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A “smart” household

I was rudely awoken at around 2am this morning by my washing machine. It had mysteriously stopped mid-cycle and felt the need to beep really loudly to tell me all about it. The problem was that it couldn’t. That is, it could not tell me why it had stopped and what I needed to do to get it moving again. Is it simply not very smart?

This had me wondering what is out there that could be considered a “smart” household object.

Here’s a site that caught my eye. And the eye catching wasn’t just because of the phrase “toys for the boys and gadgets for the girls”. What’s the difference between a toy and a gadget, and why are they gender different is a whole other post?  The content that I liked –

  • What are the motivations for purchasing a £50,000 games console?  I’ve always found the consumer behaviour field of sales and marketing fascinating. The psychological makeup of a purchaser in this regard might make for an interesting case study.
  • For some a hot bubble-bath with some healthy salts is the perfect relaxant after a hard day’s work. How about one that’s simultaneously a sauna, jacuzzi and steam room?  I’m relaxing just thinking about it.
  • Other people prefer sinking into their favourite comfie chair and having some preferred music playing to add to the atmosphere. What about a chair that makes you feel like you’re sitting inside a sound speaker?  The music oozes through the chair. Sounds good? It would set you back a cool £15,000 – worth it? Perhaps not.

Another site commented that “great technology is the stuff that solves problems you already have”.  That’s quite a claim. How realistic is it? Examples given of such problems are washing the floors, rigging up a music system throughout the house without massacring walls, and cooking the dinner.  Apparently there are techie gadgets that will let you do these things. Not a mention of a washing machine that will wash the clothes without mysteriously stopping half way.

Smart gadgets has some intriguing techie toys / gadgets on show. No smart washing machine there either.

My search for smart household devices threw up some interesting results. Some were wacky, weird and wonderful. Others challenged the notion of smart.  What does “smart” mean and how “smart” is “smart enough”?

When it behaves, my washing machine really is smart. It doesn’t have any self-awareness, not is it multi-purpose. But it’s intelligent enough to do what I want it to do. I put the clothes in, put in some washing detergent, twiddle a few knobs, disappear for a few hours and when I come back, hey presto, clean clothes. Quite simply, it’s intelligent enough. When things go wrong it’s also displaying intelligence of sorts.  It beeps loudly enough to bring me running to help it out. Surely this calling for help is intelligent “thinking”.

Haven’t we come a long way?



…. are expensive. Mine are getting seriously outdated but I can’t afford to update them. Here’s a run-down –

Ipod – it’s a first gen 40GB one, with 9,000+ tracks on it, I’ve had it for a number of years now and its starting to act up – the battery doesn’t last so long, and lately it kicks up a fuss when I try to connect it to the laptop.  But it was so expensive when I bought it nearly 5 years ago that I need to get more out of it.

Phone – a Nokia that I’ve had for quite a while now. It makes and received calls and texts (even pic ones), it takes pics, it records sound and vid, wakes me up in the morning, reminds me when my birthday is so I don’t forget, etc, etc.  But it’s not an iphone or any equivalent. Todays Sunday Bus Post suggests Nokia’s newest offering is worth salivating over. They’re probably right but my saliva’s staying put. Splashing out on a new fancy phone when the existing one meets minimum requirements is just too extravagant.

Camera – again, I’ve had this for a number of years too. The digital zoom can be a tad wobbly and the viewfinder is small. It had another bang over Christmas – picture this – dog A spots fast-moving rabbit and gives chase, dog B refuses to be left behind and takes off in pursuit of dog A, dog B forgets he’s on lead, extendable lead extends very very quickly, extendable lead reaches its end and your-truly grips it tighter instead of letting go, yours-truly gets pulled off feet into heap on the ground.  At least no major damage done – but while camera continues to help me take good pics, its too extravagant to replace, especially given how expensive it was in the first place.

Laptop – a small light Acer, that’s had to have its hard disk replaced and new RAM put in. The speakers are tinny so its not great for apps requiring sound.  It gets carried around a lot and so is bound to get a bang some day soon. The SBP reviewed Getac’s everything-proof one today. It’s got a good spec too. But for €2660 it wont be mine.

Book reader – still not an owner of a Sony E Book Reader, and at €250 I probably won’t be for some time.

And as for tvs and dvd players and such like …………  I never quite got the “big-tv” thing so they’re wasted on me.