Houses & Homes: C by GE media event

My son was obsessed with Wall-E when he was younger. We watched that movie almost daily. It scared me on so many levels! I mean, a dystopian future in which we humans have destroyed the earth with waste and become so lazy, obese and disconnected from other humans that even handholding feels strange? *shiver*.

So, even though the hubby is a huge techie gadget-lover and would like us to jump on every fancy, shiny gimmick that pops up, I have a hard time with anything that makes me feel that we are creeping eerily closer to this lazy Wall-E lifestyle.

Smart-homes fit squarely in that scary category!

Have I really become so lazy that taking three steps to turn off my own lights needs to be automated? Do I really want to be able to dim the lights from the comfort of my couch with my smartphone? Can I not wait, in slight discomfort, the 10 minutes it takes to heat up or cool down the house after adjusting my thermostat? What have we become and where will this lead? The thought absolutely terrifies me.

When presented with the idea of going to the launch event for C by GE (GE's smart lighting product), I wanted to go in order to appease my curiosity. If the industry experts can't convince me that this is beneficial to my life, then I am simply doomed to one day become that cranky old lady with my antique lights that require manual intervention to go on and off (something like when my kids get in a car that still has handles to "roll down" a window and they exclaim with glee how "cool" that is!).

GE had scheduled several sessions throughout the day in order to demonstrate their cool, new product. In my particular session, I was grouped with two other people, both of whom were clearly very "tech" minded. They asked intelligent questions that had to do with the technology behind the lights, the warranties on the bulbs, why GE's bulbs had a "15,000 hours" life when other bulbs had "20,000 hours", and other wonderfully well-reasoned questions that made me feel quite out of place considering my one question (which wasn't even an actual question) was, simply, "sell me!".

After the two other guests at this particular demonstration had asked their questions and were satisfied with their hastily taken notes, I asked mine.

I donned my "mom-who-runs-a-household-of-5-and-a-business-and-is-terrified-of-a-WallE-future" hat and asked "why".

GE had gone to a lot of trouble to demonstrate their flawless app. They had demonstrated how well it worked with Alexa and Google, in both English and French. They had turned on and off several different lights around the room They had dimmed them on gradual timers. They had shown us how to automate schedules for light dimming and turning lights on and off. But I simply pointed to the light switch on the wall and asked why I can't just take three steps and manually turn off the lights. When did we become so obsessed with technology that those 3 steps have become a hassle to us? I refuse to end up in the Wall-E electric, floating lounge chair glued to my smartphone!

The C by GE team surprised me by actually being glad I asked that question. They were quite candid in telling me that I am the target market. I am the majority of the consumers. And convincing me (and everyone like me) is what they are working on. They pointed out use-cases such as new parents with babies, waking in the night, and the ability to turn on lights gradually versus stumbling in the dark to go pick up baby in the nursery. They pointed out use-cases such as when on vacation, the ability to turn lights on and off from far, far away to make it seem that the house is still being lived in. I guess these are ok reasons. Personally, they aren't enough to make me jump on the smart lighting bandwagon.

But then they showed me the C-Sleep bulb. They explained that it has three light colors and can be synced with my circadian rhythm in order to provide a deeper, more restful sleep. I have three kids, two of whom are actors with a ton of activities and one very lively toddler. I've also got a business to run and a social schedule that I try to maintain. I don't think I have slept in close to 14 years. I miss sleep. I remember it with warm, fond memories! If you are honestly telling me that your $30 lightbulb will help me sleep, I will buy your entire supply, GE. And I will back-order more bulbs, you know, just in case!

So I left this demonstration armed with some sample bulbs and a willingness to try them out. The C by GE line won't be ready for rollout in Canada until the end of the month or early next month and they recommended that we wait to test their products until the full launch. So I will wait. And I will document. Stay tuned.

Sarah Birtwistle is a mom of 3, a self-proclaimed foodie and trend-spotter, and the owner of One Third Lab.

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