When you think of RV, of course recreational vehicle comes to mind. I instantly think of a motor home, a fifth wheel, a travel trailer, a pop up, a toy hauler. The RV industry as we know it is always changing and bringing us new things to fall in love with. However, I am a little skeptical of smart technology especially in a RV. I always thought the whole reason behind RV’ing was to get away from society in general. To escape the modern day hustle and bustle of working a full time job, answering your phone and sending text messages and reading emails. So for me, when I’m on the open road I don’t really use my phone except for taking videos and capturing photo’s.
I didn’t get my first Apple iPhone until 2014. Granted I love my iPhone and just last year I upgraded and got the 128gb 7 plus which is wonderful. But here’s something I have to wonder. I stayed at a RV park in Semora, North Carolina. It was a very small campground, less than 15 sites and mainly for those who worked at the nearby industrial construction project plant. There was no amenities and that means no Wi-Fi, Cable TV, or even laundry facilities. Just your basic hookups is all that was there and that was fine. However, in that area it was gridlocked by AT&T towers. At the time, I had T-Mobile service and my phone wouldn’t work to save my life. I ended up having to actually go and get AT&T service just to use my phone. So I’ve wondered with this new technology if it possible consumers may run into areas where cell service is limited or their provider has no towers, what do you do then?
Recently, I was reading an article from RV Pro and was impressed but skeptical at Smart Technology being installed into RV’s. After reading the article and doing more research I started questioning more and more the possible pro’s and con’s of this “smart technology”. I wonder if there is a demand for this smart technology? When does technology become too much? Are we sacrificing cost for a more convenient and smart RV? These are just a few questions that I have pondered as the RV Industry is changing the way we control and view things.
The chief operating officer, Mr. Humphreys with Airstream mentioned in the article that, “many of the RV manufacturer’s executives were already smart home adopters themselves”. However, folks like myself are not “smart home” friendly. So I began to wonder how did Airstream believe this would be a smart move for their 2019 Classic RV models? Come to find out after researching this topic, the development for the Smart Control Technology began about two years ago so roughly around 2016 when Airstream started conducting extensive consumer research and listening sessions. They also used their “Airstream Ambassadors” meaning RV owners of the brand and had them try out different products while out on the open road, providing photo’s, video’s and other content that had great impact. Interesting enough, some lucky RV’ers enjoyed camping in the Classic Brand and experimented first hand with their Smart Control Technology app.
I have to say it’s nice to see a company listen to their consumers. To actually hear their voices, their opinions, their wants and needs. That’s how product research succeeds. Failing to listen to your consumers or not doing enough research is why we see many things disappear very quickly. I was really happy and proud of Airstream for doing such extensive research. They wanted this technology to work and I do believe it will work as they have really put forth the energy, time, and dedication to it.
However, the one down side I personally feel that could be a headache is the fact a smartphone is involved. Airstream is currently preparing their service technicians at dealerships as much as possible in terms of servicing any disrupted smart control use. The manufacturer will be able to see some diagnostics which will help lead to better app improvements, those “minor bug fixes”. Airstream is currently looking at integrating live chat and how-to’s which if you ask me, I would have already had that service available. When smart phones fail us or app’s are not loading correctly or crash easily, it becomes a nuisance for any consumer with any app. That’s why we normally see app updates about every two weeks and I always read the comments before agreeing to allow the app to update to see what changes are occurring. Normally it is “minor bug fixes” so regardless, any app will have minor bug issues it just will be interesting to see how well the app with Airstream works.
What is interesting is this Smart Control technology is entirely new as it is the first smart home system to be developed by an RV manufacturer. Airstream is using a multiplexing system instead of a hardwired system to connect appliances and various components such as awnings. It also will allow for more flexibility in their programming. In August of this year, Airstream finally debuted the Smart Control Technology which in essence allows you, the RV owner, to control the trailers amenities and other functions through a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.
What can this app do that you can download on your phone? Well you can control the lights in your RV changing the modes to like cinema mode. You can have GPS set up to your RV so that way if you are in a large RV park or even out in the woods enjoying the great outdoors, your GPS on the app will navigate you to your RV. You can control your Air Conditioner and Heat Pump as well as vent fans, battery voltage, propane and even boost local Wi-Fi. You can also control the awning. While all of this sounds amazing, it makes me question are we getting away from the concept of being a true RV’er? With increasing technology the price increases as well. I searched online to find a current price of a 2019 Classic Airstream and it comes in at a whopping $154,000 give or take a few hundred dollars. You can visit RV Trader and see for yourself.
Maybe I’m in a little bit of shock after seeing that number as my 5 bedroom and 2 bath house didn’t even cost that much!
Don’t get me the wrong, the Airstream brand is a beautiful camper. I love the detailing on the inside and how remarkably well made they are. But let’s be honest here, for someone like me whose middle class, there is no way I could budget for a $150,000 camper. While I think the ever evolving industry brings out amazing new features with refrigerators, washer and dryer sets, furniture appeal, I just don’t see the need personally for smart technology. As one man mentioned on our Facebook page, (M.N) brought up a valid point that this new technology may be a way to bring in this generation into the world of camping which actually makes sense. Personally that really hadn’t even crossed my mind but perspectives from different campers always has helped shaped the RV world as we know it and even tent camping.
On Airstream’s page that refers to their Smart Control Technology, there is a video you can watch to see all the features I discussed. Out of the video there were two phrases that actually caught my attention. The first one was, “Had the comforts of home” and the second one was, “The smarter way to camp”. I can assure you there is nothing smart in my house, well I have the apple tv box but I don’t know if I consider that to be smart but maybe it is? However, I don’t have Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Ring Doorbell or even a smart refrigerator. Yes, Smart Control Technology does provide a “smarter way to camp” but in my opinion it was the adventure of figuring out how to set your thermostat or manually checking your tanks by flipping a switch, to me those “little” things help you enjoy and experience RV’ing. Sitting on the couch or being outside and whipping out your phone and pressing a button doesn’t sound fun, convenient yes, but fun, no. With the way society has been hacked from the banking industry to the three major credit bureaus, credit card companies left and right, I just choose not to take any additional risks. While technology has brought a lot of good it has also brought out the bad. I remember a few years ago when digital baby monitoring cameras were actually being hacked into. That truthfully scared me beyond belief. I can deal with a lot of issues with technology but my son is priceless. I’m not saying that you should avoid those cameras but my bigger question is how to prevent hackers and secure video feeds and information? That’s always my one main question with technology.
As a society we are creating more and more apps everyday and new ways that appliances can order groceries and such but in keeping up with the demand is the security and safety there backing it? That in my opinion is the real question that hasn’t been answered.