Learn how technology is shaping the smart homes of the future
Over the years, we've all likely seen our fair share of science fiction films that paint wonderful visions of how we'll live in the future. We see things like robot helpers, screens in every wall, and even a home that is in and of itself intelligent. But how accurate are those depictions? How close to that world are we? What will the smart homes of the future look like? Today, we'll take a look at how technology is changing not just the way we live, but where we live. Read on!
A glimpse of the future
Before we take a look at some of the advancements that await our smart homes of the future, let's take a moment to imagine what your morning may look like ten years from now...
You wake to an alarm clock that you didn't set - your home's AI looked at your calendar, and then looked at real time traffic reports and determined that you needed to start your morning routine 20 minutes earlier.
As you walk into the bathroom, the lights turn on at the perfect intensity so you're not immediately blinded and the water in your shower has already been set to the perfect temperature. Afterwards, you walk into your closet where your outfits are hanging on a series of rotating hangers. Your home takes note of that client presentation you have on your calendar, and selects something a little more formal to wear. Meanwhile in the kitchen, your coffee is already brewing.
After your shower, you walk out of your bedroom towards the kitchen, but the lights don't turn on here - your smart home looked at the weather and saw that the cloud cover was low, so it opened your blinds throughout your house to let the morning light in.
As you drink your coffee, your home tunes to your favorite news station to get you up to date. The cat's food bowl is automatically filled at 7:00 a.m. sharp, and the doggy door lets fido into the backyard to do his business.
Your home's gentle personal assistant voice pauses your news feed and asks you what you'd like to make for dinner. You have trouble deciding, and so your smart fridge takes inventory of what you have on hand, and suggests a few things. A delicious ziti bake with a light salad sounds perfect. But now that you think about it, you're out of wine, and you'd like something to go with your dish. Fortunately, your home knew that was the case, and added a nice pinot noir to your grocery order to pick up on your way home from work.
After you finish your coffee, you're ready for the day. You pick up your laptop off the wireless charging table and walk into your garage, where your electric vehicle
powers on. The garage door opens as does your car door, and your home wishes you a wonderful day.
This is just a glimpse of what could be possible with a completely integrated smart home of the future.
While individual gadgets make a home smarter, the true benefit of a future home is the interconnectivity. Right now, we have devices like Alexa and Google Home that tie together our smart home or Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This allows you to set up simple routines, and certainly expands your ability to control your home. Of course, that means you have to be somewhere within earshot to issue your current home assistant a command.
In the smart homes of the future, your entire house could be controlled through voice commands and sensors could enable presence detection to automate routines based on where you are in your home. All of these various devices and sources of input will be monitored and controlled by powerful artificial intelligence (AI), which updates routines based on what it learns about your preferences, schedules, and behavior.
Perhaps one of the the most iconic that comes to mind when we imagine a house of the future is a friendly robot helper. In a way, we've already started to (literally) roll these out with products like robot vacuum cleaners, such as the Roomba. In smart homes of the future, we may find that these little helpers can perform all sorts of tasks.
Have you ever felt like you could use an extra pair of hands when preparing a meal? Some day in the not-so-distant future, this could very well be a reality as robotic kitchen assistants
find their way into homes. Of course, you don't need an entire robotic body to get a helping hand - an arm or two will do
Would you rather watch the game on Sunday instead of mowing the yard or raking leaves? Some companies are already working on an automated mowing robot
- like a Roomba for your yard! In the future, we may have a small team of lawn maintenance
bots to help us keep our yard tidy.
While smart home security systems are already widely available, we may soon have a more mobile option
that patrols the interior of your house, detecting sudden loud noises, sniffing for smoke or dangerous fumes, and keeping an eye out for intruders. Some robotics companies are even working on security robots
to help keep a watchful eye on neighborhoods and communities. Armed with cameras and sensors, they could patrol areas that aren't so easily monitored by security cameras, and even inform the authorities in the event of an emergency.
There are plenty of movies and visions of the future that feature dazzling displays of holographic computer interfaces floating and whizzing around the room. Unfortunately, those sorts of holograms might be more fiction than fact, even in the future. However, augmented reality (AR) can create a close second.
Of course, there are already AR products and programs
on the market. Currently, these make use of your phone or tablet and its camera to overlay information. However, in the future this may all be possible by wearing goggles or glasses. Imagine if your glasses gave you access to all kinds of colorful information hovering just above objects in the real world. In other words, an AR system can work with your smart home's AI to create useful visual overlays with contextual information based on what it is you're looking at or interacting with.
To illustrate, let's take a look at your office desk. If you're like many people, your office desk is filled with documents, sticky note reminders, and calendars. While today most of those things have the ability to be stored on your computer, in the future, AR could create a virtual desktop overlay on top of your actual desk. When you put on your glasses, you'd see icons, calendars, applications, and notifications as though your computer's home screen was projected into 3-D space on or above your actual desk. Then, with simple gestures, you could drag, drop, open, and otherwise interact with that AR desktop.
