So much information is being gathered underneath the hood of our car about which we, as drivers, have neither inclination nor desire to know. Our mechanic does because it’s the analysis of that diagnostic information which is connecting the automotive shops to the 21st century. Only as cars have become more stable, better engineered, and require less maintenance, the idea of being excited about telematics technology that’s designed to stave off certain disaster with our automobiles gets little attention. Still the opportunity does exist for telematics-based technology to really penetrate our lives. If, and only if, it can become ubiquitous within the place where we spend most of our time-our homes.
I’m sure that the architects of the television, the radio, and the VCR said the same thing- “if our invention makes its way into the homes, it will become part of the our lives.” Well, they may not have said it, but it was right anyway. The integration of technology into our lives is illustrated by the adoption times of technology within society. Compared to how long it took the television to penetrate the same percentage of the population, the personal computer became part of our lives in only a fraction of time. As we become more comfortable with a technology, we begin to forget about it. It simply becomes part of the world we inhabit. And as we adopt more technology faster, it becomes easier to accept technology as a whole-but we become far more discriminating about what we’re willing to let “slip” into the background, to become part of the world we inhabit.
“I’m sure that the architects of the television, the radio, and the VCR said the same thing- “if our invention makes its way into the homes, it will become part of the our lives.” Well, they may not have said it, but it was right anyway.“
Still, even though we may have become discriminating, it’s only because we surrounded ourselves with technology-VCRs, computers, televisions, stereos, DVDs, etc. We have enmeshed ourselves in a veritable network of electronic components all of which are eager to become part of a collective whole.
Okay, that’s a little “Star Trek-ish,” but the fact remains that within our very homes exists the potential for a powerful network of technological entities. And not just those named above but a host of others that rely on technology in some way to operate-refrigerators, swimming pools, thermostats, and coffee makers.
It is abundantly clear that such a network is ripe for a telematics-based technology solution. All these electronic (and non-electronic) components could be connected together via a series of wireless access devices to allow communication of diagnostic and other information to a service provider.
Sounds good. But in the May issue of Telematics Update Magazine (“Will the Real Consumer Please Stand Up?” available online @ www.telematicsupdate.com), I noted that building a “solution for the solution’s-sake” wasn’t the way to assure the success of the telematic industry. In order to be successful, telematics-based technology (and all technology solutions, for that matter) must insert itself into the routines that govern people’s lives.
One such company, Xanboo-not a telematics-technology company in the traditional sense-is doing just that by providing a home monitoring service via the Internet. But in doing so they have created a potential platform for telematics-based technology in the home.
The Xanboo system is a combination of PS2 cable and wireless connectivity that connects cameras and sensors to a central hub plugged into the computer. This hub, and the connected cameras and sensors, are managed through a desktop-based software application. Camera and sensor recordings are captured and stored in an online, subscription-based service for retrieval.
In its first incarnation, the model is simple-a consumer purchases the hardware, installs the cameras and sensors, hooks up the hub, subscribes to the service, and monitors their house. Preferences for the devices (such as the sensors and cameras) are set through the desktop software (such as when to trigger the device to capture information). Captured information is then relayed, through the hub, to the consumer’s personal account on the Xanboo Online service (such as video, still pictures, or sensor information). Furthermore, if the consumer so chooses, notification of the device triggering (i.e., a motion sensor was activated on a camera and video is being captured) can be sent to pager, PDA, or cell phone.
In addition to microphone-enabled, motion-sensor video cameras, Xanboo offers a host of sensors including acoustic, door/window (entry sensors), power on/off (when power goes out to an appliance, for example), temperature sensor, and water sensor.
A typical Xanboo scenario might go like this:
A consumer has the Xanboo system with the power on/off sensor hooked up to the refrigerator (the refrigerator plugs into the sensor which plus into the wall socket). If the power to the refrigerator goes out (especially pertinent in California when a rolling blackout sweeps through), the sensor into which it is plugged relays a wireless notification to the hub plugged into the PC that in turn notifies the consumer via the chosen method (email, cell phone text message, etc.).
