Smart Home 1.02

    TCI, USA's largest cable television Company, is in talks
to launch  a unique pilot project in conjunction with Pacific Gas &
Electric Company & Microsoft corp. ; to design a "Smart home". The
home automation industry industry is expected to triple in size, from
$1.7 billionthis year to more than $5.1 billion by the year 2000.

 A Home Owner's Journal

Nov 28, 1996

     Moved in at last! Finally, we'll live in the smartest house in
the neighborhood. Everything networked. The cable TV is connected to
our phone, which is connected to my PC, which is connected to the
power lines; all the appliances & the security system. Everthing runs
off a universal remote with the friendliest interface I've ever used.
Programming is a snap. I'm, like, totally wire.


    Hot stuff! Programmed my VCR from the office, turned up the
thermostat & switched on the lights with the car phone, remotely
tweaked the oven a few degrees for my pizza. Everything nice & cozy
when I arrived. Maybe I should have the universal remote surgically


    Yesterday, the kitchen crashed. Freak event. As I opened the
fridge door, the light bulb blew. Immediately, everything else
electric shut down- lights, microwave, coffee maker - everything!
Carefully, I unplugged & repluged all the appliances... Nothing.
Called the cable company (but not from the kitchen phone). They refer
me to the utility. The utility insists the problem was in the
software. So the software company runs some remote telediagnostics
via my house processor.

    Their expert system claims it has to be the utility's fault. I
don't care, I just want my kitchen back! More phone calls. More
remote diagnostics.

     Turns out the problem was "unanticipated failure mode" - the
network had never seen a refrigerator bulb failure while the door was
open.  So the fuzzy logic interpreted the burnout as a power surge &
shut down the entire kitchen. But because sensor memory confirmed
that there hadn't actually been a power surge, the kitchen logic
sequence was confused so it couldn't do a standard restart. The
utility guy swears this is the 1st time this has ever happened.
Rebooting the kitchen took over an hour.


    The police are not happy. Our house  keeps calling them for help.
We discover  that whenever we play the TV or stereo above 25
decibels, it creates patterns of micro-vibrations that get amplified
when they hit the window. When these vibrations mix w/ a gust of
wind, the security sensors  are actuated & the police computer
concludes that someone is trying to break in. Go figure............

     Another glitch: whenever the basement is in self-diagnostic
mode, the universal remote won't let me change the channels on my TV.
That means I actually have to get up off the couch & change the
channel by hand. The software & utility say this "flaw" will be fixed
in the next upgrade- SmartHouse 2.1; but it's not ready yet.


    This is a nightmare. There's a virus in the house! My personal
computer  caught it while browsing on the public access network. I
come home & the living room is a sauna, the bedroom windows are
covered with ice, the fridge has defrosted, the washing machine has
flooded the basement, the garage door is cycling up & down & the TV
is stuck on the Home Shopping channel.... Throughout the house,
lights flicker like stroboscopes until they explode from the strain.
Broken glass is everywhere. Of course, the security sensors detect

    I look at a message slowly throbbing on my PC screen: "Welcome to
HomeWrecker!! Now the FUN begins........(be it ever so humble,
there's no virus like HomeWrecker.......)".  I get out of the house.


     They think I've digitally disinfected the house but the place is
a shambles. Pipes have burst & we're not completly sure we've got the
part of the virus that attacks toilets. Nevertheless, The Exorcists
(as in anti-virus SWAT members; like to call themselves ) are
confident the worst is over.  "HomeWrecker  is pretty bad, " one
tells me, "but consider yourself lucky you didn't get Poltergeist.
That one is really evil".

   Dec .19

        Apparently, our house isn't insured for viruses. "Fires &
mudslides yes," says the claims adjuster, "viruses,".

       My agreement with the SmartHouse people explicitly states that
all claims & warranties are null & void if any appliance or computer
in my house networks in any way , shape or form with a non-certified
on-line service. Everybody's very, very sorry , but they can't be
expected to anticipate every virus that may be created.

         We call our lawyer.   He laughs.  He's excited.


     I get a call from a SmartHouse sales rep.
 As a special holiday special offer, we get the free "opportunity" to
become a beta site for the company's new SmartHouse 2.1 upgrade.
   He says I'll be able to meet the programmers

     "Sure, " I tell him....................

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This message was sent on 10 Sep 1996