Storage Soup

Sep 13 2007   2:58PM GMT

The Bill Gates Dream House and your IT career

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

This post marks the beginning of a new category here at Storage Soup: Around the Watercooler, a catchall for the technology stories that have nothing to do with storage that we think you’ll find interesting anyway.

 Today there was a press release on the wires entitled “Using the Television to Wash Your Clothes.” According to the release,

The washing machine and the refrigerator are going to start “talking” to the television thanks to a new standard about to be published by the Geneva-based IEC. This new ability to network traditional household appliances with personal computers and audio-visual equipment will offer such possibilities as your television screen displaying the fact that the washing machine has finished washing your clothes or turning on an air conditioner from your personal computer.

One of my closest friends is a big-time tech geek, not only an IT guy in his own right but a sharp follower of consumer technology. The kind of guy who had a TiVo and a Netflix account years and years before they were cool or even well-known. You know the type–many of you out there in readerland are probably the same way.

This friend’s subscribes to the theory that the personal computer will one day become an appliance in the home like a water heater or an HVAC system–the computer itself, like one of those devices, would sit in the basement out of sight and out of mind to the homeowner (and like a water heater or air conditioning unit, would require specialized servicepeople to administer and fix). Also like a water heater or AC, the computer would connect to all the systems in the house, automating and personalizing every other appliance from the toaster to whatever screen / keyboard / hologram combination comes to represent an Web browsing portal.

My friend is the first person I heard describe this home of the future, but he definitely wasn’t first with the idea. In fact, there’s already a prototype of this type of home being lived in daily in our country, and it belongs to none other than Bill Gates.

Of course, Gates is a guy rich enough to have tropical sand barged in to Washington state for his private beach, so some of this is just Cribs-esque because-I-can excess. But Gates has also publicly announced his intention to market versions of his home technology for the masses. One example of technology that could fit into the water-heater computer of the future is described in a Wikipedia article: “visitors are surveyed upon entrance and are given a microchip that sends signals throughout the house to adjust temperature and other conditions according to preset user preferences.”

The ratification of a standard for this type of technology suggests that other people are thinking along the same lines. And in even as little as another half-decade, we could be looking back on the “digital home” of this era as child’s play.

Think, also, of the possible career opportunities this represents for those in the IT field.  Putting this much technology into the home could bring the IT guy out of his traditional data center, transforming him into the plumber of the 21st century. It’s already happening to some extent with businesses like Best Buy’s Geek Squad. And hey, before you scoff at that, I know some plumbers too, and they actually tend to make a very nice living.

P.S. Can’t miss pointing out just one more detail from the Wikipedia article on Gates’s house:

The number of building permits needed completely overwhelmed the Medina county clerk’s office, necessitating the move to a new Linux-based computer infrastructure to deal with the volume.

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  • Jesse
    That last part is probably something Mr. Gates would rather you not have written. The storm-troopers are on their way. Have a glass of wine, it will lessen the effect of the taser... ;-) Just kidding. I think all of us "geeks" have thought about this at one point or another, I've often likened it to having a Star-Trek-esque computer core with terminals in every room, so that any piece of data can be called up at a whim. My house is already very like this, all of our digital files are stored online and can be accessed from anywhere in the house, whether it is a room with a desktop pc (we use the Dell Optiplex 620-Micro Form-Factor "Bricks") in the few cases we're not using laptops that is. (my wife and I both use Laptops, my sons have their own desktops) So if you were to need to fax a copy of your last two pay-checks for a mortgage application, you simply call the images up, print to the fax share, and the server downstairs sends them out via a fax-over-ip connection complete with cover sheet. Gotta love technology....except when it doesn't work... It's fairly easy to set up, if a bit time-consuming.
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