What If?

With Liberty and Justice for All (data)

Imagine a world where you receive this email from your doctor:

Hello John,

I’m writing you to schedule a preventative care procedure. We’ve noticed ____ and, left untreated, this is a known predictor of heart disease. With this minimal procedure, we can prevent that from happening. Please contact my office at your convenience to schedule an appointment.

Sincerely,

Dr. Smith

Imagine a world where your home shuts down all non-essential appliances when you and your family go on vacation to save power, reduce your carbon footprint, and minimize wear-and-tear on your costly electronics and appliances.

Imagine a world where no matter where you live, you can sleep easier at night knowing that if your vehicle is vandalized or stolen, the police are automatically notified, a report is filed, and you receive an immediate alert if you’ve chosen to do so. If an intruder breaks into your home, the police are immediately notified, loud sounds and bright lights startle the intruder giving you time to protect yourself, your family, and your stuff.

Imagine your home automatically adjusting your humidity, temperature, and ventilation to provide optimal comfort all while balancing energy consumption to keep you comfortable at the lowest possible cost. Your lights automatically dim at in the evening, cutting blue light that suppresses production of melatonin so that you wind down and get more restful sleep. In the morning, your lights brighten making you more alert and ready to start your day.

Imagine getting notifications on your smartphone suggesting things to eat today based upon the nutrient and energy content of what you ate yesterday and your personal activity level to keep you at your optimum health and desired weight. Or maybe to achieve specific weight loss/gain goals. Hell, even solving the “what do we eat tonight” question based upon the prior several days’ choices, your personal preferences, budget, specific allergies, etc.

At this very moment, that could be reality. But it’s not (or not without significant development effort and breaking a few terms of service).

One of the most awesome things I’ve done with my home automation system is the adaptive lighting system I wrote from my Philips Hue lighting system. At 6pm every day, the lights begin a slow transition from a daylight white balance (5000K) at 100% intensity to a candlelight white balance (2700K) at 60% intensity. At midnight, the lights change to 15% intensity to minimize wakefulness for those early-morning bio breaks, then back to 60% intensity ahead of the indoor “sunrise”. And it does this so gradually it usually takes 15-20 minutes to even become aware of the change (of a 60 minute cycle).

Starting at 5am, the “sunrise” transition begins (2700K, 60% intensity -> 5000K, 100% intensity).

My Fitbit tracker knows when I’m sleeping, it knows when I’m awake. What if this morning sunrise was triggered in response to my normal wake patterns? Or the time at which my silent alarms are set? Helluva lot cooler than just turning on the coffee pot when we wake and infinitely more useful!

Through trial-and-error, I was able to come up with a comfort index for the home based upon a data set of temperature, humidity, and CO2 concentration. Through a custom view in my SmartThings setup, I can see on a 0-100 scale how comfortable every room in the house is (next steps are to automate the ventilation, HVAC, and dehumidifier to automatically respond to these conditions).

IMG_8004

One of the greatest challenges I’ve had with my obsession to wire everything in my home and my body together is data integration. Nest does not play well with SmartThings. Fitbit does not integrate well with Apple Health. Philips Hue and SmartThings continually breaks. An app is available on iOS but not Android. The list goes on and on.

On the surface, it makes good business sense to try and standardize on “your” platform. You can ensure better customer service and a better user experience if all components of your system are tested to work together, so the rationale goes. And that’s true.

The problem is, your platform is insufficient to meet all customers’ needs. People don’t just use Hue, they also use LiFX. Some people don’t see the Apple Watch as the end-all of fitness tracking; they prefer the always-on heart rate tracking of Fitbit’s Charge 2 and new Alta HR (which I adore).

Many people like choices.

It’s about the data. And it needs to be free and open. Smart home devices, platforms, and connected health tech needs to learn how to work together.

A glaring error is thinking that somehow the data generated from my body or my smart home is “your” data (“your” being whoever manufactures product x or offers service y.) There’s a good reason that Nest is on its way out of my smart home setup. Google thinks my data is theirs, and I strongly disagree. I get it, you’re competitors. You want their customers all to yourself. I am not a marketing demographic. I am not a statistic. And if you treat me as such, I will not be your customer.

But “you” don’t make half the things I want. Or offer any intelligence on top of your “smart” home. We’re seeing an industry rise around the “smart” home and I have yet to see any real intelligence from these products. Sure, my home is more educated about itself now. I have more data. I have $15,000 worth of tech that–left to its own devices–leaves me with the most expensive remote control that I have ever owned (and without some custom development, that’s all it would be!)

It’s time to set the data free.

It’s time to provide more documentation for developers (I’m looking at you, SmartThings). It’s time to allow interoperability of devices regardless of certification via free and open APIs (here’s to you, Nest). And its time to do that without having to decide Nest XOR AT&T XOR Xfinity XOR SmartThings XOR (whoever the hell else).

What if we could use OR or AND in that logic?

On that note, that’s why net neutrality is so important. Imagine if you relied on your connected home as a home security system. You have a break-in, and because your security camera’s data API restrictions don’t allow it to communicate with your platform well, the camera fails to come on and you have zero record of the intrusion. Or, because SmartThings hasn’t paid Comcast for the “fast lane,” you get the notification but hours after it could have made a difference. Or maybe not at all because someone’s in dispute with someone else and they’re blocking all traffic.

I’ll let that rabbit run off now.

 

Where is your customer focus, “smart home” players? When you jail the data, impose restrictions on what devices can be used, withhold developer documentation, and focus  on creating $400 juicers (lol guys), some of us start to think that you’re prioritizing profits over people.

I could be wrong, but I hold the opinion that smart home and connected health tech should be about making people’s lives better. It should be about comfort, quality of life, security, and convenience. It should be innovative–solving real problems that real people face every day. It should be about people. Not products or platforms.

It should check all your doors and lock them when you leave.

It should notify you in the morning if you’re low on fuel so that you can leave a few minutes earlier and not miss that big meeting.

It should auto-adjust the climate to your comfort level.

It should know when and what to run to maximize energy savings.

It should know your body well enough to tell you if something may be wrong and give a few suggestions on how to fix it.

It should help you sleep better. Eat better. Live better.

And it should do all this without you having to know how to reverse-engineer Groovy code to adapt it to your specific needs.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe whoever makes the coolest new gadget gets it right. Maybe customers want to feel the frustration of finding the perfect mix of gadgets only to watch them drain power without providing anything useful.

I can’t imagine that.

But I can imagine a bright future for whoever gets this right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: