Many people run their home like a business. Some have clear strategies: to develop it to make a capital gain; to use it to park the family; to make it a retreat from work.
Increasingly, new technologies are having an impact on such business imperatives. Today, IT sits in the corner of the home in the form of a PC or digital TV.
Increasingly the home will become underpinned by IT. So imagine trying to sell a house that malfunctions: whose doors unlock randomly because the domestic server is ridden with viruses. Or lets your pet fish die while you are away.
Today, taking an amateur approach to managing your home PC is acceptable as the associated risks are limited. A similar approach to your e-home will have far-reaching and possibly fatal consequences.
The race is on to invade the home. Technology providers such as Apple and Microsoft want to wire up – even wireless up – your home.
Integrated digital entertainment is maturing. The device that stores data does not have to be the delivery device. Thus several users can watch a given video in different rooms at overlapping times, all because a server is streaming the content to the various devices.
Much has been written about convergence, so it would be rude not to mention it. The convergence of telephony, data and multimedia – so called Triple Play – all via the internet, is blurring boundaries between phone, PC and TV.
The convergence of wired and wireless technologies is helping converge this convergence.
We will start to see IT as a utility in much the same way as electricity and gas. People will store their content on remote servers, or may not even bother to have a media collection at all, and just pay per view as necessary. This would also apply to games and office applications. It would cause the use of business technology, such as PCs and servers, to decrease in the home, the TV or PDA being a suitable user access device.
The fridge will be integrated into an electronic supply chain. Low on milk, the fridge places an order with the most competitive local supplier.
Health insurance companies will insist their technology is integrated into the bathroom, so that they can monitor “relevant outputs” for premium calculation purposes.
Phone-based dashboards will enable homeowners to monitor heating, lighting and security from afar.
So – before angry teenagers start complaining that your state-of-the-art washing machine has damaged the circuitry in their multimedia T-shirts – let’s consider how to minimise the downsides of migrating to a
■Avoid proprietary standards. These put you at the mercy of the vendor, which may or may not have a sustainable business model. Think Betamax.
■Don’t be an early adopter. Despite the allure of owning a holographic hypermedia TV, you should leave it to the A-list celebrities to be the “crash test dummies” for the vendors.
■Make security a priority. Malware that causes the air conditioning to blow “Arctic”, locks all doors/windows and bars external communication is no joke.
■Find a reliable service provider that sees you as a valuable client not a nuisance.
Beware – the Microsoft Certified Plumber is not far away.
Embrace technology from the outset and you will enjoy the associated benefits – but abdicate it to your children (the IT department) and you have lost control of your home.