In Barcelona about a century ago, Antoni Gaudí pioneered a fluid building style that seamlessly integrated visual and structural design. The expressive curves of his buildings were not just ornamental facades but also integral parts of the load-bearing structure. Unfortunately, a similar unification has yet to happen for the electronic infrastructure in a building. Switches, sockets and thermostats are grafted on as afterthoughts to the architecture, with functions fixed by buried wiring. Appliances and computers arrive as after-the-fact intrusions. Almost nothing talks to anything else, as evidenced by the number of devices in a typical house or office with differing opinions as to the time of day.
These inconveniences have surprisingly broad implications for construction economics, energy efficiency, architectural expression and, ultimately, quality of life. In the U.S., building buildings is a $1-trillion industry. Of that, billions are spent annually on drawing wiring diagrams, then following, fixing and revising them. Over the years, countless "smart home" projects have sought to find new applications for intelligent building infrastructure--neglecting the enormous existing demand for facilities that can be programmed by their occupants rather than requiring contractors to fix their functionality in advance.
This article was originally published with the title The Internet of Things.