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An alternative Christmas story (or how a smart digital assistant possibly saved the electric power grid)

Stephen Hill
Sr. Content Development Specialist

My digital assistant is trying to ruin my Christmas.

Every year I try to up my Christmas game with something unique, something no one has ever seen. And this year I found the ultimate outdoor illumination décor: the Red Viper Triple Twinkling Lightning Blanket. It would be spectacular: 900 square feet of super-blinking, 80-watt bulbs with a laser connected to a phone app that will send a Christmas message to the International Space Station, and possibly beyond. Definitely beyond.

“Flinch,” I said to the digital assistant, whose soft blue light immediately started glowing. “Order the Red Viper Triple Twinkling Lightning Blanket with Laser App.”

I found this Christmas Miracle at the online big-box store Nile.com. With my Primus membership it could be delivered the next day, if I ordered in the next hour. The race to save Christmas was on.

“Unable to order, mate,” said Flinch, in a thick Australian accent that alarmingly sounded like Hugh Jackman. “You’ll burn the grid out.”

What! I was stunned by two separate, but probably connected, subversive actions. My DA was openly defying my order, and it was sounding like both Wolverine and Crocodile Dundee simultaneously. I glanced at my wife at the opposite end of the couch who had a smiling, blank stare at the pre-lit, revolving Yule Tree ($179 on Nile with Primus on-site in 6 hours, with a pizza, clicking the GuberFat delivery option).

Something was going on with our DA, and my spouse was engrossed in the enchanting voice with elongated vowels. Don’t go there, I thought, probably wisely. Suddenly it was making sense as to why “The Greatest Showman,” and “Wolverine,” were queued on our streaming service watch list. This side investigation would have to wait, at least until after the New Year.

“Hey,” I said breaking her trance. “Flinch won’t let me order this,” showing her the Christmas magic on my phone.

“Do you know what that would do to our energy savings plan?”

“Hey, I know all about time-of-use rates,” I said. “But, if we turn the thermostat to 58 degrees, and never use the dryer at the same time, we’ll definitely be ok.” It would probably be best if we didn’t use any appliances while the Christmas miracle was radiating, but I didn’t go there, either.

“You’ll burn the grid out,” she said, her fingers working the remote cursor, hovering over “The Prestige.”

 

It was the night before Christmas and all through the #ConnectedHub model (now live at the Industries Innovation Lab in Chicago), our demo experts can show you how to use digital assistants with your utility's efficiency programs.

It was the night before Christmas and all through the #ConnectedHub model (now live at the Industries Innovation Lab in Chicago), our demo experts can show you how to use digital assistants with your utility's efficiency programs.

 

Ok. My spouse, and my digital assistant, and maybe Hugh Jackman, were definitely scheming against my Christmas plan. I went to the garage to save Christmas.  There, shining in the glow of energy efficient LED bulbs was our Model 9 electric vehicle, silently charging at the right time thanks to the EV detection and cloud-connected rate suggestion.

I slid into the driver’s seat, activating the 24-inch view screen and confidently told the EV to connect to the Internet, and said: “Order the Red Viper Triple Twinkling Lightning Blanket with Laser App.”

“Sorry, mate,” the car said in that unmistakable Strayan accent. “You’ll burn the grid out.”

Sigh. Everywhere I turned - my spouse, my smart devices, and a weird tangential down under connection – were thwarting what should be a visible-by-satellite Christmas. I had less than 30 minutes ordering time to get this glowing blanket of holiday explosion on a delivery truck.

This required drastic action. I needed to get off our wifi network, which was obviously in cahoots with everything else in my connected life. Fortunately I knew how to hack my neighbor’s wifi, thanks to his obsession with his red-eyed Chihuahua, Rudolph.

There I stood on my phone in Nick’s driveway tapping away to get Christmas back on track, when what should I hear, but Nick’s garage door opening, and him standing there in his red robe and slippers holding a snarling Chihuahua.

“What’s up neighbor?” Nick said.

“Sorry, I need to get on your wifi for a minute,” I said. I clicked the order tab, and miraculously a confirmation screen appeared, and I proudly showed the product slated for next-day delivery.

“You know,” Nick said.

“I know,” I interrupted, “I’ll burn the grid out. I have a plan. This will make Christmas beautiful for the entire cul-de-sac.”

“Well, maybe not bring down the grid, but that thing will show a huge load curve at the network operations center. You’ll definitely be on a database naughty list with the power company,” said Nick, his electrical engineering background coming to the forefront.

“I know what I’m doing,” I said.

“Get off my wifi,” Nick said as the garage door went down.

The next day, while I tracked the delivery, and at the appointed hour, a semi-trailer was backing into the driveway. Soon, a beeping forklift dropped a larger-than-expected wooden crate on my porch. Christmas was about to gleam with lasers.

Soon enough the crate cracked opened and the Red Viper blanket spread across the roof was ready for its debut. The electrical cord snaked down to the outlet in the garage, a flipped switch away from holiday immortality.

My spouse stood in the doorway, arms crossed and a concerned look as I held the button, waiting for the right moment to set the sky aglow with luminous bulbs and lasers. Especially lasers.

Right at my twinkling instant of Christmas glory, as I pressed the button, I heard Flinch, the Aussie-inflected digital assistant, come to life.

“This device has been disconnected from the electric power grid,” it said. “You’re exceeding your agreed upon power usage through the pilot program that you enrolled through voice activation last month.”

“What?” I said, still contemplating how my Christmas plans got hijacked.

“Don’t you remember, we enrolled in the Blinking Watts program last month?” my wife said. “Well, I enrolled us through the digital assistant. We agreed to maintain our energy savings. Right?”

I mumbled something about how it shouldn’t affect Christmas as she gently pulled the cord from my hand. The holiday was gone, and so were my plans for the greatest electric Christmas of all time. Nothing could reset my mood.

“I’ll make hot chocolate and let’s watch my favorite Christmas movie,” my wife said, trying to cheer me up. “Les Mis.”

Oh, no, I thought. This Christmas is turning in a very weird direction.

 

Oracle Utilities thanks you for reading our holiday satire. If you enjoyed this Christmas parody, pour a cup of egg nog and check out the suggested reading list below:

Naughty or nice: the perfect book choices for every utility wonk on your gift list

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