Alliance to Save Energy Takes Humorous Look at ‘Smart Homes’ As Y2K, New Millennium Madness Converge

Release Date: Tuesday, November 30, 1999

As new millennium madness, prophecies about living differently in the future, and concerns about Y2K computer malfunctions converge, the Alliance to Save Energy uses its "crystal ball" to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the expected growth of "Smart Homes" in the new millennium.

"Smart Homes" are totally wired or connected through a home computer running specially designed software that can control and automate virtually every aspect of your home — security, lighting, appliances, heating and cooling systems, blinds/drapes, audio and video systems. They will do such things as feed your pet when you're gone, alert you to arrival of mail, enable you to turn on lights and air conditioning at a vacation property before you leave home, start the coffee before you awake based on your schedule, and turn on/off lights by remote control from anywhere in the home. Bringing to life the "got milk?" ad campaign, a "smart" refrigerator may see that you're almost out of milk and order more.

A strong supporter of technology, the Alliance to Save Energy promotes the use of today's and tomorrow's energy-efficient technologies that cut utility bills, energy use, and pollution while increasing home comfort. Energy-efficient homes, appliances, and electronics bearing the Energy Star label can save consumers 30 percent on energy bills.

But as part of media's profound look at the future in the new millennium, the Alliance decided to have a little fun wondering what would happen if home technology ran amuck.

What If:

  • Your "Smart Home" crashes and won't let you in?
  • Your toaster can't find the software to toast your bread?
  • You can't multitask in your home — use the washer, dryer, TVs, hair dryers, computers, printer, fax at the same time — because your house will slow down or freeze and have to be constantly rebooted?
  • You haven't upgraded your home to Windows 2005 and can't open up any of your windows?
  • Your home has to "do time" for "performing an illegal operation" and you consequently have no place to live?
  • Your washing machine loses more than stray socks since you didn't press the "save" function?
  • Your kid didn't do as well on the SATs as your "Smart Home," and your home got into a better college?
  • Your "Smart Home" lost all of its smart data and became dumb since you didn't backup?
  • You have to take courses every time your home has to be upgraded (formerly known as remodeled or repaired) — and if you didn't upgrade, you can't get replacement parts for your home or appliances?
  • Your voice activated "Smart Home" (90 percent accuracy rate) understands your "Honey, I'm home" command as "Honey, I'm a burglar," and instead of turning on the lights and air conditioning, it activates a line to the police?
  • It takes your microwave and all of your previously "instant on" electronics and appliances 5 minutes to recover from a crash?
  • Your home flashes an error message, and your home and everything in it disappears because you didn't save in a new file?
  • Your home has obtained a virus and has to be quarantined from other homes?
  • You can't figure out your home's 5,075 page operating manual — and neither can your 9-year-old — and amazon.com and all the brick and mortar book stores are out of "Smart Homes for Dummies?"
  • Your one-stop-shopping bill that bundles your energy, cable, phone, and Internet services offers the worst of each service — everything goes out in a storm, service is provided by former cable company technicians, and you get interrupted during dinner constantly about switching to a new provider?
  • The nanotechnology security system — smaller than a piece of dust — went up your child's nose but no one knew because it couldn't be seen and every time he sneezed, your home alarm system went off?
  • Your refrigerator and the items in it and your dishwasher and detergent are communicating more than the spouses in the house?
  • Robots can operate everything in your "Smart Home" and decide human inhabitants aren't needed because they just make a mess?
  • Your "Smart Home" can't keep pace with the Jones'?
  • You're kept on hold with bad music daily trying to reach technical services about your home network going down?