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The Mother-in-Law Visit: 3 Personal Home Technology Fails

You think your house is clean until you see it through someone else's eyes (or is that just me?). You think your technology is simple to use until you experience it through someone else's frustration.

You think your house is clean until you see it through someone else’s eyes (or is that just me?). You think your technology is simple to use until you experience it through someone else’s frustration.

My mother in law recently came for a visit, and although she enjoys our many available options on the television, each time that she’s here there is something new or different in our AV system. For example, she is happy to channel surf, a pastime that I abandoned (and sometimes miss.) Excited to show her that we had the ability to indulge her channel surfing nature, I flipped over to live TV, which consists of the off-air antenna that we had installed the previous year. Unfortunately, fierce windstorms had knocked out our antenna, leaving most channels “searching for station.”

Image: Thinkstock


But wait! We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, and Showtime! We have Apple TV and Roku. Do you know what all that means to someone who does not use these streaming devices, or apps every day? Not much at all. For someone used to watching a 32-inch TV, maybe in HD, flipping to the Roku to view 4K is not that exciting. Try presenting Amazon Prime to a non-technical person; it is a terrible, difficult app to use. Then add on that we have never logged into HBO or Showtime on the Roku. (Can you tell we don’t get the opportunity to watch much TV?) Sprinkle with programming issues on the new URC MX-990 that we recently installed, and you have created a perfect storm of technical problems not conducive to relaxing and watching TV.


But wait, there’s more! When we built and created our Livable Home Theater (, we added lighting to the too dark room using small, in-ceiling LEDs. Being that the room only previously had lamps and no overhead lights, we added the control of these lights to our Crestron keypad in our hallway leading into the room. For a guest, there is no chance of figuring that out. My mother in law started clapping, imitating how you would control the infamous “Clapper,” asking how one could turn the lights off. I laughed as I showed her and made a mental note to add a wireless switch to the room for mother in laws, babysitters, and guests.


If we forget to turn Sonos off as we leave our children with the babysitter or another, then they have no way to turn it off. My brilliant children have in the past, when music blared past bedtime, gone on my laptop, opened the app, and shut it down.

Here we think we have this technically advanced home, but without the one that lives there, most of the cool tech becomes frustrating tech. Is your house workable by others?

At my company, we always strive to make systems as simple as possible. Is the issue that our own homes do not get the tender loving care that our clients’ homes do? Or have we become so used to overcoming technical difficulties that we no longer see them from the average person’s perspective?

One thing is for certain, as an industry we can do better. Amazon, I’m talking to you, improve that app! Apple, why no 4K player when every TV sold over 50 inches is a 4K set? At least those two companies finally found a way to allow us to watch iTunes movies and Prime on the same streaming player (

Again, we can do better.

As for our home, we have some summer homework.