There has been some pretty interesting, sustained press over Google and Apple's individual overtures into the future "smart home" market. First Google bought Nest, prompting countless "oh great, now they will read my emails and watch me sleep" jokes. Then Apple announced it was developing a software platform for controlling your home called HomeKit. Most folks seem to be stressing about their iPads working with their Google homes, and others point out that a "smart home" probably means the end of privacy as we know it.
I think it might it also mean homes that are actually operable, comfortable and efficient. Perhaps the Google home or the iHome is our best shot to tackle our home energy waste problem. Yes, we have gotten much better at building efficient homes, but the better building codes driving these improvements don't apply to existing buildings, and no market based program has even come close to making a dent in the existing home market. At USGBC, the only thing we could all agreed about the existing home market as a potential LEED application was that it would be a very difficult endeavor.
So why might Google and Apple be our best bets for home efficiency? A couple reasons. First, so much of the energy consumed in the U.S. residential sector is completely wasted in unoccupied homes or rooms that just turning off has huge potential. It does not have to be smart, just slightly less stupid.
Second, because people might actually pay for it.
If people were actually motivated by "doing the right thing for our grandchildren" or "saving money every month" then we would see a whole lot more home retrofits. But we don't.
Having a cool, modern home surely seems to motivate people. Stainless steel appliances. Granite counter tops. Hardwood floors. Central air. The existence of expensive trends in home improvement with NO payback would seem to indicate that social pressures matter in this market.
Maybe Google and Apple can make energy efficiency part of the next trend.
P.S. Please, please, please Apple, ditch Siri! Bring us Hal!
"Open the garage door, Hal!"
I'm sorry Lane, I'm afraid I can't do that."