Introduction

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life” (Arp, 1947).

This sentiment, expressed by the early twentieth-century abstract artist Jean Arp, remains as contentious today as it has since man-kind’s earliest dalliances with the technological world. What has changed is the degree to which technology has come to permeate all aspects of modern life. The development of the “smart home” typifies this fact. Broadly speaking, the smart home refers to a group of electronic devices which utilise modern communications and sensor technology in order to automate a wide variety of home tasks which would otherwise need to be performed manually (Edmonds and Chandler, 2013). These devices vary in nature, from self-adjusting thermostats (based on user preferences) to fridges with monitors attached recommending recipes (Samsung, 2014) to homes equipped with 247 medical monitoring technologies(Marsh, 2001). Indeed, almost all aspects of domestic life are on the verge of being outsourced to smart appliances. These technologies may lead to a dramatic change in the very nature of the private domain and as such require public scrutiny.
This blog aims to provide just that. To this end, we will offer a critical analysis on the many potential ramifications of smart homes. In order to do so we will provide regular updates on various appliances, both existing and in development. These posts will outline the functionalities of such devises and provide an overview of the smart-home market as a whole. This is necessary in order to facilitate and contextualise further discussion. For the sake of clarity an impartial, descriptive approach will be adopted. A brief history of the development of this industry will also be provided for the same purposes.
Our blog series will apply a critical approach to this subject, examining the value it has to offer. In today’s world there is a tendency to label those who question supposed technological “advances” pejoratively as luddites. However it is our contention that only a fool mindlessly celebrates technological change without considering its usefulness and the ethical issues it may raise. For instance smart homes raise legitimate privacy concerns. In a world in which we are already constantly monitored, with large amounts of data available about us all, is it really necessary to further cede the privacy of our homes? To some this is of little concern, while for others view it as an eerie warning of a dystopian Orwellian future to follow.
We will also consider the ramifications of increasingly relying on technology to carry out our daily tasks. The potential dangers of this loss of independence will be discussed. We will question why it is necessary that humans further distance themselves from the world by removing the need to ever leave our homes. The consequences of this “cocooning” effect on the individual will be examined (Rouse, 2005). The blog will also examine the purpose of these technological innovations, considering what the end goal of eliminating all daily chores is.
In order to provide balance to the discussion the potential benefits of these technologies will be explored. Particular attention will be paid to the environmentally friendly energy consumption opportunities that will be provided. Also, with increasingly ageing populations throughout the western world the medical, security and convenience (depending on your perspective) improvements offered by smart home technology will be discussed.
In conclusion, this blog has the ambitious aim of elucidating the benefits and negative ramifications of what may be the most significant wave of technological innovations of the next decade. However, more than this, it is our goal to use smart home technologies as a vehicle to explore the intricacies of humanity’s relationship with technology in the early twenty-first century.

Alan Power

Bibliography
Finest quotes (2012). Finestquotes. Available at http://www.finestquotes.com/author_quotes-author-Jean%20Arp-page-0.htm (Accessed 3 February 2014)
Molly Edmonds and Nathan Chandler (2013). Howstuffworks. Available at http://home.howstuffworks.com/smart-home3.htm ( Accessed 3 February 2014)
Samsung (2014). Samsung. Available at http://www.samsung.com/us/topic/apps-on-your-fridge ( Accessed 3 February 2014)
Jeffrey Marsh (2001). Rochester. Available at http://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V64N3/feature2.html (Accessed 3 February 2014)
Margaret Rouse (2005). Techtarget. Available at http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/cocooning ( Accessed 3 February 2014)

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