The “smart home” movement has been brewing for quite some time. But, what exactly is a smart home? Generally, a smart home refers to a house or residence loaded with advance technological devices that aim to do one thing: make the residents’ lives a little easier. For example, a basic function of a smart home is the owner can easily monitor and control a wide range of applications such as lighting control, access control, fire and leak detection, energy efficiency from anywhere in the world, no matter how far away, via his/her smartphones or internet. Some smart homes have replaced the conventional locks with key cards or fingerprint identification, making it harder for someone to break-in.
Recently, technology companies—namely Google—has taken the not-so-old smart home concept to whole new level. Meet “Google Home,” set to be introduced in late 2016.1 Google Home’s motto is “Always on call.”2 Indeed, in addition to doing everything a conventional smart home does, Google Home will allow you to tell it to change your dinner reservations and then it will adjust your dinner plans accordingly.3 Moreover, if your child is staying up passed his/her bedtime, you can tell Google Home to “turn the lights off in [your child’s] room” to get them to go to bed. Of course, you can do the opposite to wake your oversleeping child as well.4 And Google Home will help (or at least try to help) your kids with their homework by answering questions using other Google functions, such as Google Search and Google Translate.5
A lot of money and investment are projected to pour into the smart homes market. In fact, a report by Region, Competition Forecast and Opportunities for 2011-2021, projects investment in the global smart homes market to cross $60 billion by 2021.6 With all the smart homes that are already in the market and many more to come, these changes force a construction attorney like me to ponder: How will this affect construction litigation as we know it? For instance, for a window leak case, in addition to the general parties—window installer, window manufacturer, and stucco subcontractor—will we also need to sue the installer/manufacturer of the device that allows the homeowner to remotely open or shut the windows? Will we need to add to the typical standard of care experts? Perhaps add someone that can testify to how the malfunction of the device caused or contributed to your window leakage? Needless to say, but the answer will likely be: It depends. Construction litigation, like other types of litigation, is very case and fact specific; but one can only assume that (and be excited about) construction litigation involving smart homes will bring forth some new and interesting factual and legal challenges.