Automation systems are all the rage in certain tech circles these days, and rightly so. Being able to save money by adjusting your thermostat from work via your smartphone or being able to shut off a light you forgot about from the cafe are great ideas.
The problem is that most of the mass market stuff out there assumes a whole lot about what and how someone wants to automate things.
I live in a 150ish year old farm house built on solid limestone. A room in our basement was built to store food once upon a time, but now it gets very damp in the summer and not always cold enough in the winter. What I need is a system that monitors temperature and humidity and operates fans and vents to keep the place dry and at specific temperatures based on the time of year. I’d like to be able to monitor that setup from my PC or smart-device via a web interface, but I’m not necessarily interested in broadcasting that data to the cloud.
There are a few devices that do some of what I want, but they all tend to fall short. What I’ve discovered is that if I want to do this kind of stuff, I’m going to have to build it myself.
Such is the life of a maker.
The projects I’m considering to date are:
- A system to manage the temperature and humidity of the food storage room in the basement.
- A system to monitor the temperatures of the various fridges and freezers we have (you might be surprised how many a farm like ours ends up with).
- A system to monitor for fire and carbon monoxide emissions from a couple of alternative heating systems we have.
- A system to monitor for fire in most of our buildings.
- A camera system for the farm main.
- Others as time permits and necessity demands.
Time to get to work…
Dear <fill in the blank with the name of a major technology producer CEO>,
I understand that you want to make supertanker loads of money so that you can vacation in the Mediterranean and eat your lunch off nude prostitutes, and I know that people who take your technology and use it for things other than what you were able to imagine they should is really scary, but I hate to break it to you: hackers and makers are really your friends.
You see, whenever a hacker or maker takes your product and does something with it you did not imagine they could, they essentially hand you a new product for free with the potential for even more supertanker loads of money (and hence, more nude prostitute sushi). Further, every time someone develops a new use for your product, based either on the original product or on a new development someone hacked, that’s a new supertanker.
In essence, all of these hackers and makers represent an entire free product development division that won’t demand any more benefits than to have the right to open something they’ve paid for, to see how it works, and to use it they way they want.
In fact, if you encourage such initiative by making your products hackable and makeable, you might find out that people might start to like your company even more and not get so upset with your supertankers full of money and nude prostitute sushi. What’s more, if you take some of that money–just a tiny little bit–and use it to fund contests to see what people might be able to do with your products, you might even accelerate the process.
Or, you could just do things the way you always have, jealously guarding your products against such intrusions while hackers and makers do what they’re going to do anyway. That is, those hackers and makers will do it until they get bored or something better comes along, maybe some other company’s product that isn’t afraid to put it out there and see what happens. Then, that company will get the supertankers full of money you wish you had while you’re stuck sharing your cheeseburger with your dog in Greenland.