I don’t want much, really. For 2012 I’m just looking for more digitally delivered options that could make my life easier. Maybe a pay-per-channel option for TV viewing, more Smart TV features and TVs with Internet connectivity and apps, more affordable LEDs and more of affordable home automation. And while we’re at it, throw more energy-saving features into those affordable home automation systems. That works, for now.
Here’s my post-holiday wish list:
Pay Per Channel
The rumor mill on a TV made from Apple is that the company may charge by the channel. Could this be a sort of iTunes for TV? Such a la carte TV choices were proposed a few years ago as part of cable TV regulations, though the cable operators claimed it would cost subscribers more for that kind of personalized service. But in this digital day and age, shouldn’t we have more customizable choices in what we want to watch? I probably limit about 80 percent my viewing choices to around dozen channels. And if the money was right, I’d subscribe individually to HBO, IFC and some other quality content outlets, leaving much of the other noise behind. Though I can’t help being concerned about how PBS stations would fare. Siri searches for content, anyone?
Not the football conference, though more of that would not be a bad thing. I’m taking about Near Field Communications, which allow smartphones and similar devices to communicate in close proximity, enabling things like shopping transactions, a la Google Wallet; social networking to share photos, contacts etc.; identity documents; keycards for electronic door locks; and digital health care. Yes, serious privacy and security issues immediately leap to mind. But with PINs and other security technologies we should swiftly move beyond that. This is because we are already heading toward this kind of mobile socio-economy. Our smartphones are becoming the RFID implants that sci-fi writers have long dreamed of.
More Smart TVs and Cloud Content
My wife and I were recently looking at some 40-inch HDTVs. I insist on a few key features: 1080p resolution, LED backlighting for LCDs, Energy Star qualification for efficiency, plenty of HDMI inputs and 120Hz refresh rate for viewing fast-action sports. We saw a nicely priced Samsung UN40D6000 40-incher with Smart TV features like Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Add one more mandatory feature. We’re looking at other 40-inch TVs, but keep coming back to the one with the Smart TV features. And according to DisplaySearch, we’ll see more and more smart TVs, growing from about 25 percent of TVs shipped today to 47 percent in 2015. Somehow, I think we will eclipse that. I’m on the bandwagon.
LEDs Lamps to Come Down in Price
Are you like me and have a few recessed lighting cans to fill in a game room or kitchen? It’s so tempting to run to Home Depot and charge up a few hundred bucks worth of LED lights. But there are a couple of problems. Replacing a 65-watt PAR-30 or 75-watt PAR-38 costs $40 or more, and the brightness (measured in lumens) often is not there. (You should look for at least 800 lumens for a 60-watt replacement and 1,000 lumens in a 75-watt replacement). Much as I want good LED lamps and will pay extra for them, halogens or dimmable CFLs seem better energy-efficient alternatives. Then again, LEDs will continue to come down in price. Bring it on. Please.
More Affordable Home Automation Becoming More Available
Call me a traitor, but I’m rooting for the big service companies we love to hate: ADT, Comcast, Verizon and likely AT&T. Why? They’re rolling out really basic home control systems, billed as security and connectivity systems, so users can check in on their homes remotely, turn off lights and turn down the thermostat, even from their smartphones. They’re also undercutting small custom electronics companies that can provide more extensive systems. Not that I want to see small companies go out of business. No, I want to see home control and automation reach the masses, no matter how basic the systems. Because that means it will become accepted, and people will look to add to their home conveniences. Think of the possibilities.
And More Energy Management with Home Automation
The big service providers like ADT, Comcast, Verizon are already offering this, in very basic forms with wireless thermostats and lighting control modules. We’re seeing more and more wireless Wi-Fi and Z-Wave-based devices that can monitor the energy consumption of devices in the home and shut those devices off automatically, depending on the presets you program. Home control companies are folding energy monitoring and management into their offerings as well, so you can use their systems to see your energy use and then do something about it. As we go on, more and more of this needs to become automated, until we can “set it and forget it,” and only have to deal with boring old energy concerns when we receive a text/email or other alert. Best of all, this will make our homes smarter and help us to save energy and money.