If Apple doesn’t already consume enough of your disposable dollars, the wizards of Cupertino are planning to take over your home.

On Tuesday, Apple received a patent for technology that tracks a person’s location through wireless devices, such as smartphone or even a badge reader, and uses that information to control other devices, such as home appliances.

Lighting, Garage Doors

The patent, no. 8,577,392, is for a “System and method of determining location of wireless communication devices/persons for controlling/adjusting operation of devices based on the location.” It specifically mentions such devices as lighting systems, security systems, garage-door openers, music controllers, climate controller and kitchen appliances.

Not mentioned are remote-controlled bathtub faucets for drawing a hot bath as you near home, an automated dog feeder for your friendliest friend when she comes inside in late afternoon, or a channel selector to fire up your favorite morning show as you stumble out of bed in the morning — but just wait.

On the surface, the patent seems to focus on the Achilles’ heel of automated devices: They operate according to their time- or logic-based schedules, usually without much accommodation for real-world disruptions. “Automatic operations,” the patent patiently notes, “are frequently sub-optimal due to variations in a person’s daily routine.” That Nest thermostat is ready to get your house nice and cool, or nice and warm, one hour before you get home from work — and then you get stuck in traffic. In those moments, tracking your spatial coordinates through what Apple might some day call “iSpace” could save you money and improve your life.

Logic, Meet Life

But, being Apple, it is not just stopping at envisioning you stuck in your car at Point A. Logic, the patent indicates, might need to be applied to set conditional rules. For instance, if it’s a weekday and you’re stuck in traffic on the way home, Apple’s logic might override the regular heating schedule, anticipating a later than usual arrival. But if it’s a Saturday when you’re stuck in traffic, it might not override the schedule, because you don’t have a fixed arrival time.

Still, all the logic might not be enough to compensate for human randomness.

It is a great misfortune, rarely observed, that daily patterns of life are more notable for their exceptions than their rules. You leave your home in the morning to go to work right on time, and then rush back because you forgot your wallet. Under Apple’s scheme, all those appliances, dutifully turned off, now turn on again. They tried to learn your habits and compensate for your vagaries, and your unruly humanness threw everything for a loop.

Good luck with that, Apple.


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