When creating and building the world around us, we’ve often been told to look out for the weakest link and eliminate it. By removing this weak link, we can strengthen the chain, allowing our creations to become stronger, more robust, less likely to fail.
As I continue to build my smart home and fill the house with automated, internet-connected, devices that will complete the tasks I once did without human error, it has become increasingly obvious that I am the weak link. I am that human error.
After all, it was me who hid the router away in a thick-pannelled cupboard in an obscure corner of the house, drastically cutting the Wi-Fi range. It was I who measured the front room, then ordered speaker wire to hook up a surround sound system, but got the measurements mixed up, and now my A/V receiver is wedged in a unit at a worrying angle while a mess of wires spews from its backside like Medusa suffering from diarrhoea.
There are a host of technological and DIY sins I will not confess to here, as the internet is only finite in size, and there’s a few dodgy DIY attempts my wife hasn’t found out about yet.
While my smart home works quietly and competently to switch on my lights, power my devices and alert me to people visiting my home (the Ring Video Doorbell now appears to be working after I got a replacement Chime unit), when things do go wrong it’s usually because of me.
Because I’ve installed something incorrectly. Or tripped over a wire, severing it from its power source, or spilling classy drinks like Champagne and margaritas over something important.
OK, full disclosure: I’m attempting to make my life sound more glamorous than it is. If liquid is spilt in my house it is usually budget vodka, kitten formula or tears of regret.
Basically, I am the point of failure here, and if my smart home finds out, I could be in trouble.
Luckily for this useless human, my smart home has so far adopted a kindly parental role at the moment. It heats my home when it gets too cold (thanks Hive smart thermostat) and lights my way when it gets too dark (thanks Hue).
Alexa’s dulcet, yet still a bit eerie, vocal tones can read me a night time story through the Amazon Echo Dot by my bedside, and the Withings Aura Alarm Clock will play relaxing sounds as I drift off, and use its mattress monitor to make sure I have a good night’s sleep.
I even have a smart toothbrush (the Oral-B Smart Series 6500 CrossAction) which keeps an eye on how I brush my teeth, and gives me advice (as well as a star rating and a happy or sad emoticon face) if I’ve been a good boy.
In short, I’m being mollycoddled by my smart home, and I feel I need it more than it needs me. As robots mow the lawn and vacuum my carpets – jobs I could reliably do without killing/destroying anything – I feel increasingly like an obsolete media format. I am Betamatt. Cast me on a pile of zip, floppy and mini discs.
“Would my smart home even miss me if I was gone?” I thought to myself as I laid on the couch, sipping my disgusting cocktail of vodka, kitten formula and tears (which I have named ‘White Russian for Pussies’) and idly throwing bits of torn-up paper onto the floor for my robot vacuum cleaner to remove.
And that’s when I realised, maybe I’m not completely redundant! Maybe I do have a purpose! To make a mess for my robot butlers to clean! To leave my lights on for Hue to turn off! To make dental hygiene mistakes for my toothbrush to admonish me for! I am the human error they exist to correct, and I should embrace it.
- Matt Hanson is trying to make his home smarter, and his life easier. But that doesn’t always happen. Follow his trials and tribulations in his iDIY column.