The Internet of Things or IoT as we may call it is a rapid and cheap 21st-century retort to the utter failures of 20th century lifestyle. Also, it serves as an upcoming chapter in the classic struggle of property relations.
Prior to the appearance of IoT in the 1990s, home automation was the sole provider of all the services that well-heeled and technophile home owners were ready to compensate for: scary anti-burglar security and surveillance for the paranoids, various flavors of remote-control doors and windows, clever thermostats, home theaters, and the fancy lighting. Although these horde of devices were fussy, hard to maintain and fragmented, they provided the consumers “convenience” by simply rearranging the complexity around.
The homeowner is the master of what goes on, and his cold, accurate, pitiless robotic servants scurry around to serve him.
Then came the IoT in the 2010s by offering us the exciting possibility of brushing these complexities under the carpet by creating professional programmers to run your home. By smoothly integrating all our IoT devices with one wireless communication protocol, this utopia allows us to manage our housing just the way we manage our smartphone screen. We were promised that these effortlessly connected devices would blend in rationally organized and peaceful “ecosystem” conduct itself as the internet’s version of a private security guard, repairman, housekeeper, janitor, and butler.
But when it comes to consumer relations, the IoT has been a total damp squib. The smartphone-controlled door locks have a niche whereas IoT thermostats fare okay. Contrastingly enough, only smart speakers like Alexa and her faction of prattling adversaries have met with the real fervor: An anticipated 57 million US adults use these smart speakers at least once a month. Nowadays homes are built and sold with the supposition that the common man is the master of what goes on around him, and his cold, accurate, pitiless robotic voice servants will serve him.
Decades were spent in turning our homes into these computers where we bathe, sleep, and eat. In the same way, we considered the internet as being cramped in a big IBM labelled commodity boxes. However, in the future, our homes will not be confined to the walls in which we live.
The internet air has engulfed the old physical barriers of the IBM. Once firmly delimited as “private” from “public”, these closed doors have now become an access point. The porous house walls that crave for data streams are now satisfied by deep-learning algorithms that can successfully forecast household demands in advance. For instance, disturbed sleep by early-morning independent package delivery, the use-by date of milk, replenishing the trash bag stock. Formerly known as a homeowner—and now user—no longer decides anything because his so-called needs are predicted before time.
As the future rolls in, it dawns upon that now you don’t “own” your home with paper contracts. Toilets have their independent privacy policies. With every new dot.com popping up, technology strikes back cheaper, smaller, and faster, packed with more intense and elusive mechanisms of remote control and surveillance. Year by year, bit by bit the long-standing resistance disintegrates. By the year 2050, the antediluvian homeowner will be simply old.
And the young generation? Oblivious of the change, they are engrossed in worrying about the future.