Jason, The Kid, has just arrived in Pretoria, a day's journey by bus away. He's off to my grandpa's farm for a month or three - both as an internet "detox" session, and to see what the wider world out there might hold for him offline.
He's facing down a complete change from the techno-rich household he's lived in for a few years now. Being in the wireless internet / e-waste recycling line of things, you can imagine that gadgets, online connectedness and computer variants can be found all over the place here. They're part of our daily lives - from being able to hop from one of our hotspots to the next to check email on Favourite Man's iPhone via wifi, to each having an IP phone to hand upstairs and down - bedroom, lounge, desks. Next to me is a pile of 4 laptops - two each for Favourite Man and myself. Jason's taken his with him, but left his self-built desktop and e-waste LCD screen here, along with his almost-always-on internet access. There are more LCD screens within my reach - three for machine building/testing, three on the desk for computer and system monitoring use. There are computers in the spare bathroom awaiting a rebuild, routerboards in a box on the workbench, three switches and an access point ready to go. The little network cabinet to my left has nearly every light lit up with the 16 network points scattered throughout our 2-bedroom house. We're linked in, linked up, logged in and logging everything that happens on the many systems administered. We can run the home theater pc from the HTC phone while sitting outside. We can remotely turn on and off power at sites a few towns away with a cellphone, or see if someone opens a door. Heck, we even have a Windows Vista Home Basic sticker on our recycled espresso machine - although admittedly that's a bit of an inside joke, and is just there for show, as it was peeled off something else we upgraded. :-) The dog will probably come with a wifi sticker once we figure out how to remotely monitor and remove his daily ablutions....
And that's just home!
We have datacentres, high sites and hotspots all over the place, each running their own technology and tied in to our broader system. If something goes down, we know about it and have most likely fixed it before any of our customers have an inkling of what's happened.
In Olivia the Landy, there's a tracking device installed by my previous employer - MiX Telematics. It's pretty handy: if one of us is out on the road and the other one needs to reach you, you simply open up the web interface (or iPhone app) and check to see where the vehicle is (not easy to run and hide in this household!).
And right now I wish The Kid had one of those tracker things installed.
I'm missing being able to check in on where he is and know he's safe. Call it empty nest syndrome, or merely a mom being a mom. We've been in SMS contact all during his journey. When he got to the end of it his cell battery was going, and for an hour after his scheduled time of arrival I had no idea whether they'd made it or not. Whether he'd kept an eye on his offloaded luggage, been met by a relative, and was on his way to the farm - or whether something had happened between the "in Joburg" SMS and 2:30's Pretoria Station stop. Thankfully he seems to have found enough battery power to send a quick "Here and Prix says hi", so all is well.
Still, the curious, protective mom in me would love to have an interactive live map handy to know how close he is now to the farm he last saw when he was 5, and where his big adventure is about to take off...