I need an assistant. Of the virtual kind.
Someone who can keep track of the daily chaos within my household. Someone who can tell me when the pantry is empty, and what I need to purchase at the store. Someone who can remind me of music lessons, karate lessons, theater practice, and my husband’s business trips. I need a gentle reminder to get my oil changed and the furnace checked. And finally, I need someone who’s available whenever and wherever I am throughout the day.
You know, someone Siri-like, but a bit more.
Gone are the days of just using a product. Now we expect to interact with them too. I need my car to get me from music lessons to school, but also to remind me of my next appointment. And then take care of the directions. Because I always get lost.
And while we’re about it, my car should also tell me if I’m running low on gas and point me to the nearest gas station. Or for an oil change.
Some of this technology is already available, and auto manufacturers are hard at work with developers to come up with new ways to impress us and make our lives easier, take a look at vehicle aware apps, for instance.
General Electric calls this new era the Digital Revolution, and for GE it involves building things like data sensors to sift out warning signs that can predict when a product might need maintenance. I like this. One more thing off my always-long list of things to worry about.
Now, about the home. I’d like to inhabit a Jetson’s home for the 21st century. I’d like a virtual, all-knowing assistant to know about our family vacation next month and then suggest some appropriate travel shows to watch on TV. Or how about knowing when I’m only a few minutes from home and turning on the lights and heat for me so we’re not walking into a dark, cold house.
And as long I’m creating this wonderful wish list – let’s not forget the nightly homework saga. It would be great if my assistant could remind the kids of homework due the following day.
Consumers like me are demanding smarter products for their busy lifestyles. But smart products aren’t confined to the consumer market. First Wind, for example, operates 16 wind farms in the United States and is experimenting with software, sensors and controls that will monitor for high winds and shut the turbines down if they begin to rotate too fast, preventing damage. In wintry conditions, these same turbines can detect when they are collecting ice and speed up or change pitch to knock it off.
Pretty cool. Now if only my car could sense when it’s icing up and automatically heat its windscreen so I could avoid the early morning de-icing ritual in the wintertime.
High tech is infiltrating every facet of our lives through the products we interact with and rely upon. Our interactions with technology might not be completely seamless just yet, but we’re getting there, and at lightening speed. Those Jetson-like home appliances, the smart car, the personal assistant – they’re all on my Christmas list for next year.