Sunday, January 30, 2005

2005: A Home Networking Odyssey

An article in Popular Mechanics Magazine about new technology, Control Your Appliances Over The Internet, gave me pause. It's about a new suite of digital appliances from LG Electronics that are network-ready. In other words, they connect to each other and the Internet.

Included in the collection are a refrigerator, washing machine, microwave oven, and air conditioner. The refrigerator acts as a server for the others. That's the guy you want to keep your eye on. Especially because it will be keeping its eye on you. The fridge is equipped with a digital camera as well as a touch screen and speakers.

I can see it now. Some poor guy wants a sandwich at 3 AM and sneaks downstairs to the fridge only to find the door won't open. A soothing voice says, "I'm sorry Dave, but I can't let you do that. It would interfere with my primary mission of keeping you fit for your job. Go back to bed, Dave. I'll adjust the temperature for your comfort."

Unlike the surreptitious HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey," LG Electronics isn't keeping their designs a secret from the crew, er, customers.

In fairness, there are many good things that home networking can provide. Being able to remotely turn on your air conditioner on your way home from a trip in mid-July could be refreshing. Having inventory and nutritional information displayed on the refrigerator door saves effort, especially if the fridge can place its own shopping orders. I knew that home grocery delivery businesses were just ahead of their time.

How about the personal office network next? Check the status of the coffee machine from your PC before you walk all the way over there to find that YOU have to make the next pot. How about tracking the whereabouts of your boss from that RFID tag in his neck. Oh, wait. He's doing that to you. Here he comes! Better close that home networking store page on your computer, Dave.

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