Why your little building may not get smart soon

One day, maybe sooner than you think, that WiFi router on your desk will get its own PC, whose operating system can be tied to sensors in your lights, thermostat, walls, and grass to manage your costs when you're home and even when you're not. But not today.

Over at Business Brains, Heather Clancy is touting the new Smarter Buildings initiative of IBM, and the competitive environment it is part of.

Big buildings have complex requirements, she writes. Big companies like IBM and Johnson Controls can build the complex solutions big buildings demand, adding functions like security to energy management through proprietary tools made by IBM's Tivoli Systems unit.

But what about the mass market? What about your own house, and all the other little pink houses you and I live in?

I recently investigated this and found a brute force approach still works well. I replaced the windows in my 1921 Craftsman bungalow (above). I had insulation blown into the walls, and I used Icynene for the floors and a new addition. I also got a new, more efficient heater.

The house is now warmer than before, and I pay less for heat than I did. The Honeywell thermostats aren't fancy, but they do let me program-in different temperatures for day and night, weekdays and weekends.

Full home automation, tieing-in the lights and the ceiling fans, security and water into a computer that's always on, using sensors and software over WiFi, could save me more money.

But it will have to wait. I wrote about the promise of such systems years ago, but that's a mass market, and mass markets take time to develop.

They may require open source. They will certainly require open standards. But when it comes to smarter homes we are not yet far enough along demand's s-curve to justify the investment. How many homeowners today recognize the value of such solutions, how much would they pay, and how does that market opportunity compare with the costs of addressing it?

Much better to, as IBM is doing, concentrate on the big building opportunity. Smarter skyscrapers, server farms, warehouses and research facilities can save big bucks on each account, enough to justify the investment in development, installation and (most important) sales and marketing needed to address specific customer needs.

One day, maybe sooner than you think, that WiFi router on your desk will get its own PC, whose operating system can be tied to sensors in your lights, thermostat, walls, and grass to manage your costs when you're home and even when you're not.

But not today. There is too much easy money you can make with insulation, with better light bulbs, and with simple rain barrels first. Let the big customers define how the solution will work.

Then open source will drive the price down so it's available to you.

Give it about five years.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All