Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Blue Sky Thinking - Part Two

OK, so now we've got all the electricity we need to run our houses at minimal cost, what next?

Well, electrical efficiency will still be needed to be a major consideration, if only to help minimise the amount of power each household needs to buy off the grid.  If you look around your house right now it's probable that you've got dozens of electrical devices, and many of these probably didn't exist ten years ago.

For example, how about your large screen TV set, your Sky box, hard drive recorder, iPad or Android tablet, Kindle, iPod dock, wireless printer, X Box, Wii, other gaming consoles?  And that's just touching on your leisure devices.  There are dozens of devices ranging from washing machines through to stoves and standard lamps dotted around the average household.  Add to that list all the fixed electrics such as your lighting circuit.  So, what's my point?

Well, you may recall from my last Blue Sky Thinking post I mentioned that during the evolutionary process most devices go through various phases including ones where they are essentially ugly and disjointed but starting to converge.  I think it's fair to say that domestic devices are having 'Form' put on a higher agenda than in years gone by, possibly thanks to the likes of Apple who have always driven the aesthetic agenda.  But our devices are disjointed and essentially stand-alone.  This is where my wish list starts to kick in.

For starters, I think that all electronic devices should be able to be monitored and, where appropriate, controlled remotely through independent devices such as the iPad or other tablets.  As an absolute minimum we shouild be able to determine the running time of any given device and know its power consumption.  At a very basic level this would allow you to anticipate a device failure, so limiting the opportunity to be left high and dry by a failed device at the only time you ever really need it to work.

So, in my utopian world, you'd know when any device was running, when it stopped and how much power it consumed.  This is fairly standard data collated in industry, so we're not necessarily talking about major development work here.  The trick part is getting an open standard agreed so you don't have, say, Sony's proprietary system running on their equipment and Apple's take on the process running on theirs. 

I also see that data as the starting point.  How about being able to programme your hard drive recorders from your iPad, perhaps when away from home?  A good start would be the ability to have a common programming interface - sure, let the device makers determine their own look and feel when hooked up to your TV if we must, but let the consumer choose one interface product to run on their tablet that allows them to programme different makes of hard drive recorder in a common way - no need to relearn a different interface when you change devices or have different makes in various parts of the house.

And what about being able to identify which lights are still on and doors still unlocked before you blow the virtual candle out as you turn in at night?  Checking on the status of the washing machine when at the shops? 

None of this is difficult technologically, the biggest struggle is in deciding how it is implemented.  Nobody wants anyone to achieve total market dominance, hence my point above about open standards.  If this was tackled then in a generation we could have all but a minority of legacy devices controllable remotely and being monitored to check their health.

It's got to be worth thinking about.

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