Before I get started with today's post, I'd like to apologize to all three of my loyal readers for the long hiatus. During the week leading up to the holiday shutdown (as the Huge Company so euphemistically and politically correctly calls the week of Christmas wherein we are required to either go on vacation or take the week off unpaid to enable the huge company to relieve itself of substantial accrued liability for unredeemed vacation time even though the policy on vacation time carryover is remarkably stingy) people actually wanted to work and get things done, so I was incredibly busy doing two weeks worth of work in one. Then I took, as required, the week of Christmas off. Then I took the next week off because I didn't feel like working. So I'm finally back. Please enjoy today's post.
Why doesn't Huge Company enter the housing market and provide energy-saving technology solutions? For instance, we could allow homeowners to use the web to manage tasks such as setting their thermostat, controlling their home security system, or programming their sprinklers. Such a solution would allow homeowners to be more efficient with their use of resources while at the same time creating a market opportunity for our products.
This is a really great suggestion. I mean, who doesn't want to save energy? When fuel prices are the only thing going up faster than the anticipated cost of our children's education, most consumers are suddenly interested in saving the Alps from looking like the Gobi. So let's look at your proposal.
The first thing you suggest is that this could save energy. Except that the hardware and software required to run all that crap remotely would undoubtedly consume more electricity than managing it from the little standalone box that is already at my house. And I don't know about you, but I'm not the kind of person who is going to go on the web each day and set my thermostat so that the house is sufficiently warm/cool by the time I get home. Why, you ask? Because the little box on my thermostat allows me to set the temperature on a timer so I don't have to think about it every day. Seems to me that setting it and forgetting about it is a lot more efficient than resetting it every single day. And I'm pretty sure that little monochrome LCD screen on the thermostat consumes less energy than a full-color web portal. Same goes for the sprinklers and security system.
Then of course, there's the issue of the hardware to run it. Since it would be web-based, it would certainly need to be upgraded every three to five years, which means toxic computer hardware parts to recycle (or more likely toss in the landfill) at the same intervals. That sounds really environmentally friendly to me. Even if the system lasted longer, we're talking about a greater volume of parts, which means more resource extraction to produce them and more energy consumption to extract, manufacture, and transport them.
So while I'm all in favor of innovation to help the environment, the economy, education, or any other aspect of our lives, let's make sure it's true innovation. Slapping a bunch of technology on something doesn't automatically make it better or more efficient. Just take a look at worldwide energy consumption since the beginning of the industrial revolution. There's a pretty tight correlation between industrialization and energy consumption. That's why Americans are 1/20 of the world population but consume 1/5 of the energy. And if we keep innovating as you've suggested, we might be able to get that 1/5 of the world's energy down to 1/4. Thanks for the suggestion!