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28 Aug

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Understanding the Connected Home: Factory Reset

August 28, 2015 | By |

Understanding the Connected Home is an ongoing series that explores the questions, challenges and opportunities around increasingly connected homes. (Show all posts on this blog.). Update: As of Sept 2015, we turned it into a larger research project and book at theconnectedhome.org.

Let’s consider for a moment that an apartment full of sensors and network infrastructure is basically a computer we live in. That means we need to consider implications of security and control (like Cory Doctorow does in that last link). It also means we need to think about failure states and personal data.

Most failure states in a connected home are likely to be variations along the lines of 1) users not understanding their home’s infrastructure or 2) things-clashing-with-things.

Computers crash

But what happens in case of a more fundamental crash? What does the blue screen of death look like for a home?

Windows 9X BSOD.png
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Can you reboot your apartment? How? Have you tried turning it off and on again?

via GIPHY

What happens if you move out?

As we steep our networked homes in personal data, as our living room clouds and algorithmic assistants learn about our behaviors and preferences, we imprint ourselves on our apartments not just physically as we have done traditionally, but also digitally, through data.

And much like (depending on which country you’re in) we tend to renovate and paint the walls either upon moving in or moving out – in other words: resetting the apartment – we’ll want to do the same on the data & algorithm level. Just like we don’t want to leave any smudges or holes on a wall after living at a place, we don’t want to hand over a house with our data still inside it.

So how does a factory reset work? Does it wipe all data completely? Are their pathways in the neural network that powers our future homes that cannot be fully wiped, just like really old houses have grooves in their wooden floors from generations of people walking the same pathways? When we arrive at the next place, do we start from scratch or do we transfer everything over to the new place? What if the location change is only part of what’s new, say if a couple split up and the old place’s data sets were generated by two people and the new place is for someone freshly single – or the other way round? Will data from a bachelor pad seep into the new shared couple’s space like some old Bob Marley poster and be greeted by the other data set with a similar kind of resentment as its physical counterpart?