The Digital Living Room: Adapting to the Internet of Things

The Digital Living Room: Adapting to the Internet of Things
Jamison Utter, VP of Field Operation, Senrio

I have been in and around security (cyber and otherwise) most of my adult life, so it often surprises readers to learn that as recently as 2014, I was a total luddite. So Sad, So True! I was the technology evangelist, speaker, and industry leader who didn’t trust the gadgets, gizmos, and devices that ran our world.

 Jamison and his wife, Sarah, 4x4'ing and camping in Colorado. They’re about 10k feet up in the mountains with 'Devil's Head' behind them... being digitally connected is not mutually exclusive to an off-the-grid outdoor life.

Jamison and his wife, Sarah, 4x4'ing and camping in Colorado. They’re about 10k feet up in the mountains with 'Devil's Head' behind them... being digitally connected is not mutually exclusive to an off-the-grid outdoor life.

But something changed for me, something fundamental that I think will change the world we all live in. And that is the emerging concept of the Digital Society.

The Digital Society is a world that will adapt, respond, and serve us in ways that might seem superficial until you experience what it offers. To unpack the concept and underscore why the Digital Society is different, I’ve included a couple of definitions and perspectives on what lies ahead.

 

What is the Digital Society?

Inquentia, a Swedish company, is typical of other analyst firms that have been early adopters of the concept.

They put it like this:

“The digital society connects both people and objects, digitizes goods and services, enriches everything with information, and automates human labor.”

A similar term, Ambient Intelligence, is described in Wikipedia:

 In in a world of Ambient Intelligence, devices work in concert to support people in carrying out their everyday activities in an easy, natural way using information and intelligence hidden in the network connecting devices (i.e. Internet of Things). 

For another take on where it’s all going, watch this short YouTube on the Internet of Things.

What I would add is that the use of information in a digital society is personal and precise. The aim of a digital society is to allow citizens and consumers to make fact-based decisions about eating, shopping, driving and much more. It is about the ability to make better decisions based on more accurate, easily absorbed data delivered by an attractive interface.

Use cases for digital society look something like this: What if you knew your health metrics and were in charge of them? You would know from day to day what you actually consume and the nutritional metric of every meal or snack. The interface you use, whether phone, refrigerator or virtual personal assistant could analyze how your diet affects your health.

What if your fridge kept track of your consumption habits? It could notify you that you always throw away milk, so buying a smaller container would be more efficient. It might not only optimize your diet, but what you waste and how much you consume.

Nutritionists understand that what we eat is largely driven by emotion. In a digital society, real time data may provide the extra motivation and awareness necessary to improve the odds of eating, exercising, sleeping and managing our health in ways that are sensible and realistic because gathering and receiving meaningful information has finally become as easy as asking a question.

 

A Digitally Connected Morning:

As an avid and early adopter of digital tools, what does my Living Room look like? Here’s the rundown of a typical morning at my house:

My Fitbit detects that I am awake, alarm or not (most days I wake before any alarm).


 

 

My programmable coffee pot wakes up and starts brewing as I take a shower.

 

 

 

I weigh myself before I step in the shower. The scale knows the difference between me and my wife.

 

Thinking to start my day with some pep I ask Alexa (my Amazon Echo Dot) to play some classic rock, and finally get my shower.

 

As I move from bath to the closet to dress, my automated lights turn on as I enter and turn off when I leave. I no longer fumble to hit switches in the dark (Although I still have a few that I manually operate, like the garage).

 

 

What exactly is Alexa? The Wirecutter has a great roundup on the digital assistant.

As I enter the kitchen dressed for the day I ask Alexa what meetings I have and pour my coffee. On any given day I might ask Alexa to read the headlines, or my email while I eat a bite and mentally prepare for the day.

This may read as though I am just too lazy to turn off the lights or too infatuated with tech to control myself. After all, I have habituated muscle memory that tells me to switch on the lights, and lots of coffee pots have timers.

But the life convenience and efficiency on offer is deeper than that. The flow of my morning routine, the configuration of my home, is supported by technology that responds to my needs and requests. Let’s continue with the story.

Before I head to the office I feed our dog, Sookie. I notice she is almost out of food, so I ask Alexa to order more. Connecting to my Amazon Prime account, Alexa places the order and Amazon ships the brand we always buy.

Later in the day, I stop at the store on the way home, referencing my digital shopping list on the Alexa phone app. Throughout the day I tell Alexa what I need as I notice I need it. What’s that like? Why not just write it down?

Think about cooking (I cook about half the time). When both my hands are busy and I’m in the middle of multi-tasking, that’s the moment I’m most likely to realize I’m running low on ingredients and need to re-stock. I simply ask Alexa to add it to the list. There is no reason to interrupt what I’m doing, and I never forget—or to be more accurate, Alexa never forgets—what I need.

My message is this: The Internet of Things, AI (artificial intelligence), and machine learning are no longer wacky gimmicks. These technologies are now improving lives. The key is to find a home automation platform like Google or Amazon that is paired with a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) like Alexa. To be clear, Siri and other phone apps may be voice activated, but they do have the capabilities of a VPA. To get the experience, you have use more powerful and versatile cloud-based tools that link software and hardware components.  

 

Join the Brave New World

  1. First, choose an application for the technology, not a novelty thing, but something that makes life easier by saving a step (turning on the porch light when I step outside to grill with a plate full of steaks in one hand and tongs in the other), or eliminating a task (writing a grocery list)
     
  2. Research and purchase the device or item.
     
  3. Once you have it, try to set it up yourself, especially if you are non-native technology user. The latest devices are making strides toward becoming easier and more intuitive to set up. You may surprise yourself at what you are able to accomplish. The point is to try. Use the directions provided, watch YouTube videos, or try old-fashioned Google searches. Next time, maybe you’ll have Alexa on board to assist you!

It’s okay if you need assistance—don’t feel defeated. (If you have a teenager in the house, you’ve undoubtedly already asked for help by now.) You’ve begun the transition to a more connected world, and you’ll understand it better as you continue to adopt tools that are helpful to you and your family. If you’re stuck ask a tech-savvy friend, or hire a local computer geek to get you up and running.

Remember that your chosen device may incorporate machine learning technology. Be patient enough to train your device, make sure it does what you need, and use it. When you’ve experienced success with one application, you’ll soon start looking for other ways to automate.

 

Next Time: Effective Home Hygiene: Securing Tech in Your Home

I know about all the scare tactics in the news about malware corruption, evil doers using your cameras to spy on your kids, and hackers stealing your identity. Some of you are thinking it may not be safe to automate like this. If you connect to the Internet of Things, what are the odds that hackers will hijack your house?

Next time, I will help you understand how to secure your home technology. We’ll skip the nerdy jargon and I’ll spell out some simple steps. The effective precautions I’ll introduce are similar to routine measures that protect us from physical contamination, like washing your hands.  Anyone can adopt good habits to protect their house and home from internet ‘infections.” After all, cyber security is what I do.


Jamison Utter, VP of Field Operations for Senrio, is a lifetime technologist and enthusiast. He is a vibrant public speaker with a passion for what he does and the subjects to which he’s devoted his career. He serves as a mentor, coach, and leader without boundaries or titles. Jamison has 20 years experience in the technology sector as a user, engineer, and thinker.