Home Smart Home

Electronic controllers are creating high-tech houses that do everything but tuck you in at night (though they will turn off the lights)

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In the Gates residence, more than 100 computers guide everything from the lights and climate controls to the security system. (But not without occasional glitches, according to some reports.) The house continually runs diagnostic tests on itself, pinpointing areas that need upgrading or repair. When occupants receive a phone call, only the handset closest to them will ring.
At night, when residents walk down a hallway, the lights come on and then darken behind them. Music and video choices are available on demand in any room. The house's most Big Brotherish feature, however, was its people-tracking system: upon entering, guests were reportedly given an electronic pin that can track and monitor their movements anywhere in the compound. With these miniature bugs, your music, movie or art choices can follow you to any room. Ideally, the house is supposed to adapt to your preferences and store information about your tastes for future reference.
Since that time, the pin idea has reportedly been scrapped. Even so, few doubt that computers will eventually guide our homes, much as they already govern our automobiles' brakes or ignition systems. By then, it's a good bet that today's smart-home technology--even Gates's--will seem primitive. Our dwellings should finally function like the home machines Le Corbusier once dreamed of.
Daren Fonda is a freelance writer based in New York City.
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