In a previous blog post, I discussed how chip technology of the future could potentially alert you when it's time to wash your underwear. Well, it looks like Eaton Electrical is releasing this technology, called Home Heartbeat, in July: "Is your iron still on? Check your cell phone."
According to the article, "[Home Heartbeat is] a collection of sensors that will blurt out an alert if a door opens, a dishwasher floods, the garage door is up, or something else of significant import happens when you aren't at home. Home Heartbeat also can be connected to a shut-off valve for the water system and can be used to dim the lights or monitor electricity usage. Consumers can check the status of their home using a keychain-size controller or their cell phone. Other sensors can send friendly reminders. Do you need to remember to change the filter on the heater every six months? A sensor will remind you."
For some reason, visions of Austin Power's automated bachelor pad come to mind.... "How consumers use the sensors will likely evolve. Some consumers may want front-door sensors to determine if a burglar has entered the house. More commonly, however, people will likely use it as a way to see when their children get home. A TV sensor could be used to determine if the kids actually watch only an hour of television as promised." Hmmm... that would just tell you IF they watched only a hour, but could the sensor be programmed to turn the TV off if they were trying to watch more than their allotted hour?
More than anything else, I think that these sensors could make people dependent on technology and less reliant on their own brains. I'm all about a little reminder - I write myself notes, use Outlook to ping me when a meeting or task is due, and ask people who are closest to me to help me remember x,y,z. However, these sensors could potentially give us a false sense of security... unless I received an alarm, my garage door will never be left open, my dishwasher will never flood, and a burglar will never break in my front door.
Don't overlook the human component in this sensor-controlled equation... "You can also learn quite a bit about your family. [Maya CEO Mick] McManus has placed a variety of sensors in his house that probe when the doors open and other events. His wife, he stated, puts on the stereo for the dog if she will be gone for a while. If he notices the door open and close, he assumes she's gone for only a little while. However, if the system tells him the stereo also went on, he knows she is going to her office downtown so he calls her there." Sorry, but this sensor surveillance is a little creepy. It's a sad day when we start tracking our family members and their activities around the house, based on the number and location of sensor beeps.
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.