State Machine

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Last year Philips introduced Hue, a dead simple way to automate all your home lighting. After living with it for a few months and buying into Sonos — a wireless multi-room audio setup—I’m beginning to realize how accessible home automation is becoming. They’ve both forgotten one thing though, automation.

Automation is the use of machines, control systems and information technologies to optimize productivity in the production of goods and delivery of services. — Wikipedia

The only real innovation Philips has made is the ability to turn all my lights on and off from a single source, my phone. This is definitely an improvement but unnecessary. Same for Sonos, pausing at my door while juggling two apps to turn off music and lights does not live up to the term, “automation.”

Around 2003 I had a Sony Ericsson phone along with a piece of software called Salling Clicker. At the time you could do some pretty cool tricks, one of which was pause iTunes when you and your phone walked far enough away from your computer. It was pretty buggy and never ended up being useful but they had the right idea a decade ago.

Physical awareness coupled with a sense of state is key to real automation. A lot of it boils down to just knowing when to turn something on or off. All we really need is an API which could tell a system when I’m at work, home, running, walking, traveling, or at a stand - still. Then systems could react accordingly without any input.