The start of the end of the screen – Google Home

Why is no one talking about the things that really matter with Google Home? Like how it changes the economy, and how it might have the kind of impact mobile apps did on our web habits. I’ve read a number of articles about the Google Home device being launched in Australia this week. Lots of them discuss the effectiveness of the natural language processing and which apps it works best with. Like this article and this article. None of them seem to cover the issues that really matter on the topic. So here they are.

Ambient Computing: This is a shift away from typing to talking. We are now entering the age of ambient computing. The killer apps on interacting with artificial intelligence have just shifted from eyes and fingers, to mouths and ears. This is the start of a permanent change in the way humans interact with intelligent machines. The shift is as big as the smart phone was. The only difference is that this will take a little longer to establish itself. The reason it will take longer than the smart phone did is that there isn’t a direct substitute for such home devices. The smart phone had the advantage of replacing a tool we all already used – a feature phone. Most of which had a 12-24 month replacement cycle – like items under contracts typically do. Therefore, we can put this device in the Amara’s law category – a bit slower to take hold, but once they do arrive en masse, the impact will be greater than most people suspect.

The smart home killer app: Every new regime in technology requires a centre piece technology to augment and co-ordinate disparate devices. The graphical browser ushered in the era of the World Wide Web. Google home and friends, namely Echo and Homepod are the devices that will usher in the era of the smart home. A home where everything functional, mechanical, and electrical will interact with web. This is where we can expect to move to renewable energy faster than most predict. Currently just under half the energy we consumer in home is wasted. We don’t need more efficient PV Solar panels and larger batteries, what we need is homes that know how to efficiently allocated energy and resources to the devices inside it.

So what does a smart home look like? It’s a place where most everything has computational capacity, it knows everything that’s in it and it efficiently allocates energy and activities based on what it learns. We can expect energy usage in the home to decrease by at least 30% in a truly smart home. When technology makes our homes more efficient, the value equation and ability for renewables to create an off-grid solution increases exponentially. A positive cycle of both demand and supply side efficiency may change how we power our homes ahead of schedule due to the arrival of complimentary technologies. We can expect the centre piece AI to be a party to the dismantling of the coal and fossil fuel industries. Disruption is horizontal – it is usually a juxtaposed technology which changes things unexpectedly.

The end of SEO: Once people start talking to their devices and asking for and expecting verbal responses, being on the homepage of Google becomes irrelevant. There wont be a page at all. In a world of ambient computing, we need be the first recommendation which gets returned audibly. Which means any brand, product or service hoping to be recommended by a search engine needs to be asked for by brand, or be the best in category. Even worse, companies like Amazon and Google might not care what’s most relevant, and instead start recommending what is most profitable. So long as it ‘solves the problem’ of the end user it’s most likely to give them the highest margin option, for them. Remember, Google promises not to be evil – to it’s share holders at least. SEO, will become VPO – Voice Pod Optimization, a game where only a single option is mooted to the end user.

Privacy on steroids: This is the time when we allow multinational corporations with backdoor pipes to governments hear every word in our homes and learn every habit. All of which is permanently recorded. And if you think this only matters for people committing crimes, then never forget that the most extreme externalities are those we can’t plan for, or even predict. If this isn’t enough to convince you to think twice about privacy, this little post might at least open the mind a little. Privacy and secrecy are not the same thing.

Given these changes aren’t in the maybe category, best we start acting on them now.

The coming changes to your house

It’s easy to forget that the places we live in are a direct reflection of our current technology. We’ve all come a long way since we lived in cave 76 (That was for all the Mel Brookes fans), and we generally are living in houses built on top of the shoulders of giants. Great entrepreneurial, scientific and engineering minds which make the modern world very comfortable indeed. We are currently on the cusp of a quite a few physical changes appearing in our homes. Before we explore what they might be, let’s think about how long some of the current technologies in our homes have been around:

  • Letter Boxes – mail services started encouraging these to be installed in houses for deliveries in the mid 1800’s
  • Indoor Plumbing – In the 1860’s only 5% of American houses had running water, flush toilets were very uncommon until the mid 1900’s
  • Driveways – much less than 80 years old as a standard inclusion
  • Electricity – uncommon in suburban homes until the 1930’s
  • White goods – (electricity needed) were rare in modern economies until post WW2
  • Televisions – 1956 in Australia
  • VCR’s – the early 1980s
  • Home Computers – the mid 1980s
  • Internet – the mid 1990’s

There’s many more examples, but you get the picture – where we live changes based on the technological possibilities, and their facilitation requirements of the day. So let’s run a thought experiment on what will begin appearing in homes, based on the technologies about to arrive, and those already here and functioning.

Drone delivery landing pads: With deliveries already happening they need to land somewhere. Apartment buildings are already being designed with them on rooftops, and your house will be no different. Maybe it will have an auto opening lid which closes over after the drop off has been made?

drone landing pads

Smart Toilet: I’ve written about this before – but we can expect it to be our health partner in life, and since Alaphabet had a patent approved on the smart bathroom last year, this is one of those realities which will surprise with its speed of arrival.

Smart shower: One that takes a photo of you everyday… not to invade your privacy, but to ensure it knows you have a dangerous sun spot long before you do.

All glass becomes web enabled screens: If you’ve always wanted a house with a view, well it’s about to come a lot cheaper than anyone expects. All the glass in our homes will become web enabled screens. The resolution of our windows will be indistinguishable from an actual view into the real world. All of a sudden anyone can have a real time, harbour view, which changes perspective on different windows in the house to give perfect perception in real time. Maybe those rich people with actual harbour mansions will make money selling their views via a live feed cam?

Charging stations in all driveways: Our driving future is all electric as is our entire economy. Expect every place cars stop will have a charging facility on hand. If they ever stop – I’ll probably send mine out to work for me when I’m not using it.

Virtual Reality Room: It will be a bit like the home office was, or maybe part of it. We’ll conduct meetings with work that feel so real, we’ll wonder why going to the office is even necessary. We’ll also use our VR rig to shop online for things we want to touch and experience. Our haptic gloves and suits will assist in the purchase process. We’ll also use it to choose hotel rooms, holidays, and even do exercise. In the latter case we’ll have a treadmill which keeps us stationary while we seemingly move around and explore other worlds

Of course the list of ‘new fixtures’ in the home will be longer as many forms of technology will change our habitat. And quite frankly that is the key – not that the technology makes it possible, but that entrepreneurs and emerging startups shine a path on what is possible and make us want it. This is where tomorrows economy will be made up from. Just like Bill Gates promised to put a computer on every desk in every home, and Jobs put one in your pocket, you can put something in our house as well – and you need not invent the thing in question. Exciting times ahead.

Here’s a little radio interview I did on this topic yesterday.

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