Entry 92: Remote Control

Back when we were house-hunting–in fact, before we had even settled on Stamford-–my wife reluctantly added my e-mail address to her database at work.

You might think that it’s natural for a wife to have her husband’s e-mail address on her database at work, and you might question our relationship if my wife only did so reluctantly.  However, Barbara works at Houlihan Lawrence, a large real estate firm in New York, and she put me on her database so I could receive daily updates on new listings in the areas we were considering.

That, in turn, allowed me to send dozens of listings back to her attached to brief messages like “Have we seen this?”  “This looks nice.”  “Where is this?”  And so forth.

Hence her reluctance.

The very second we put an offer on the house in Stamford, she purged me from those updates.

However, I still receive, on a weekly basis, a newsletter from Houlihan Lawrence called the Real Estate Market Intelligence Friday Report, or REMIFR (pronounced “the newsletter.”)

A recent issue of REMIFR contained a link to some alarming news for homeowners which I thought I’d share with my readers because I aim to entertain:

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s plans to introduce a cloud-based home-management system in North America called Iris in mid-2012, which will allow users to monitor and control many aspects of their home from their smartphone, tablet or computer, including thermostats, refrigerators, smart plugs, lighting, door locks, motion sensors and more.

Well, first, I don’t think people need more stuff to do with their smartphones.  They already do way too much with them, often while they’re having dinner with you or sitting near you in a movie theater. (“The feature is about to start.  Please silence your phones and refrain from emailing, texting or adjusting your thermostat.”)

Second, perhaps someone can tell me:  What exactly would someone need to do to his or her refrigerator while away from home?  Unless, perhaps, the refrigerator could send you alerts: “This is to inform you that last month’s leftover General Tso’s Chicken has surrendered, if you get my drift.”  (Hey, if my appliances are going to talk to me, I think they’d be sarcastic.)

Finally, what the hell is a smart plug?  What does it do, find an outlet and plug itself in?  Or is it the first step toward Skynet* taking over the world?

Being a responsible journalist, I allotted a minute and a half to researching this, and found a website called Earth911.com which reviewed some smartplugs that were presented at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.  Their post started with a definition:

While their features vary by manufacturer, essentially, smart plugs are outlet units that plug into regular household outlets to prevent vampire power drain, monitor energy usage and generally reduce the overall costs to run various electronics.

This, of course, forced me to look up the term “vampire power drain,” because, frankly, that does not sound like a good thing:

Vampire power drain is when a teenaged girl falls into a coma after watching the third Twilight movie for the eighth time.**

Vampires aside, I’m wondering how often the average person would feel the need to monitor their home energy usage from a smartphone:  “Yes, honey, while we’re spending quality time with our children here at Disney World, pardon me for a moment while I remotely monitor how much power our empty house is using while we’re away.”

I’m also imagining the appearance of our outlets with the smart plug plugged into them, then a 1-to-6-outlet adapter plugged into that, then an extension cord plugged into that.  I figure it would come about three feet away from the wall.  Maybe that’s why you’d need the smart phone to adjust the smart plug…because you wouldn’t be able to actually reach the damn thing.

There is one aspect of this “cloud-based home-management system” that intrigues me: the ability to control door locks.  Then, whenever we are a few miles away from the house, and one of us says “Did I lock the door?” we wouldn’t have to go all the way back to see if we did.  We could just use our smart phone to lock them.  Then go home and make sure it did.

The best thing I can see about remote control door locks is the big yucks I could have hiding near our house, waiting for Barbara to come home and unlock the door, then locking it again with my BlackBerry. She unlocks it, I lock it.  Repeat until she catches on.

Of course, I already do that sometimes with the car.

Serves her right for taking me off the daily mailing list.

See you soon.

*For the non-nerds among you, this is a reference to The Terminator, in which descendants of smart plugs take over the world.

**I made this up.  Vampire drain is when power keeps trickling into appliances even when they are turned off.  Twilight is when brain cells trickle out of a girl’s head even when they are not watching the movie.

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