YOU ARE ON the way to work, but one thought keeps nagging: Did you switch off the air conditioner, or will it be burning up electricity for the next 10 hours? That worry may soon be a thing of the past. Siemens has come up with technology that will allow you to operate appliances such as washing machines, air conditioners and security alarms by remote control. Just pick up your mobile phone and key in the instructions. 'This technology will also allow you to set the temperature and turn on the lights before you get home,' said Sean Sutton, the company's vice-president for building technologies. 'This will increase convenience, comfort and efficiency, and at the same time provide a more general benefit for society by reducing consumption and pollution.' Those familiar with the economic theories espoused by Adam Smith in his 1776 work The Wealth of Nations will know that pursuing one's own interest often promotes the interests of society. And this technology may well prove the point. 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their own self-interest,' Smith wrote. 'We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love.' Perhaps Siemens realised that, when today's consumers find they can benefit from greater convenience and lower energy bills, there will be a longer-term knock-on benefit in terms of reduced pollution. The company also supplies control systems for hospitals, shopping centres and offices, allowing for optimum temperature in different rooms or areas in the same complex. 'The occupants can enjoy not just the correct temperature, but also high levels of air quality,' Mr Sutton said. 'The challenge of the built environment is to optimise energy efficiency without detracting from comfort.' This can also be done by using the company's solar panels and wind power technology. 'In Hong Kong, the Science Park alone saves about 700,000kg of carbon dioxide a year by using solar panels,' Mr Sutton said. 'However, private developers don't always use the available technology because of costs and the time taken for a return on investment.' But he said the demand was increasing worldwide, and the technology itself was improving. 'It is now possible to incorporate solar panels in the whole external fabric of a building, and you can reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by up to 40 per cent,' he said. To help with such developments, the company is looking for engineers with project management experience and people skills. At a senior level, strategists are needed to predict and analyse broader business trends.