Although this first incarnation, in and of itself, is interesting, it doesn’t really portend anything magnificent for telematics-based technology in the home. That is until we take a step back and see Xanboo as a platform for deploying telematics in the home-which is precisely where they are heading.
The future of Xanboo is not just monitoring, but management-from turning the power on and off to appliances to changing the temperature. And when these new wireless sensors (including one to allow you to turn on the water, open and close the garage door, and monitor the pool) roll out of the Xanboo warehouse, the beginning of a “home-management” service will be born.
Imagine a network of Xanboo sensors-affordable, small, and powerful-deployed throughout the house monitoring and providing control to every appliance and aspect of home ownership. The temperature settings are controlled by a sensor. All of the appliances are plugged into Xanboo sensors. The pool is monitored by a sensor. Even the level of water in the grass (letting us know if we need to schedule the sprinklers to turn on-of course, controlled by a Xanboo device; and no, they aren’t planning this one…yet).
Maybe there’s even a sensor to plug our finger into and send our personal diagnostic information to our local physician.
At the heart of this network is still the Xanboo hub, connected not to the computer this time, but directly to the Internet (via a broadband connection). Managed from any personal computer with Internet access to the online Xanboo service, preferences and trigger events can be set for all the sensors.
But the imagining doesn’t stop there. In addition to setting preferences and retrieving captured sensor information, the online Xanboo service also allows the consumer to list those that might be notified about sensor-triggered events. For example, we don’t want to know when the pH balance in our pool is off. We want the pool guy to know.
“We have enmeshed ourselves in a veritable network of electronic components all of which are eager to become part of a collective whole.“
So in the telematics-platform future of Xanboo, service providers sign-up free of charge-repair shops, mechanics, and grocery delivery. The information gathered about the Xanboo network isn’t provided back to the consumer, it’s sent to, and analyzed by, all the service providers who have a stake in the electronic products that populate our homes. Although that Xanboo-future is a great dream, it alone doesn’t portend a telematics revolution in the home because it still requires the consumer to purchase things-sensors, cameras, and other attachments. It’s not transparent. No, what’s going to make Xanboo a telematics utopia is the products it doesn’t sell. Because even now, Xanboo is working hard to provide it’s technology to countless manufacturers who, themselves, are working hard to integrate the Xanboo “communication standards” into their devices making them compliant with the online service, the other sensors and cameras, and, most importantly, the hub.
So when we roll into the garage, our car immediately uploads diagnostic information to our Xanboo network. The hub sends that diagnostic information to our online account where it is analyzed (by an algorithm that compares it against previously captured diagnostic information and normalized ranges), recorded, and fed to our local mechanic.
And ten minutes later, we’re answering a call from our mechanic because we’ve got a serious oil pressure problem.
That is telematics-based technology in the home. But more than just nifty gadgets and superfluous electronics, a Xanboo telematics network like the one imagined above doesn’t require the user to do anything besides set up his system. Once that has been accomplished, there is nothing left to do but continue on with the routines that we call life. If there’s a problem, we’ll be notified before it becomes a disaster. Who knows, maybe in a scenario at the end of the spectrum of imaginability, we aren’t even aware that when we bought our toaster oven it was Xanboo compliant. Like BlueTooth (but so much easier to implement, control, and deal with-because Xanboo isn’t a “standard”), we simply bring it home and it plugs itself into our Xanboo network.
Telematics-based technology definitely has a place in the home. In fact that is probably where it will become most pervasive because the car is but an extension of our home (we hang things in it, we put pictures in it, we eat in it). Ultimately, we want everything to originate and conclude where we “hang our hats.”
Is Xanboo the best solution? Will its platform win out over, say, an Intel or 3Com platform? No one knows the answers to those questions. But even in its nascient stages, Xanboo presents opportunities for telematics-based technology that weren’t readily apparent six months (even three months) ago because no one was thinking about how to get telematics into the home. They were trying to figure out how to get people out of the home and into telematics.
If nothing else, Xanboo and the promise of telematics-in-the-home seem to provide a tangible opportunity for an otherwise aloof technology to grab consumer’s attention. And in doing so will help telematics-technology take the much-needed first step to become ubiquitous.