Wherever I am on the planet, I can check what the weather is like at home – not just in my home town, but in my back garden. I can also check to see exactly how much energy my apartment is using, and what the temperature is indoors. I can manage all of that from my mobile web browser.
How do I do that? Well, my home is instrumented with a smart energy meter that is hooked up to my network. I have a weather sensor outside. These instruments are feeding information to a small, low-power, fanless computer which I can access anytime, from wherever I am in the world. If I can get hold of that kind of information, I can also create systems which intelligently adjust the usage of different devices – maybe I would want to turn off the heating remotely if it’s on but not required. I’m able to use IBM’s pervasive messaging technologies and open standards to hook all of these things together.
This kind of “home hacking” may seem like it must involve a lot of effort, but there’s now a growing community of individuals who are interested in making this stuff easier. Home Camp is an “unconference” which draws together people who are interested in learning how to develop or use these technologies, and in discussing ways in which we can work with utility companies to encourage them to adopt new power sources and ways to improve efficiency. It’s a grass-roots effort to create a Smarter Planet. The first Home Camp was held in London last year – IBM Master Inventor Andy Stanford-Clark talked about his own automated house at the event. The next one is being held tomorrow, April 25th – it’s open to anyone, and as much as possible will be streamed online. People will be attending via the OpenSim virtual world environment too, and learning how to make a virtual building mirror the status of their own home.
Just think about this, just for a moment. We can do all of this already, today, on a small scale in our own homes. How much more powerful can a Smarter Planet be when we scale these same instrumented systems and smart grids up to companies, cities and countries? I think the future looks very exciting indeed.