So I'm thinking of moving house,
Yes, I know that doesn't sound like a matter for DataTalk. But hear me out.
What I'm wondering is, do I need to think about whether the place I move into is future-proofed in terms of the way technology and data are being integrated into the fabric of our homes? And – by extension – is this something that estate agents, the construction, building, and refurbishment industries, and even local government need to look at more closely?
I've lived in early 20th century buildings where there weren't enough plug sockets to connect television, VCR and so on without recourse to a potentially- inflammatory daisy chain of adapters. I’ve lived in flats where the phone line wouldn't allow bandwidth for broadband, and the cable company wouldn’t even consider bothering to lay down an optical fibre. I’ve tried to “work from home” in digs where there wasn’t even GPRS, let alone a reliable 3G mobile signal.
And I’m not talking about rural England here. I’m talking city life.
So, when I finally move into my “forever home”, I want to make sure I’m not going to spend the rest of my life bewailing the fact that – for me – the Internet of Things is more like the Internet of Nothing-But-Trouble.
I’ve divided my “need to have” and “nice to have” lists into two categories; fabric and location.
In terms of fabric I want to make sure that my new place has plenty of hidden space for cabling. Yes, I know wifi is king right now, but with concerns about data security and hacking becoming more and more pertinent, I want to know that if the future means hardwired connections then I won’t have to spend my life tripping over – or wallpapering over – cables. And I want the rooms to be a shape which the hidden cameras and sensors which make my sentient home work can cope with…no blind spots please, no unreachable spaces. And, on that topic, I want my robots to be able to move around safely. Do I need durable, even floors and a minimum of stairs. Do I need wide doorways, sliding doors? And if wifi does remain a big thing then I’ll want to make sure I don’t have to share my network bandwidth with the street, so I’ll want outer walls with data insulation. But I don’t want to block my 3G signal….
In terms of location I want to be able to get all that optic fibre, 5G cellular coverage and so on. And I want my home internet of things to be able to work with the outside internet of things while I’m not there. So I need to learn more about the layout of the surrounding area too. Do I need to live near a telephone exchange? Do I need to think about where self-driving cars will be able to operate? Drone landing areas?
Perhaps most of all, I need to think about what to do if the Internet of Things “goes down”. Do I need the back-up infrastructure of the past, such as old-school timers and switches for my heating, or will I opt for clean walls and rely on my mobile apps? Is the future one where future is overlaid onto past, or one where the past is stripped away to make room for the future?
I wonder if today’s housebuilders and town planners are asking the same questions of themselves, as they get ready to greenlight and build my dream home.
I hope so, because otherwise I foresee a whole lot of unhappy families spending a fortune on making their homes fit-for-purpose in the same way I recall seeing friends shelling out a fortune to rewire their homes in the past when the electricity man realised their circuits were outdated and unsafe, colleagues returning their fancy new smartphones when they discovered they weren’t very smart when they took them home to the phone-mast desert, and so on.
My gut feeling is that – metaphorically - I want to keep my old chimney and fireplace, even if I’ve decided to have modern electric heaters fitted. Then I know I can always light a fire in the grate if the clock on the central heating packs up. I think a dual-layer system is the way to go. But I’m not an expert and I haven’t got a research grant to investigate.
Maybe I need to look for more data...
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