6 Smart homes
Our discussions of Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth have provided you with an introduction to some fundamental principles of wired and wireless networks. This section builds on these general ideas. Up to this point we have been talking in rather general terms about devices communicating with each other, but in this and the next section we are going to focus on two specific situations where this happens. The first of these is a 'smart home', which we will discuss in this section; the second is a system of identity tagging, known as RFID, which we will cover in Section 7.
To open the smart-home discussion, here is a short extract from The Road Ahead written by Bill Gates in 1995. In it he talks about a house he was having built for himself. Where you see a series of three dots (called an ellipsis) enclosed in square brackets, this indicates that part of the original text has been omitted from the quotation.
When you come in, you'll be presented with an electronic pin to clip to your clothes. The pin will connect you up to the electronic services of the house. […]
The electronic pin you wear will tell the house who and where you are, and the house will use this information to try to meet and even anticipate your needs – all as unobtrusively as possible. […] When it's dark outside, the pin will cause a zone of light to move with you through the house. Unoccupied rooms will be unlit. As you walk down a hallway, you might not notice the lights ahead of you gradually coming up to full brightness and the lights behind you fading. Music will move with you too. It will seem to be everywhere, although in fact people in other parts of the house will be hearing entirely different music or nothing at all. If you get a phone call, only the handset nearest you will ring.
What Gates is describing here is a 'smart' home, where all the important electrical devices and services are linked together by a communication network so that they can be monitored and controlled automatically or remotely. Smart homes are also referred to as 'automated homes' and sometimes 'networked homes' (though the term 'networked home' is more likely to refer to a home with a network that connects together entertainment devices such as televisions and DVD players with computers, and often includes an internet link).