Sensors and microprocessors--it's clear here at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas this week--have made their way into the biome. As tiny, in some cases, as the literal microbial jungle we live with in our habitats, these miniaturized housings of silicon circuitry and radio frequencies now have begun to show real signs of transforming indoor living into a new kind of user experience.

What in years prior to 2019 showed up as isolated, gee-whiz gadgetry and solutions for engagement, responsiveness, and functionality around certain issues--home security, lighting, room air comfort, home entertainment, community connections and resources, etc.--has now, thanks to brilliant technical development work, integrations, and piles and piles of money, crossed a line.

Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri have transcended--in many, many of our new homes--nice-to-have IoT device status. We--as consumer home buyers--not only feel smart to demand their inclusion, at least to some extent, in our new homes. We'd increasingly feel not smart if they're not part of the package we're investing in as new home buyers.

They've become non-negotiably welcome co-inhabitants. Almost like "good" bacteria and insects that have a role in keeping us healthy indoors. They save us time, provide a sense of security around intruders, water leaks, etc, make our rooms comfortably warm or cool, adjusting lighting and music to moods, moments, and brain chemistry wiring across eons of human existence, monitoring, filtering, measuring, and matching our very human and personalized needs and routines literally to any system, any moving molecule, or mechanical, or climatic dimension of the home.

Impassively, indiscriminately, constantly attentive, responsive, even mindful of our behavioral and visceral needs, this increasingly integrated, seamless, panoply of connected devices increasingly engage with our experience. Technology, profoundly, exponentially, is transforming us, how we live in our homes, what we expect of them, and how they fulfill the promise of what homes are supposed to be.

Yesterday's hype has become today's normal reality. Hyperbolic claims for tomorrow remain mere doorways to how transformative technology will remake our way of living, experiencing, etc. Consequential gains and benefits, collateral peril and damage are close-held secrets of the future.

What's now a given--as we see so abundantly clearly across hundreds of thousands of convention hall square footage at IBS--is that homes, and home builders and their design, investment, development, distribution, and manufacturing partners not only belong in the conversation, they are necessary to it.

When it comes to the woman, the man, the child, the extended family, the multigenerational family, the non-related household, the hermetic individual who likes a tiny nest, the myriad evolving configurations and compositions of today's and tomorrow's households, it seems one fundamental need--as basic as fight or flight or stay calm--often gets ignored. The need for trust.

This is a need for which there's hardly a better knowledge base than the people and organizations who've been making communities and homes for generations. It's so elemental, it often hides in plain sight.

Some of us--fascinated with the sudden IoT-ing of everything physical--also feel a bit mortified at the thought of how each urge and need and pattern of physical activity can convert so simply, so elegantly, so automatically to data that engages, activates and responds. We may be of two minds, but we also thrill to imagine an eventual steady-state, where such technological systems are so ingrained and seamlessly operative, that we'll lose the sense of novelty, nervousness, and fear of perhaps letting others spy on our most intimate moments in life at home.

Photo of thief caught on the Ring Video Doorbell at a CBH Homes Sales Center in January.
Hand-out Photo of thief caught on the Ring Video Doorbell at a CBH Homes Sales Center in January.

Who's not excited to read these days of a Ring doorbell system catching a thief?

Incidents like this, and an increasing amount of data that shows that people with Alexas and Google Home and other home personal assistants and devices and networks and systems love them and feel they improve family life, make it clear we've arrived at the beginning of a new learning curve, especially for home builders, many of whom think in subdivision and masterplanned community time spans during which entire generations of technological advance can come and go.

Home builders have one of the more powerful literal and metaphorical reminders of what matters as this profound, exponential, wondrous juggernaut--the internet of everything--envelops more and more of what we do, think, imagine, and endeavor into zeroes and ones that feed into and out of microprocessors and RFID sensors, from our indoor and outdoor environment into our very personal individual biologies, psychologies, and spirits: the foundation, the slab.

Without a good foundation or a flawless slab, a structure of any sort will be compromised. Especially these days when offsite processes cut and shape and assemble to nano-measures of perfection, a perfect slab is the only way squares hold up and pieces fit.

The foundation--as people and technology merge and marry information and data to sensors and microprocessors that can enhance, improve, save time, protect, comfort, delight, rinse, and repeat--is trust.

And trust, as they say, is hard-won and can be lost in an instant. And a big part of that is making people feel smart--not as if they've had one pulled over on them--in what's called a smart home. Hey, Google, next time be more transparent.

No doubt, technology is disrupting home building and how it models operations, business, and relationships with customers. But, it's not going too far to say that home building is disrupting technology as well, for it has stronger roots and ties to that set of needs, benefits, values, preferences, and meaning that defy routinization, algorithms, and microprocessors and sensors interacting with one another. A collective, deep-seeded, seed of needs that mitigates fight or flight reflexes and allows dwellers in their habitat to feel well-being.