced by the most incredible technological advances since the industrial revolution – and it’s changing us demographically as well. Not only do we have to deal with ‘Boomers’, ‘Gen X’ and ‘Digital Natives’ – now we have to recognise the influence of the ‘Born Mobile’.

I know that change isn’t easy for everyone. Some see it as stimulating and challenging. Others see it as simply challenging, sometimes getting in the way of what they really want to do.

We also know change will continue to happen, regardless of our attitude to it, so removing sources of stress or introducing aids to manage that change can be helpful.  One of the things that seem to create stress is the constantly changing domestic tech scene.

There’s a steady stream of new devices that regularly need to be integrated with something else in the house. For example:

  • That new laptop/tablet/smartphone – “Dad, I just want to print these movie tickets!”
  • New cordless phone – “Where have all my old contacts gone?”
  • New ‘smart’ TV – “Yes, that’s nice, but how do I watch my stuff on the PVR from last week?”

It got me thinking about what I’d like to see at home, which could be useful and also reduce a bit of stress when my family is confronted with new technology.

Convergence

One of the continuing trends of the last ten years has been implacable convergence, like the ‘smart’ phone, which is now a camera, a TV, a computer, a GPS, a music and video library and a game console. That’s pretty cool really – but home networks really haven’t developed in line with that ‘smart’ phone.

Many houses still have an old telephone line for their monitored alarms, something like Netphone for low cost calls, several different mobile phones, subscription TV, ‘smart’ televisions sets, energy monitoring, Wi-Fi, multiple access devices – tablets, game consoles, laptops, printers, scanners, maybe an old desktop PC, external shared drives, ‘cloud’ accounts, digital timers, digital photo frames and Bluetooth connectivity with communications and entertainment systems in their cars… the list is pretty long.

Mobility

Added to the complexity of the home front, the convergence of devices and our desire to take it ‘all’ with us is another dimension – mobility (Yeah, the ‘Born Mobile’ make an entrance). Some in-car systems now readily and automatically connect to our smartphones and it won’t be too long before this is a standard feature. Our mobility, then, extends to multiple technical environments – at home, in-transit, in our workplaces and beyond!

I know a few people, who drive their car and arrive at their destination only to sit there with the engine running while they finish a phone call or listening to something on the radio.  We’re ‘sort-of’ mobile, but it’s not really seamless, is it?

For me I’d like to be able to, say, open a link to something like an interview or news item on my laptop in the office, then – if I want to leave, continue to listen to that same interview on my phone. Hop in the car, have it switch to the car’s speakers, then when I get home and out of the car, continue to play via my phone until I get into the house where it starts to play on my home system.

All automagically.

Costs

Then, of course there’s the question of cost. Some of these ‘wants’ aren’t without cost – but surely some aspects of running costs ought to be able to be reduced with technology. We have all this so-called ‘smart’ equipment – how do I use them to save me money?

In the household described above, we have costs associated with telephone lines, internet access, subscription telly, security monitoring and other costs – all of which are on the rise.

There seem to be costs going up (petrol, monitored alarms, electricity) and costs going down (telecommunications, consumer electronics) – can I leverage that please?

Let’s dream a bit

When I think a little more on it, trying to put myself in my wife’s (a late adopter) shoes, there’s a reasonably long wish-list for what I’d like to see in the home. Something like – a platform that does more than one thing. Something that lets me chuck out a few of the gadgets around the place. I want the functionality, I just don’t want multiple devices that have to be set up all the time.

Can I extend that to gather more information about the house? How much power it’s using, for example. Of the appliances I have, which have gobbled up the most power? Will turning off the fish tank make any difference? How can I manage what I can’t measure?

I want to able to take control, without having to stand over everything, all the time.  I need some automation, but I don’t want too much work to set it up.

We’ve all got so-called ‘smart’ phones in the house. They’re good but I wouldn’t say smart. There is no sign of actual intelligence, they just dumbly do what I tell them. How about making the phone behave a bit more intelligently – active rather than passive.  How can I get these ‘smart’ devices to talk to each other and make my life easier, not more complicated?

As a simple example – why can’t my phone tell the garage door to open without any prompting? It has GPS and knows where it is and where my house is. It knows I’ve been getting steadily closer to home over the last five minutes. When I’m in the driveway, it can see my home Wi-Fi network, so can’t it ‘connect-the-dots’ somehow and do a simple thing like signal the garage door by itself?

