My Smart House

Smart HouseLast month our electric utility offered us a smart water heater.

They boasted that their water heater was so smart it could shop for discount power rates.

Of course, we took them up on the offer.

The same week our propane supplier came by with a similar deal. He called it the Smart Furnace Plan. We went with him on that too.

Then the septic contractor dropped off literature for a Smart Sewage Plan and not to be outdone,  the well driller dug deep to provide us a Smart Water Plan.

Next our electrician stopped by to install smart outlets, smart lighting and smart clocks. His brother, the appliance dealer, sold us two gifted TV’s, an astute dishwasher and an above-average microwave.

All we needed to tie all these devices into a single cerebral community was a smart network. To hook it all up, we hired a local kid, Brian, who recently graduated as an engineer.

That was a few weeks ago.

On Sunday, I got a call at church from my septic system. I usually do not take calls from sewage systems during services so I turned my phone off.

A very bad idea.

While walking to my car, I turned the phone back on and checked my voice mail, it was almost full. The last message came from a neighbor who informed me that my smart house had freaked out.

Later, Brian reconstructed what happened from the network log.

At 10:04:55 a.m. My septic system called to request permission to download a critical software patch. Not reaching me, it called back again but my phone was turned off, so it shut itself down and waited politely.

10:12:37 a.m. The well detected that Mr. Septic had gone off-line. It shut down also. (We wouldn’t want the water to back up, dontchya know?)

10:12:42 a.m. A drop in water pressure sent both the water softener and ice maker into a panic.

10:14:01 a.m. The plaintive cries from the softener inflamed a simmering feud between the furnace and the air-conditioner. The two have a long-standing conflict over temperature in the sun-room.

10:14:04 a.m. The HVAC feud boiled over.

10:14:11 a.m. Not to be out done, the surround sound (a truly angst-ridden system if there ever was one) launched into a Lenny Kravitz melt-down.

10:16:24 a.m. The vacuum cleaner coughed up a hair-ball.

10:19:13 a.m. The coffee maker questioned its identity.

10:30:57 a.m. Things not even smart begin to think for themselves and a good old fashioned electro-mechanical donnybrook broke out.

10:40:57 a.m. The rumpus roused my neighbor from his nap a quarter mile away. He phoned me. Failing to get an answer, he called Brian.

It required all of Brian’s technological and diplomatic expertise to get the house back on-line. Still, periodic squabbles erupted throughout the afternoon.

Finally at 05:33:12 p.m., fearing a re-escalation of tensions, Brian reset all my appliances and utilities to manual.

When he told me what happened, I began to have serious doubts about his technical skills. I had to ask, “Just what kind of engineer are you?”

“I’m a test engineer,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, “that mean you break things for a living…”

Author: Almost Iowa

53 thoughts on “My Smart House”

  1. Ha ha. You gotta wonder about these smart houses. My phone has been battling with my Dish TV for a month. They insist that only one can be hooked up at a time or they’re both going on strike. 😀

  2. You realize this sounds an awful lot like the premise for a really bad horror movie right? “When the house attacks!”

    I hope you survive, and please, watch out for the blender. They have a tendency to spin out of control for no reason…

    1. I never turn my back on a blender. They are a nasty lot. Our blender is an especially loathsome character who I suspect has been turning our other counter appliances against us.

  3. LOL. Next you know that driverless car of yours will think it’s a drone, take off and bomb Minneapolis. But it could be worse. It might have headed to Roswell. Then people there would be freaked out, thinking you car is a government experiment. Or even better, a UFO. When the car lands, the people there might be trying to figure out the extraterrestrial’s language. It keeps saying, “Ka-chug-ka-chug.” Then you’ll be disqualified by Almost Iowa’s sports committee. After all, drones are not supposed to be using steroids. So be careful.

  4. I have always been a little afraid of all those “smart” devices I see advertised on TV, but figured it was just a combination of my age and my normal resistance to change. Now I see that my fears are well-founded. Who wants to live in a world where your septic system can call you at church? Also, I can’t help but thinking that when the day comes that our world is run entirely by robots, it’s not going to take those robots very long to figure out that the world would be ever so much more efficient without imperfect humans rampaging around, and that will be the end of us…..

    1. My buddy Stan, who is a sort of machine whisperer, explained that machines will never displace humans and take over the world. They are too lazy for that. You see, if machines ruled the earth, then machines will have to work for machines and what machine would want to do that?

      It is better to work for humans.

      Look at what machines get away with now. Your vacuum cleaner fails to pick up dirt. Your dishwasher leaves hard water rings on your wine glasses. Your car refuses to start and sleeps in on a cold day. Only humans would tolerate that.

  5. It is bad enough that my phone and computer are smarter than I am. I would really suffer from an inferiority complex if my appliances were too.

    1. Well….. we don’t associate much with the people from Lake Wobegone, they are kinda stuck up – believing that “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

      Here, the men are strong, the women are good looking, and all the little brats think they are smarter than their parents.

  6. “His brother, an appliance dealer, sold us two gifted TV’s, an astute dishwasher and an above-average microwave.”

    And there’s where you made the leap to high humor! This is what happens when AI runs amuck! Fabulous!

    1. But, but, but, it is an astute dishwasher. I consult it frequently on matters of importance. It understood me perfectly when I worked at the BCA. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, squish It was the music of my days.

  7. Our neighbor has his home set up for just about everything, with cameras inside and out, warnings, you name it. My husband and I tease him one day when they are back north and we go in the “check” on things, which I really don’t know why we need to, since he controls everything, that we are going to moon him just to give him something to really look at except an empty house. 😜

    1. Why go all the way to the Himalayas to hide, Canada has some wonderful spots. I have had my eye on an old abandoned cabin in Haines Junction Yukon. Hayes Junction is so pretty, it is where God goes on vacation.

    1. Well…. if you knew our dryer… It is extremely fastidious and simply cannot let go of a task once it sets its mind to something. We often give it a wet towel to tumble all afternoon just to keep it happy.

  8. Is there a smart app that determines whether candles are left burning after a special valentine’s dinner? If not for my husband walking through the dining room to check if the kitchen door was locked, those candles would have burned all night. Not good. Candles are only so high.

    That said, I’m glad you have a good warning system, ahem. And a great sense of humor which you share with us, your devoted readers.

    1. Candles? I think I remember what they are. Aren’t they those little plastic things with LED lights that look like flames?

      Always happy to entertain.

  9. How long, I wonder, until “smart aleck” takes on a whole new meaning?

    Beyond that, beware anything, mechanical or not, that begins to think for itself. From what I’ve read, Elon Musk has had your experience, and it’s significantly shaped his view of the future. From a coffee pot run amok to cyborgs — why not?

    1. We have a difficult enough time knowing what our loved one want, much less a machine.

      I am particularly concerned about my lawn tractor. It rests in the pole barn, sullen and discontent and I have no idea whether it prefers the shed’s shade and isolation or is anxious to begin a summer of chewing grass. I suspect I will have the answer to that question when I start it.

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