Cloud Wiring

In this morning’s batch of bargain shopping news feeds appears this already  exhausted  offer.  For nine dollars Target was selling a gadget from GE that looks like a light switch; you toggle it’s toggle and it then sends a radio signal to a module across the room to turn on a lamp.  Since  I live in a house that was build before electricity it would be very useful, but once a gadget like that costs less then ten bucks it’s unclear to me why anybody would pull wiring even if you were building a house from scratch.  Building codes possibly?

No doubt that widget has just horrible engineering.  Terrible security for example.  Sloppy RF design which no doubt ruins your WIFI whenever you touch the toggle.  I’m assuming that widget is based on a bawky old industrial standard.

It’s an interesting puzzle when we will finally make the transition.  Today the vast majority of the controls that sit around the house have a wire behind them rather than a radio.  Someday the majority will have a radio behind them.  And just as interesting is how the market will shake out.  One thing that frustrates the transition is how fast the technology moves.  If we standardized on anything the tech would move on before we got it deployed.

Maybe these control signals will move thru the cellular network?  Push the doorbell and an SMS message gets sent to it’s cellular service provider who then routes the message back to your household’s high fi who’s speakers then  discretely  make the announcement that somebody is at the door.  A similar, but different, story for the household thermostat.  In that case the house would have a dozen tiny  temperature  sensing faceless cell phones scattered about the house, move them if you like, who’s only purpose is to pass  occasionally  information about the  temperature  in their environment.

All this could be done instead over bluetooth or wifi or yet-to-be-named.  And, I guess, these days the marginal cost of the widget/phone supporting lots of different schemes for connecting to the net.  But, cell phones are amazingly cheap.    I have a suspicion that the cost advantages of the cellular system’s widget production and the associated tangle of players is going to pull things down that path.

This is, of course, another part of the puzzle around Android et. al. and the puzzle of where in the stack things are more or less commoditized, and the eternal flame of who will own what in the network operating system.

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