It knows the time too – and sunset and sunrise for this location. Can we get it to switch the porch light on and unlock the front door, if the sun has gone down? It knows the temperature – what about making a decision about switching the air-con on when I’m 5km away and heading home?

Maybe I will want to control things myself – from a distance. If it looks like rain, I might decide to switch my garden reticulation system off, without having to brave the wolf spider that lives in the control box.

Perhaps a camera with remote access to the back yard would be good. I’m sure those kids coming over the fence to retrieve their cricket balls are pinching my veggies. If I could fast forward through a couple of hours of video, from a cunningly concealed camera, I might be able to catch them red-handed.

I have access to a number of networks, including the one in the house – I’d really like the ability to add the ‘smarts’ in my phone, to the ‘smarts’ in my house, using good quality information and exploit that combination via an ‘anywhere’ network access that allows me to start moving towards the ‘anything, anywhere, anytime’ vision of the modern ‘internet of things’ I’ve heard about.

Now, wouldn’t that be something?

More next week.

30 comments

  1. John says:

    Sirs,
    We have recently built a new home in Qld and been thrust into the digital world. Our estate has no copper wire and it took nearly 12 months to connect the promised NBN. Following the floods in Qld we have now been without a landline (VOIP) for more than 7 days. The initialisation of NBN obviously stands for No Bloody Network.

    • Jess McCallum says:

      Hey John,

      I can appreciate what you’re saying and I’m sorry to hear that it’s taken so long for your estate to be connected.

      Have you spoken with our Support Team about this yet on 13 22 58?

      We are also offering customers affected by the floods;
      – Cancellation, without penalty, of the fixed line service and reservation of the customer’s telephone number for a period of 3 months.
      – Free connection to alternative premises/accommodation while a customer’s home is uninhabitable.
      – Cancellation, without penalty, of any broadband or Dial-up internet service.
      – Free installation of any ADSL internet service at the customer’s new premises within a 12 month period and continuation of existing contract (where relevant and with no penalty).

      Kind Regards,

      Jess

    • Peter says:

      @John,
      I find it interesting that a private company builds an estate with not enough infrastructure, yet it is the fault of the Government there is no internet.
      Then gigaliters of water rip up the ground, wash away poles, and again its the fault of the government.
      They realy should wear their undies on the outside.

  2. Lindy Van Heurck says:

    hi,
    i have a samsung 51in. plasma t.v and i also have a samsung internet connector plugged in. although it says im connected to my iinet wireless internet it does nothing! can you suggest what i shoukd do? would the tech. team be of use?
    thanks.

    • Adam O'grady says:

      Hi Lindy,

      Our Techii team is mostly for setting up computers and devices and getting them connected to your home network. They can also help with getting other devices (like TVs and e-readers) connected to broadband so if you’re having some difficulty, give us a call and consider booking a visit.

      Regards,
      Adam

  3. wayne jacobs says:

    great article and im sure its coming, we see more and more business smarts being added to home life as ea c h year passes.. maybe networking will get a consumer spin soon.

    only issue with your choice of words is “something that lets me chuck out a few of the gadgets”
    surely in this day and age of throwaway culture we should be looking to recomend that people use new tech routes as an opportunity to recycle a few of the old gadgets…..

    • Adam O'grady says:

      Hi Wayne,

      You make a really interesting point regarding recycling gadgets. One thing I’ve taken to at home is repurposing old smartphones and laptops as cheap and efficient servers to automate small tasks like storing family memories or running my website. Simple things, but it gives old gadgets new life. I do wish there was a more eco-friendly way of turning old gadgets into brand new gadgets though.

      Regards,
      Adam

  4. Adrian says:

    Ive been an iinet customer for 6+ years with the promise before I joined that the local (North Geelong) exchange would be converted to ADSL2. Still not connected! Now I guess it’s … let’s wait for NBN

    I agree No Bloody Network!.

  5. Rick says:

    That is impressive, Jess!

  6. Dibbs says:

    Hey John if theres no copper wires in the estate how do you get electricity into the house?

  7. John Staunton says:

    My internet connection is constantly ‘dropping’ out. I have contacted the Support Team on a number of occasions & have tried different scenarios for the connection but it still drops out. Could the telephone line coming into the house be the problem?

