The use of automation within the context of an operating system is no longer confined to running programs. It is moving out into the physical world. Terms like “Internet of Things” or “Thingternet” have been coined to describe this. A wide assortment of devices can exchange information and operate autonomously. The improvements in Windows 8 make it a perfect command center for both software and hardware automation tasks. The inclusion of cloud computing into Windows 8 through a Windows account allow data to be sent back and forth between devices and programs without direct involvement from the operating system. The system-wide search capability of Windows 8 makes it easy to monitor a huge variety of programs and appliances connected to it. Finally, with so many things tied together, the improved security provided by pre-installed Windows Defender is irreplaceable.
With regard to software, a basic automating tool in Windows 8 is the Task Scheduler. This feature allows both built-in capabilities like hard drive de-fragmenting or additional software to be operated automatically. The basic steps include providing a name for a specific task, describing times or events you want to activate an operation in the Triggers tab, and then defining the desired operation in the Actions tab. This feature can perform multiple jobs concurrently from the same triggers. A Settings tab allows for more detailed instructions. The Task Scheduler also allows the option of sending a task operation to another Windows-based device like a Surface tablet. Combined with cloud computing, this capability gets work done automatically without the central desktop being involved.
An example of this would be using Evernotes or another business software package to pay bills. The Task Scheduler could be used to define this as an automated job that might take
place when the desktop is not turned on. This task would then be copied to a tablet that would signal the office software in the cloud to perform the bill payments. This would also instantly update any bookkeeping software about the payments to keep records completely accurate.
In order to use Windows 8 for controlling devices and appliances, it’s usually best to have a software package that’s specifically designed for the job. Programs like mControl or HomeSeer are geared towards a Windows 8 environment. These programs link together the computer and various machines through protocols like Z-Wave or X10. An increasing number of devices are being outfitted to carry out their work without human intervention. A list would include things like lighting, thermostats, window blinds, garage doors, pet doors, pet feeders, self-cleaning litter boxes, and self-propelled vacuum cleaners. Even jobs like cleaning windows and mowing the lawn are becoming more automated.
It’s still possible to use Windows 8 with automated appliances that aren’t connected through radio or infra-red networks. For example, pet feeders and the best automatic litter box can perform their main jobs autonomously, but they still need someone to refill or empty them. Since robotic litter boxes only need changing once in awhile, it’s easy to forget about it. The Task Scheduler would fit into this scenario perfectly. It could not only provide alerts to a pet owner on the desktop, it could also send text messages to a cell phone to remind the owner that the litter box waste bag or container needs removing.