YESTERDAY I mentioned in passing something smart my phone did: listening to the headlines on the radio and then Googling a list of stories about Donald Trump.
Now I discover that’s only the techno half of it.
Never mind your smart phone, smart homes are on the way. And never mind the internet being somewhere you go to browse headlines and order goods you are too lazy-arsed to go out and actually buy in person.
No, soon the internet is changing and wants a bigger say in our lives, starting with our homes. And even our beds, according to the Tech Monthly supplement in The Observer – a, well, smart publication that induces in this reader a paradoxical mix of gadget envy and mounting panic.
What’s coming is down to something apparently known as the Internet of Things. Now you might assume that there were already many things on the internet. And so there are: more things than you could shake a memory stick at.
But this isn’t to do with things you find on the internet: it is to do with the internet controlling the domestic details of your life.
Apparently you can now buy a smart mattress that can keep track of your biological processes during the night, tracking sleep patterns, breathing rate, heart beat and “anything else you might get up to under the covers”. Yes, your bed will record your sexual activity and even give you a nudge – or possible a nudge-nudge – if you’ve been a little lax under the covers for a while.
Just what the world needs now: a libido-tracking mattress.
Now these activities follow patterns related in part to length of relationship, age and so on. So you don’t need a smart mattress to tell you that young people who’ve just met probably have more sex than middle-aged or older people who’ve been together for years.
Any old mattress and its rusty springs could tell you that.
And those of us who sometimes haunt the red-eyed corridors of the night don’t need a high-tech bit of nagging to tell us what sort of a night we’ve just had. We usually know that already.
But bed action or otherwise is only the start of it.
The Internet of Things is approaching already. A mildly irritating advert on TV already extols the techy virtues of being able to talk to your boiler on your mobile phone, telling it went to switch on and off.
How wonderfully pointless.
I talk to our old boiler sometimes, especially if it’s been making strange noises. “Please don’t break down,” I say. “And if you’re going to, don’t wait until the coldest day of winter like you did last year.”
The Internet of Things will control all aspects of our homes, apparently. Telling us when to order milk. Switching our lights on and off, regulating how much gas or electricity we are using, and running our washing machines in the middle of the night when electricity costs less.
Smart lavatories will apparently monitor your bodily extrusions and check that everything is at it should be. And smart scales – well they really take the biscuit. And yes, that’s what they do: weigh you as your walk in the bathroom, check your BMI, body fat and heart rate – and talk to your phone throughout the day.
Which is where the biscuit comes into to it. Or doesn’t if you listen to your nagging phone.
I think I like my home the way it is. Do we really want to live in places smarter than we are? Isn’t home the place you go to escape all the nagging worries of life and not to be wrapped up in techno-anxiety?
There is a bigger question, too. If everything in our homes is controlled externally by the internet, that must surely leave our daily lives open to hackers. Malign forces could mess with your daily life for the hell of it – turning things on or off at random, priming your bathroom body monitor to tell you you’re about to have a heart attack – or they could just shut everything down, couldn’t they?
That’s where things start to get worrying.