    • Adam O'grady says:

      Hi John,

      There can be a number of things that cause dropout problems with the internet. We generally recommend some particular troubleshooting tips to narrow down the likely causes and if we still can’t locate the problem, we’ll lodge a fault and have a technician come out and inspect the line from the premise to the exchange.

      Firstly, we recommend trying an isolation test (https://iihelp.iinet.net.au/Isolation_test) to rule out some common causes of interference that can induce dropouts. If you have an active phone line (so ADSL, not Naked DSL), we also recommend unplugging everything except the phone and seeing if there is a clear dial tone and no line noise. Issues with either of these should be reported to your phone provider who can help get them fixed up quick smart.

      Regards,
      Adam

  8. Chris says:

    “The production of too many useful things results in the production of too many useless people” – Karl Marx.

  9. Mark says:

    How about the real benifits of future technology?
    Smart appliances that load share power or traffic on networks so that overall infrastructure costs are reduced.
    Fridges that create “shopping lists” based on items you need,
    Retail stores with smart checkouts & the real kicker… True democracy whereby people can directly vote on certain legislations without the minority (but well organised) self interest groups hijacking the agenda by their effective lobbying campaigns

  10. Jason says:

    New and friendly technology and mobility are all brilliant ideas and concepts…..but to experience these good thing at the highest capacity is all dependant on our IT infrastructure. And unfortunately we do not have the very best…..

  11. Dennis MacKinlay says:

    I am stuck with telstra mobile due to the areas in which I work. Most of the competing networks do not have coverage, does iiNet? No I have not stated where I work but my job requires extensive WA travel.
    The adoption of evolving technology is indeed a problem for us “forced to be adoptees”, of mature age, but we have an eleven year old neighbour who helps out when he can. We do not use “social media” however we SKYPE a bit now and then. THat is about our limit. Our mobiles are analogue because a smart phone does not fold up out of the way and the screen needs to managed to simply receive a call. Whilst driving we use bluetooth connections to comply with the law but we do not know about automatic connections. As for unlocking our doors automatically, that is a bit too “Jetson family” for us. Will we get to adopt CB radio into this web of bottomless marvels? What about body heat recharging to avoid plugs and wires?
    Great article, look forward to the next enthralling part 2.
    Dennis

    • Adam O'grady says:

      Hi Dennis,

      iiNet uses the Optus mobile network for mobile services, if you don’t have coverage with an Optus mobile in that area an iiNet mobile may not be appropriate for you at the moment. You raise some good points, more and more people are becoming “forced adoptees” of technology and there needs to be more done to facilitate easy learning and adoption of these technologies.

      Regards,
      Adam

  12. Harry Redfern says:

    To Landline or not to Landline?

    We are about to replace our landline.We will get one with an answering machine built in. The question is….should we in fact, replace the landline….and if so, what type of phone? Or should we just use our mobiles? We will replace the cordless at the same time, as it is not working properly.If we settle for just the mobiles, then is the cordless necessary..and will it work with the mobiles? We are in the War Babies generation,so are struggling with the new technology, and both have a mobile. I suspect most of our friends would predominantly use their landline, and all phone our landline.All our contacts have our landline number. Very few have our mobil number. We are not in the habit of taking our mobile with us, except when we travel. But that could change.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this, and construct a reply.

    Harry

    • Adam O'grady says:

      It’s an interesting situation. At home, my girlfriend’s parents have a few cordless phones (connected to the landline) that they keep in bedrooms/kitchen and always answer when it rings. Everyone knows their home number and always calls that because they pick it up when they’re home. Over time though, they’ve started to rely more and more on their mobiles and use the landline less. Especially as they can keep their mobiles with them when they’re at work or out shopping, the convenience is winning out for them. In my personal case, I don’t use the landline, I just always provide my mobile number and keep it on me or beside my bed so people can get to me whenever they need to.

      Regards,
      Adam

  13. Kim says:

    Great post read my mind so many times.I think we need a new trade the Tech guy/girl who can come in and update and sync our gadgets.Just like plumbing or electrical most of us can manage the basics but need a pro for the bigger jobs, especially in a field that is constantly advancing.The hours spent pouring over two different companies instruction manuals and numerous Internet sites is not cost effective. Maybe a new Iinet service … on my wish list !

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I love all these ideas, and will welcome them – however, is this going to widen the digitial divide between the haves and have-nots? Is that important?
    I’m planning a new home, so you’ve given me lots to think about,
    thankyou.

