“Smart houses” as an opportunity for PR

The Internet of Things (IoT) is there: machines are starting to speak intelligently to other machines and automate small parts of our lives. Soon a greater portion of our lives will affected by the machines we use everyday, as they track our actions and adapt their functions to our habits and preferences.

We are only beginning to see the massive transformative effect that digital tech will have on our society, economy and selves. We’ve seen email make distance and time irrelevant for the transfer of large documents that used to have to be couriered. Then social media made connecting and keeping up with a disparate collection of acquaintances possible. The next wave will be the advent of machines speaking to machines and automating different parts of our lives.

Marshall McLuhan said that, from a communications perspective, technology extends the body and retrieves something from the past. The IoT extends our ability to be in sync with nature, I think and it retrieves the concept of the staffed household. In the past, only aristocrats or the very wealthy could afford to have staff who would help run a house, intelligently adapting to the owners’ lifestyles and habits. The IoT will network our appliances and link them together intelligently, creating a “smart house steward” concept, I think.

The opportunity for communicators here in U/X, I think. The house will need to have an avatar or at least a voice and personality. The “house entity” will have to be capable of building a relationship with the owner – very rudimentary at first, of course, but increasingly layered and textured as times goes on. It will start with a crude Siri-like interface and grow to the moment where “House” is an actor in your life – a family member, a partner, etc.

This new “House” personality will be an agent in the lives of the house’s occupants, and it will steward the flow of information to occupants as well as regulating temperature, etc. Much as Google can guess your proclivities and make suggestions to you, “House” will do the same. It really will be a butler and a friend.

It is up to professional communicators to understand how to build relationships with occupants through the “House” and use it as a tool rather than perceive it as a barrier.

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