CLEARING THE AIR

HPA250B_siloWe bought 15 boxes of Kleenex to blow our allergy-clogged noses. Then we got a couple of air cleaners that got rid of the allergens and we don’t need the Kleenex. This is a lot like life.

Our first filter was a Whirlpool, our second was a “Honeywell HPA 250” from Best Buy. Why do we go into this? Because the second one struck us as the edge of the wedge: we can control it with an app on our smartphone.

This is the trend: the smart home. Two or three years and every appliance in your home, apartment or country cabin will be ready for remote wireless control. You don’t even have to be there, you’ll check in on the Internet and turn everything on or off and adjust the settings.

Now, this is not new news. But what gets to us is the price of the stuff: the wireless controlled air cleaner was only about $20 more than the plain one. This is bound to be a kind of minimal price difference that we will find in all our future devices. Therefore it’s gonna happen.

Does it matter?  Well, other than being irradiated by more radio waves banging around the house, we will come to the stage where your refrigerator can be hacked. We know our computers can be hacked. Recent news stories have revealed that chain stores, banks and the government can be hacked. Cell phones can be hacked, which by the way we pointed out to our readers several years ago. So now we approach the time when your Internet-connected house can be hacked. It seems silly, of course, but the reality is, if your freezer or furnace can be reached through the Internet, it may be that so can the device you use to control them. Which means, as we extend this thought into total paranoia, your passwords could be as vulnerable to a melt-down as your freezer.

But there’s still time to panic. A second cell phone could be used to control the house; it should contain no other information.

By the way, sensors are getting more sensitive. Our cell phone-controlled air cleaner can sense whether particles are dust, pollen or volatile compounds — paint solvents, glues and other materials used in construction. You can personalize it for local allergies. Using an app on your phone, type in your zip code and it shows how much pollen, ragweed and mold is in your neighborhood. The device then adjusts its settings to suit. The new world begins. And to think we used to be satisfied with Kleenex.

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