  15. Philip Gardner says:

    We have been using NBN since its inception in Armidale. NBN has a backup battery for an extra 45 min of connection when the power goes down. Telstra recently advised us they will be changing all phones to the NBN and we jumped right in. They provided an additional modem and cordless phone, all corded phones worked as well. Shortly after we had a black out and we soon realised there was no power to the modem that operates the phones. I guess this is what you call disconnected.
    regards
    Phil

  16. John Angell says:

    I fall within the “baby boomer” set, but I don’t have any idea what a Blog is and all the other wizbang names that are used in the computer game, maybe an index for us oldies so that we can understand some of the stuff that being placed “out there” for us to use

    John

  17. I think we just have to absorb as much technology as we can, as it’s available!

    Take Western Aus HQ’ed retailer Bedshed — love the idea of a bed that stows a flat screen TV when I am not watching it. TV pops up or disappears at the touch of a button. iiNet Fetch feeding the TV… Bluetooth speakers and controls in the bedside tables.

    Am I writing spam comments or reality ‘TV’?

    Will I sleep peacefully after watching that Valentine’s Day romantic comedy?

    And, no I don’t want the CCTV Swann night-video footage from my front door on the TV at the foot of my bed! I (heart) technology at my fingertips, and thank you iiNet for letting me access whatever comms whenever I want.

    – Shauna

  18. Roger Cunnington says:

    There are so many “smart” gadgets available, most going under names which bear no relationship to the gadget’s function, eg Bluetooth. What the hell is it useful for?
    How about constructing an all inclusive & comprehensive dictionary of gadget names, which will inform senior citizens like myself, what gadgets do and provide information as to whether they are worth aquiring? Of course such a dictionary would have to be continually updated with new gadgets as they become available.
    Cheers

  19. So far I have worked out how to get my computer to function as an alarm clock and turn the kettle on for my coffee before it wakes me up in the mornings. It could potentially be rigged to make breakfast for me too. The important thing for me is it uses inexpensive everyday common household items to set that up.

    See: http://picasaweb.google.com/herman543/HowMyComputerMakesCoffee

    If there were a range of sensors and actuators available and designed for use with the personal computer or from the mobile phone I would be great. I would love to have my chooks fed, garden watered and fridge door closed when kids leave it open, all from my PC.

    Being a person who likes to live a little out of town though, I am becoming quite wary of technology that requires special exotic parts and hard to get specially qualified trades people to work on.
    They should make car computers with USB ports too, and an ordinary laptop should be able to be plugged into it to see what’s wrong with the car or truck. It might save a life if someone gets stuck in the bush due to a car computer malfunction caused by a faulty sensor or loose wire or something.

  20. Omg sooooooooooo sick of not being able to connect, what are we paying for, worst customer service ever, you guys use to have the best customer service, what happened, call centre go over seas did it?

    • Adam O'grady says:

      Hi Danielle,

      If you’re having issues with an ADSL/ADSL2+ service, we recommend trying an isolation test to rule out common causes of interference on the line. If there are still problems in isolation, there might be an issue with your phone line back to the exchange. Give us a call on 13 22 58 and we can do some more troubleshooting to investigate. If that looks like the case we can lodge a fault and have a technician come out and check the lines.

      Regards,
      Adam

  21. Technology from iinett.

    I just bought myself a Budii believing I am going forward. Paid their price for it and I believe is a bit over the top.

    This Budii upgraded my Bob2 in which I was on my second one as the first with problems.
    Anyway Budii arrives , got it up and working I thought and drops out more than Bob 2 use to.

    Tried to download games onto the pad, but no you have to be a Guru to do it . Waiting for it to be registered with Google, so Google Play can be utilised. That is not the end of the story . I some how wiped answering machine message on and went through proicess as instructed to put a message on.

    Range Support line and was told had to have another phone so I can put message on . Could not do with Budii phone as was not ready for it.

    I was really impressed with this

    Anyway on the bl—y phone for 1 hour 45 minutes and could not get phone to register with the system, could not get lan to connect and virtually finished my support with nothing except that they will swap it over with another, but if they find that my Budii was okay would have to pay for another system.

    I can tell you , not a happy chappy, Support girl was fantastic as she tried everything and could not achieve anything.

    Anyway got off phone and done some more fiddling – Think I have it up and running at this stage – no faster then Bob 2 but a nicer unit to have cosmetically

    Kevin

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