What the “40 years Exodus of the PC” predicts about the future of smart homes

This blog post is written by Shaul Levi, Chief Scientist at AVG Innovation Labs.

The 40 year exodus … of the PC

Desert Walk

40 years, that’s how long it took the Israelites to find the Promised Land. The long journey through the harsh and unforgiving desert was not an easy journey and getting through it required a combination of Moses’ vision and godly miracles.

Looking back on the history of the PC, I can’t help but notice the similarities between the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land and the Personal Computer’s (PC) long road of development to today.  Commercial manufacturers started to create the home/personal computers in 1945, inspired by the possibilities, although the diverse range of applications we know today had not yet been imagined. Products like: Simon, IBM 610, Olivetti Programma 101, MIR, Kenbak-1, Datapoint 2200 and many others were produced, each with its own spin on functionality and target market.

It took almost 40 years for the market to be ready for a single machine that included all the different components in one place.  In 1981 the IBM PC started to dominate the market. CPU production and technology were ready to execute multiple tasks and the price was right. Further, the software connection with the hardware was well defined and the bus and chip-set could carry multiple external devices communicating for resources. Unlike competitors, the IBM PC’s open platform of hardware and software could be adapted and priced to suit diverse markets and manufacturers.

Like the biblical journey, it took forty years and many miracles for all participants in the market to realize the promise of personal computing. Time was needed for users to discover what they could do with the product, for retailers to learn how to sell it, for device manufactures to engineer assembly processes, and for component makers bring prices to acceptable levels.

The desert journey of the smart home

I’m writing this because I see the computing industry is now on another similar, epic, journey: a quest to realize the promise of smart homes. We can sense the possibilities, we can see that with some extra effort things will really take off, and we feel that we are close, but we are waiting for a platform.

The industry is watching this space carefully, and every player has its own take on what’s needed to deliver a smart home platform supporting all the advanced screens, sensors, actuators, connectivity methods and distributed computing. But today’s reality is that most smart homes do not live up to our dreams.

We continue to see many solutions focused on specific problems like: home security, health, media, gardening, and energy. However, it appears that few players are looking into an overall solution that would allow all your smart home devices to interact with each other. There’s a missing piece to this puzzle: a platform that will connect all the diverse components and use cases together.

Finding Promised Land of the Smart home

On this journey toward the Promised Land of the connected smart home, I’m optimistic that we are close to our destination.

Why? Because I think the “missing piece” that will complete the smart home puzzle is already in our homes: your router.

Domestic routers today are no longer single-use-case devices, but powerful multi-functional computers. They are central hubs connecting all our devices to the internet, providing Wi-Fi and wired routing, much like a bus on the old PC architecture.

The router is in the ideal position to deliver the final pieces of the puzzle: connectivity and security. With security and added functionality, an open operating system, a solid interface to the device and supporting development tools, the device we ignored for years will transform into the heart of our smart homes, connecting and protecting all our smart devices.

Given that router development started in the mid-seventies, it seems like the timing is right for this 40 year desert journey to end. Is the Promised Land of our connected smart homes now in view.

Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the author and not those of AVG or Innovation Labs.

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