Maybe there are people out there aching to check their retirement accounts while sitting in freeway traffic. Multitasking is a must, especially in decidedly less exuberant times, so maybe in-car Internet will catch on.
I prefer sports radio, always will. It requires much less thought and besides, being in the car is one of the few times when we ever get to be truly alone.
So if the e-commerce world wants me to buy more online, even to buy online all the time, it should forget hooking up my car to the Internet and focus on how to get my entire house connected first.
See, right now, I’m able to roam around the house on my laptop, but every time I want to get online, it’s back upstairs to plug into my broadband connection.
Yes, I know there are solutions out there to this type of problem, but none that instills the kind of confidence required to make me spend a few hundred dollars.
But this goes beyond being personally connected to the Web at all times, which when you think about it might be a bit of an intrusion anyway. This is more about my whole house, from my oil tank gauge to my electric meter to my refrigerator, being hardwired to the Web.
Right now, my heating oil deliveries come at fairly regular intervals — based, I presume, on past usage and weather conditions. The family-run business gets it pretty good most of the time, although twice in recent memory, I’ve run low enough to panic and call for a delivery. Worrying about my oil is not something I want to do.
My electric meter is more problematic. That gets read manually, every couple of months, by a guy who speeds into the driveway, leaps out of the truck and sprints across the yard and back, in an attempt to get his route done quickly.
Without disclosing what I might or might not be doing in my own home at any given moment, suffice it to say that surprise visits aren’t among my favorite things. How much more efficient it would be if the electric company could track my usage in real time. Bills would be more accurate and consistent — no more estimating — and the guy in the truck could stop invading my privacy.
There are countless other uses for being able to log on to one’s house. Ever go on vacation and wonder if your pipes are frozen back home, your basement under water? A quick check online might tell your home is still a dry and toasty 55 degrees.
Yes, I know this wired type of house opens up the Pandora’s box of government invasion and intrusion. Might the electric company report odd changes in my electricity use to the local police for further investigation? Maybe.
But I’m not worried about that right now. I’m too busy focusing on the upside. Many others are, too — so much so that every couple months, it seems, another partnership springs up to create the “home of the future.”
Just last month it was Microsoft and General Electric that hooked up with a company called Smart to offer “home control systems” to new home builders.
Cost of Living
The Yankee Group called this deal “important” because it represents another chance for home networking to “gain a foothold in the United States.” Yankee noted that when rolled into the cost of a new house, the expense “seems small.”
Which means, of course, that it isn’t. And I fully realize that. But the cost isn’t going to get smaller unless it starts to gain a foothold.
Sensing a Catch-22 here? In order to break that cycle, everyone needs to agree that networked homes offer at least as much potential for e-commerce and the Internet as online cars and cell phones with Web connections.
I realize that other attempts to converge technologies, like online television, have mostly disappointed to date. As for Internet appliances, well, let’s just say we haven’t heard too much good news about them lately.
But we’re talking not just about getting people onto the Internet in different ways. We’re talking about using the Internet in different ways to deliver services and goods. This is about breaking out of the paradigm that says that the only valid business-to-consumer e-commerce model is a person placing an order for an item.
The oil company that knows exactly when to deliver is going to be the most efficient on the block. The utility that saves on meter readers the sleekest and fastest. The list goes on, but the point is that e-commerce transactions don’t start and stop with me clicking on the shopping cart logo.
But don’t take my word for it. Dial up my refrigerator for more details.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.