It's the start of a new week. Monday morning, the alarm that wakes you up is a gentle, increasingly glowing full-spectrum LED light timed to wake you up refreshed and on schedule and connected to sensors embedded in your pillow that determine where you are in your sleep cycle. As you stand up, the motion sensor in your bedroom alerts the vacuum-packed coffee bean storage in the kitchen to grind the beans and brew your first cup of coffee just the way you like it. You press the shower button, and the on-demand electric water heater gives you a shower at the precise temperature you prefer, a setting that you can change seasonally or leave alone, as you prefer. The coffee maker, water heater, and shower may also have used Bayesian learning to record the patterns of your morning routine without the need for any explicit programming on your part. The devices learn your patterns and just work, yielding a quality of life that was not possible before.
You may also choose to time the water heating (and perhaps your shower, if you have a flexible schedule) based on the price you pay for electricity; you have programmed in your trigger prices in your home-management system, and if the price forecast for your usual shower time is higher than the trigger price, the water heater can preheat water for your shower, saving you money with no loss of comfort or convenience. The same functionality exists in your home's heating and cooling system as well as in the major energy-consuming and energy-producing appliances and devices in your home.
You have contracted with a home-services retailer to provide you with a bundled network service for communication, entertainment, home security, and energy, and you have choice among several retailers. The services for which you contract and the way that you pay for those services will be diverse, and you can customize your services as much or as little as you prefer.
The next fifty years will involve increasing human interaction with digital technology as the Internet of Things grows and more devices have more embedded intelligence and automation capabilities. The alarm clock starting the coffee maker is a colorful illustration of the extent and depth to which the Internet of Things will change how individuals interact with the physical environment, and with each other. Many of these changes will occur in the home, intersecting with the consumption and increasingly with the production of electricity.
Some of these capabilities already exist and are not fifty years in the future. In-home technologies such as the Nest thermostat use Bayesian learning to figure...