Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why tablets are jump-starting the connected home

I have been thinking a lot about mobility inside the house, lately. It is a novel concept, if you think about it. In your house, devices were not supposed to move. You had a landline phone, a desktop PC and a TV, plus a VCR/DVR and so on. All static.

The fist moving part was probably the wireless phone. Initially, a wireless version of your landline phone, then your actual mobile phone, becoming the main way for you to communicate with the world - even at home.

Then you bought a laptop. Mostly a desktop replacement, so you can use it while moving around (starting with coffee places). But you wanted to use it around the house as well, or - at least - you did not want to plug an ethernet cable every time. Therefore, you added a wi-fi router, close to your Internet router. If you are like most people I know, your router was in the home office, close to your desktop. For some, the wi-fi coverage of the initial wireless network did not travel too far. Too bad the signal was weak near the TV or the toilet, you could live with it.

Then came the iPad (and all its sisters). A weak signal near the TV means a weak signal on the couch. The main repository for the iPad. The place where you really want to use it (while your laptop is in your home office). Otherwise, why did you get one? Same for the kitchen, because that recipe on the iPad looks so yummy. Or your bedroom, because nothing beats watching a stupid YouTube video on the iPad before going to bed. And what about the restroom? Hey, you can hold this thing with one hand, like a magazine, but it contains a full newspaper... You definitely need great wi-fi coverage there as well.

And so it happened: your home is now fully connected. There is no spot in the house where wi-fi is weak. It is strong in the office, the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the restroom.

Think about it: your home is now fully connected, because of your tablet. And you are not alone, this is a trend that will bring all homes fully connected. For Thanksgiving, Toys"R"Us was selling an Android tablet for $139.99. Everybody is getting one. Even just to have it and tweet about the game on the couch.

If the connectivity is good on the couch, it is good for the TV. Your Wii gets connected, even if you bought it as standalone. And now you can use it to watch Netflix movies. Your TV gets connected.

Then it spills to the bedroom, where your alarm clock gets connected. Picture frames appear around the house, all showing pictures taken a few minutes before. Appliances in the kitchen have connectivity: your gas appliance knows it is going to be freezing cold tonight and turns on a bit earlier. Your sprinklers know it is going to rain in the afternoon so why bother even starting?

It is the connected home, the Internet of Things moving its first steps. It all started with a stupid tablet that most people buy, not sure what to do with it. It provided the connectivity for everything else to get on.