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K4-8: Why are we getting K-4? And why will we need it? - A quick and dirty explanation

Wm Magill - October 2817

I received an email in September. . .

On Sep 29, 2017, at 10:46 AM, Lee Heile wrote:

Could you send me anything for this question: " Why are we getting K-4? And why will we need it"?. All I can say is they are nice people and it is free. Lee

At the time, I responded:

This is a difficult pair of questions to answer briefly.
There is a lot of “back-story” involved relating to many different fields — from technological innovation to Federal and State Regulations.

A quick and dirty answer is:

You may not need K4 today, but you will need it soon! …. and it’s not free.

There are two major parts to K4 which are quite different, but which are being combined into a common ”platform” — a word from Geek-Speak, which implies many things, but which actually really means exactly what it says— something upon which you build something; not an actual thing itself.

John Wanamaker created a platform in retailing in 1861 in Philadelphia called “The Department Store.” It was a novel concept of the times, but one we take for granted today - many different “standardized,” i.e. mass-produced, things were available under one roof and one management. This differed from the historical bazaar where the goods available are random, usually custom built, and each vendor sets their own terms - price, support, returns policies, etc. Amazon created a digital version of the "retail platform" in 1994!

K4 is basically two different components -- The “Portal” (K4Community), or as Mark calls it “Village Connect”), and the "Smart Home". K4Connect, the company, is combining these two components into a single platform, an Application” (App) for the Masonic Villages.

The Internet, like the world at large, is a Bazaar. You CAN get anything there, but you might get nothing! And, you might not be happy with what you get.

One of my favorite authors, Fritz Leiber, writing back in 1963, in a sword and sorcery novelette involving Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — "Bazaar of the Bizarre" — described a bazaar which mesmerized customers into buying high priced merchandise that is actually worthless trash! Even though it was not intended as such, that is a perfectly accurate description of the world and the Internet of today — without a mask of True Seeing, you really have no idea what you are getting!

The Portal
The Portal is a mechanism by which Masonic Village Management is planning to communicate with Residents and to isolate those Residents from the Bazaar.

The current pilot program for the Portal, is basically evolving the content and techniques to allow Management to communicate with Residents -- neither management nor K4Connect has any experience with this. Their basic attitude to date, is that Old People don’t like computers, are afraid of the Internet, and have to be isolated from it. Personally, I find that attitude very condescending.

Today (October 2016), the Portal has extremely limited functionality. It basically provides only one-way communication from management to the Residents. Management posts notices which the Resident must discover have been posted, find and then read them.

You can “message” (text, voice or video chat) with other users of the K4Connect platform who are approved by K4Connect, but not with anyone else. To communicate with others not on the K4Connect platform, you must use E-mail, Skype, FaceTime, or a text message -- or request that K4 add your non-resident Friend or Relative to the K4 community.

However, the stated goal is to have it become two-way - for things like reporting maintenance issues or signing up for trips, at least. No time-frame has yet been put forward indicating when these features might be available.

The Smart Home
The “Smart Home” portion will involve another acronym — the Internet of Things (IoT). Initially, this will be of interest primarily to residents in the New Cottages now under construction. When residents begin to move in this November, as I understand it, there will only be ONE home actually equipped with Smart. i.e. IoT, devices; However, all 72 cottages WILL be equipped with a “brain” —a k4Box. This K4Box will have the ability to make any of the new cottages “smart” by linking certain devices to the K4Connect Application, i.e. the Portal. This portion of the project was pilot tested in a number of apartments at Sycamore North last year (2016).

This Smart Home portion of K4Community, today is used by numerous Nursing Homes to monitor various aspects of their patients well being.

Government involvement

Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) — a package of adult residential care services including personal care, homemaker, chore, attendant care, companion, medication oversight, therapeutic social and recreational programming, transportation, and periodic nursing evaluations. These are all services that would be provided in a licensed community care facility. Ashlar Home Health and Hospice was recently licensed to provide these services. The use of technology, such as K4Community, is inherent in the success of these HCBS as their implementation expands to more and more Residents.

Home Automaton

Smart Home technology, also known as Home Automation, has been around for a LONG time. X10 technology was developed in 1975 and for many years was the only game in town. But it had many problems, and over time rival technologies have developed. Two of these rivals, ZigBee and Z-Wave™ are today’s prime contenders.

When discussing technology, there are two additionally useful terms - leading edge and bleeding edge. The two terms refer to both specific technologies and the firms which employ them. The bleeding edge refers to the first generation or release 1.0 of anything. Adopters on the bleeding edge are blazing the trail others will follow, and they are very much involved in the development and direction of that technology. Leading edge is technology which is proven to be popular and is gaining wide-spread acceptance, but its adoption is still not a common occurrence. K4Connect and the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown are clearly on the bleeding edge.

An example of the risks associated with bleeding edge technology is evident with the announcement just last week (Sept 27th) of the Echo Plus from Amazon. It too is expected to do many of the same things the K4Box is expected to do. They do use competing as well as different technologies. Which is better, which will win --ZigBee or Z-Wave™? Will it be a VHS vs Beta type battle? Or will it be like Apple vs Microsoft? Only time will tell.