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Ahead Of Its Time Redux

Business Week has an opinion piece in the current issue — cutely titled "Talk To Me, Fridge" — predicting an automated smart home where applicances talk to each other, and external sources like the electric company, automatically.  Well, more than a decade ago I represented Echelon Corp. of Silcon Valley in a legislative battle over whether some FCC standards would interfere with competition for home automation; our congressional sponsor, Rep. Anna Eshoo, used The Jetsons as her example of the technical future.  Few of us realized, then, that more than a decade later the automated smart home would still be another 10 years away. 

But Drew Lanza’s take seems to assume that the chip component cost curve is all that’s standing in the way of a networked house in the very near future:

That’s thanks in part to the proliferation of Wi-Fi, technology that lets us connect to the wireless Internet at high speeds—not only from our homes and coffee shops but also from cars, airplanes, and even parks. To that we can now add a new generation of task-specific semiconductors so inexpensive that they can be deployed in the billions to various sensors and objects and then connected to the Internet via the same wireless technology.. . . In the coming years, designers will deliver these semiconductors for a buck or two and get them to run off a single AAA battery for years.

Sounds a lot like what Scott McNealy said about Jini a decade ago and what technologists projected for RFID even closer than that.  They were wrong and, I suspect, so is Lanza.