In the days before Internet ubiquity, I remember a conversation with a friend of mine and an executive from one of the major consumer online services of the day about interoperability and musing how wonderful it would be if there were just one network. There was only one network, he huffed, and that was his. Well, unfortunately for those of us not using CompuServe, there’s no way for us to send e-mail or obtain online information these days.
The latest “One-Net” hails from semiconductor concern Threshold. It’s a low-cost, low-power, medium-range control scheme that will compete with ZigBee and Insteon, but for some reason ignores Z-Wave, which seems to be the market leader in terms of vendor support. Even though these standards are wireless and therefore by definition require less of an installation burden than some competing technologies, the home controls market remains something that requires way too much consumer navigation. The cost of infrastructure components — especially for basics such as lighting — is negligible compared to the cost of labor, and there doesn’t seem to be any way around that.
How long has this market been on the cusp of the mainstream? Well, at a dinner event around DigitalLife that included Michael Miller, editor-in-chief of PC Magazine, he noted that the first article he ever wrote was on home automation. That was in 1979!