There are a few things you should know about me before reaching the heart of this post. First, though I’m an occasional early adopter by occupation and temperament, I’m a bit technology-challenged. When it came to setting up my new office computer system, I called on my long-time “tech guy.” I don’t have a smart doorbell or thermostat, but I absolutely love the gizmo a “garage guy” installed that closes the door automatically after five minutes if I forget to do so. (It used to happen every few months, and was always a concern en route to the airport.)
I’m also a worrier by nature. AARP says I fit into the 90% of older Americans – I’m 60 and a card-carrying member – who worry about privacy with regard to smart home technology. Now, as I noted above, I love what it can do for me in very practical terms, and I will definitely have an integrator set up a smart home system when I buy my next home.
While I appreciate the affordability that mass market smart home technology products provide, so many of them are offered by companies with business models based on leveraging user habits and data. I don't love that for myself, my wellness design consulting clients, my speaking audiences or my readers.
As I shared in my latest Wellness Wednesdays Clubhouse conversation on well-tech 'if a product is free or almost free, then you are the product!' In my two-minute video on this topic, I open with 'Hey Alexa, what are the links between smart home technology and wellness? Maybe ask Josh instead.'
I first ‘met’ Josh.ai at the 2017 CEDIA Expo; I also only discovered CEDIA itself a few weeks before then through an integrator acquaintance. It was refreshing to learn that there are providers and products focused on delivering benefits with privacy and security protections (whose core strategy isn’t ‘productizing’ me).
This was part of the conversation Ian Bryant, CEDIA’s senior director of strategic partnerships, personal technology expert Carley Knobloch, and architect/interior designer Rose Dostal and I led as we talked on Clubhouse about what was coming up at the 2021 Expo. For those of us in the Boomer class, voice control, smart shading, telehealth, robotics and other innovations can add safety and comfort to our ability to live independently.
Knobloch pointed to the potential for well-tech (or well tech or welltech, if you prefer; can we define a standard here please?) to enhance health and peace of mind for seniors and their caregivers. As she shared with Clubhouse listeners and my Forbes.com readers in a recent article, “I have seen a leap from ‘smart home’ to ‘intelligent home’ — where the technology and thinking have evolved from ‘I can operate my faucet from across the room’ to ‘I can monitor the quality and usage of my home’s water supply.’ Once the sensors and the technology were there, everyone seems to have thought harder about how to have an impact not just on convenience but health."
That is a perspective you can take onto the CEDIA Expo show floor in Indianapolis (or the virtual show floor, as I’ll be doing). Here’s my key question for the industry: How do you take your smart home clients from the latest gear to greater wellness? How do you guide us to solutions that will enable users to truly enhance our homes and lives? How can technology help prevent illness and injury? How can it add to our well-being without turning us into marketing commodities?