India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Technology
January 06, 2015

Touch Pad Of Desire

Text by Geeta Rao

High-end gadgets have begun to redefine our day-to-day existence as technology scales new frontiers of advancement. Verve takes a look at what living in a smart world means in the Indian context

Donald Trump understands the basic benchmarks of modern luxury. In his Mumbai tower he will offer residents a private jet on call, seven-tier security system, internet protocol TV, digital gaming and lighting systems – all effortlessly connected and summoned up at the touch of a smart phone or tablet.

But you don’t have to live in one of Trump’s towers to feel the touch of luxury as smart homes and smart living take over our lives.

Automated devices have existed earlier via timers and remotely activated motors. The lawn sprinklers that went on by the timer, the curtains you could control via remote control were early game changers. Intelligent loos were something the Japanese invented years ago. They heated the toilet seat in winter and chilled it in summer, flushed intuitively, rolled out a toilet seat cover for the next person, and played calming music making elimination a very Zen experience indeed.

Lighting was an early indicator of where this was going. Remember a time when we thought dimmers were cutting edge? Now you can stage-manage your entire lighting design almost as if it were a theatre performance. Date lighting, mood lighting, lounge bar, daylight and twilight with the sounds of chirping birds or gentle rain if you so desire. If you find the idea of using a touch pad too tedious you can use voice activation or even clap your hands like a modern Aladdin.

Unlike earlier automations, the new devices are all linked by smart apps, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, sensors and even radar to converge onto your iPad, smart phone or tablet which then lets you see and control all that is happening in the house or office or both.

A tablet in your living room can show you all the rooms in the house, the entry at the door and link you to the security man at the building foyer and the cop station if required.  Too much of an effort to carry a tablet around? One luxury estate company offers smart specs and has a provision for up to 30 tablets scattered across rooms in one of its luxury homes so clients don’t have to worry about forgetting the tablet in another room. A room with a view is less important than a room with its individual tablet to control devices.

Logitech, for example, has its Harmony home systems where you can choose a specific combination for your specific needs. The ‘Good morning’ combination for example will draw open the curtains, get the coffee maker going and play your favourite music through speakers to get your morning going. You can create multiple options and customise each as you go along.

Verizon has the WeMo smart switch, which controls anything that is switched in or plugged in at home. No more switching off room lights from room to room or checking if the door lock has clicked into place or the microwave has been turned off. Curl under your warm duvet and be the master or mistress of switches.

Want more? Also you can buy your personal drone which can fly over your neighbourhood, record live videos and live stream them to your phone or wall TV while simultaneously posting them on social media. A good way to check the traffic situation on your street.

The smart Samsung fridge will read food bar codes for expiry dates, tell you when the food inventory is low, scan food items and also suggest recipes on its touch screen for dinner based on fridge inventory. It will even call you up when it needs servicing. It may even call the service centre directly for diagnostics.
There is the doggie tracker for your pooch – so you get live feed on where your dog is meandering off to when you are not home.

Then there is the Google chauffeur, the next big thing from Google. It is a driverless car, which works through a sophisticated network of radars and 3-D maps to take you where you want to go. It is being tested in some states of the USA already and like the iPhone 6 will be a must-have status when available.

I love the idea of smart living. It’s just I can never find my reading glasses in time to activate the security systems to my personal setting, so I often end up with a chain on the door.

But more than that I live in fear of a modern-day Animal Farm type scenario  unfolding  (Animal Farm by George Orwell can be downloaded on your e-reader) as appliances and devices learn to talk to each other and plan a revolution to overthrow the home owner – in this case, your’s truly.

And what about privacy with the great Indian joint family. What if the all access security cameras show our granny in the loo or uncleji and auntiji making out? Oops!

On the other hand maybe I don’t need to worry so much. Intervention, Indian style, has been known to mould every great technological advancement to our very Indian needs. What do you expect from a nation that flummoxed international service providers by propagating the concept of a missed call? Didn’t we more recently send people to Mars at half the cost of other countries to the complete bafflement of the world?

In a smart world you enter your smart home after a long day at work but via your smart phone you have already programmed the house to be ready for your arrival. The home intuitively understands what you need. The AC is at 22 degrees simulating Alpine spring, The fridge clinks down cold ice cubes for water, the lights come on in the ‘relax and soothe’ setting, somebody sings the blues in the background, the curtains shut out the day as you settle down to see the live streaming of Gucci’s new show because you can shop the look immediately.

Then there is the Indian way. In India, we activate human beings using smart phones not devices. Our smarter version of smart homes is called ‘Homes With The Help’. Call up when you leave work and he or she will have the juice chilled, the tea warmed, the curtains drawn and the music system on as you walk in. Okay you may not even call – just a missed call will get the message across. The Gucci app and shopping? Well, there are certain things you will have to do yourself.

Yes, the smart fridge may toss up a suggested recipe but the ‘smart’ homemaker will WhatsApp a YouTube link of the said recipe to the Help who will watch how to make Thai curry, dim sum or sea food pasta via Jamie Olivier, Gordon Ramsay or Sanjeev Kapoor (with subtitles if required) and cook it up the next day.

As for the The Google chauffeur on Indian roads – how will it figure out that in Mumbai and Delhi when the traffic light turns red it means ‘go’ to a number of drivers? Or the fact that once you have mapped all the potholes an equal number come up in the equal and opposite direction? Not even the BMC knows when this will happen. It is also supersensitive to debris and garbage, which can throw its calibrations off gear. Now imagine having it released in Swachha Bharat – it may become the shortest-lived smart car in the world.

Lift codes are the new VIP access in smart buildings. I was invited to a posh party in one of these buildings. The invite came with the lift code, as there was no way of accessing the host’s floor without it. All good. I was armed with the code on my smart phone and had it written in my diary (the e-version of Murphy’s Law – the battery always dies out when you need it most).  I walked into the foyer ready with my best punching finger but there was a young man holding open the lift door. He had been specially hired for the evening to punch in the code for guests. Yes, the hosts had established they lived in a smart building. But how would we have known how important they were without their staff?

This is India. We’re like this only.

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