An hypothetical component library for Smart Homes as a vocabulary of complex ideas.

There is a very curious thing that happens when you are trying to learn a new (spoken) language, you run out of words pretty fast. When I was just learning english I wanted to use the work “good” for practically everything. Food was “good”, a movie was “good”, my seat was “good” and generally speaking life was “good”. People would definitely understand me but I felt kind of trapped in this one dimensional linguistic space. Problem is, that ideas are everything but one dimension.

Transplanting that concept to Smart Home, I was originally planning to write this blog under the constraints that every proposed idea was to be built with existing plug and play components available in the market. However… I found myself trying to work around the limited catalogue of existing components and basically coming up with one dimensional ideas. On the other hand, I could put my hat of electronic engineer, grab my multimeter and my soldering iron and build them myself with resistors, micro controllers, etc, however that would be like cheating, and I would be violating the principle of “The skill to setup a zombie home should be equivalent to the skills to connect any other home appliance.” .

For that reason, I’m going to propose here a list of elements that will fill an hypothetical box of components that I’ll use in every project.

Assume that each one of these components can just talk to each other. A way to visualize their communication is to see them as actors in a play and they are following a script. Let’s say I want to create a gadget that identifies bad smells in the kitchen.

The play would go like this:

Every five minutes, Sarah “The Controller” listens to Joe “The Air Quality sensor” yelling out loud his readings. When Sarah hears that the air quality is not good, she suggests Bill “The Fan” to start and run until further notice. In the meantime, Sarah suggests Mary “The color cube” to turn red. In addition to that, she writes in a notebook (a flash memory) what just happened and goes to sleep. Five minutes after, Sarah wakes up and pays attention to what Joe (the Air Quality guy) is saying again and figures out if something has changed. It the readings look better now, she suggests Bill (the fan) to stop and Mary (the color cube) to turn green. Sarah goes to sleep again. She repeats this action every 5 minutes.

You might be thinking this is stupid and childish… maybe =), but I’ve designed quite a couple software components in my life and realized early on that when you turn all the components into people, your social skills kick in and you start seeing what everybody is going and not going to do, who has enough information, who are you using a lot, who is being ignored, etc. The result is a much more well though and rounded up piece of software. Just for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use this paradigm to explain the algorithms that run each one of the gadgets. You just need to assume that such algorithms (or plays) are already loaded in the gadget or in the controller so you don’t need to program them.

Conclusion: I just established a series of hypothetical components that by act of magic just talk to each other as if they were just people. Instead of software we’ll use some sort of play script that describes their interaction.

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