Beyond that, AR could be a helpful and simple way to interact with and control every portion of your smart home. For example, if you hear the doorbell, a notification my pop up in your AR glasses. When you expand it, it projects a real time image of your guest using your doorbell camera. You could start the spin cycle on your washing machine, view room temperatures and adjust the thermostat, change your music playlist, view your grocery list, and check the time remaining on your sourdough loaf
in the oven. In combination with the other smart home systems and sensors, your home's integrated AI can work with your AR in an endless number of ways.
While it may be hard to believe, there was a time not so long ago where your standard color printer was so expensive that having one at home was usually cost-prohibitive. Of course, today you can pick one up for a bargain and print high-quality color photos from your home office.
In the future, the same may be true for 3-D printing technology. What would you use a 3-D printer for in your home, you ask? Perhaps the better question is what wouldn't
you use one for?
What about that little plastic widget in that one gadget that broke? You know, the one you can't seem to find in the replacement part catalogue. If and when you actually do find it, prepare to pay for shipping and wait a few weeks. Or, download the printing instructions to your 3-D printer and build it in minutes.
Wall hangers, drawer handles, plastic silverware, picture frames, an extra handle for your knife, even a replacement for the little plastic piece at the end of your window blinds string - the list is truly endless.
If you've ever spent any time in college housing, you've probably made frequent use of a futon. But what if that futon learned your sleeping patterns, and folded from sofa mode to bed mode automatically?
The idea behind shape-changing furniture
, or even multi-purpose furniture, is certainly not new. However, integrating such furniture into the larger network of smart home things provides space-saving options like never before.
Imagine a series of shelves or closets that rotate or hide based on what you need and when you need it, or entire rooms that change to accommodate different scenarios.
The sofa with the ottoman and the loveseat transform to make a larger sofa, or make additional floor space. The coffee table raises up to create a standing table when you are having a dinner party. All of this could be done automatically when your house detects guests, or with a simple push of a button on your smartphone.
Advanced health and wellness monitoring
How many steps did you get in today? Did you monitor your heart rate at all? Smart watches and fitness trackers are helpful tools that many of us use for monitoring a variety of health and fitness
In the homes of the future, there are all sorts of opportunities to integrate such sensors into the house itself. Your home could track your steps, weight, temperature and look for improvements or abnormalities that indicate illness.
If it detects signs of illness, it could add medicine to your grocery list, order it for delivery, or even help you schedule a doctor appointment.
Although smart home technology is meant to make our lives better, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. With more and more of our lives being connected to devices and technology, it's also important that we have a time and place to disconnect. So how does one do that in a home that is also completely integrated?
The answer is actually quite simple, and famed scientist Michael Faraday came up with it in 1836. A Faraday Cage, or Faraday Shield
, is a space enclosed with a conductive material to block electromagnetic signals from penetrating to the space within.
This can be achieved with a metallic mesh, but is equally possible with metal plates. This is not a new concept, and can be found in a variety of settings where it is important to shield sensitive equipment from being disrupted by electromagnetic waves. For example, if you've ever had an MRI, you've probably already been inside a Faraday Shield. The walls have a protective metal plate within them to prevent the magnetic field generated by the MRI machine from affecting electronics outside the room.
In a future where your home entire home is connected, you may find that such a room in your own home can be a great place to disconnect from it all. Inside, there would be no cell service and no Wi-Fi
- a quiet place free from the noise of the technological world.
But you don't need to install metal plates in the walls around a room to create a tech-free zone. Many people today find it helpful to dedicate particular rooms as such. For example, maybe you agree not to take your phone, laptop, or tablet into the bedroom. This can be a great way to limit tech use and exposure for both you and your children
The smart home tech of today
While many of these technologies are possible in the future, there a number of smart home devices on the market currently:
. Smart thermostats can learn your routine and optimize heating and cooling cycles in your home, potentially saving energy
. These futuristic doorbells can integrate with security systems and door locks, allowing you to see who is outside and open the lock if needed - even when you're not home.
Smart door locks
. These allow you to remotely grant access to your home, and can even set schedules and provide temporary guest codes.
Like your classic home security system, there are smart home solutions that can monitor your home and alert authorities if necessary.
. A smart fridge can help you keep track of the food you have, provide recipes, and can even allow you to keep a grocery list and place orders online.
. Smart bulbs sync up to your home networking, giving you the ability to turn them on or off, dim, or change colors remotely. They can also be integrated with other sensors, activating when they detect movement.
Devices like Google Home and Alexa can connect to your smart home or IoT devices, allowing you the ability to control various aspects of your home with voice commands, but also giving you easy access to music, grocery lists, and informational searches.
The risks of smart homes
Simply put, the more your home is connected to the internet, the more opportunities cyber criminals have to try and exploit it. However, security is always a concern, even if you have regular locks and don't have an internet connection. There are ways to protect yourself and your internet connected devices
. As these devices become more ubiquitous, it will be essential to identify and secure weaknesses in your home network.
. As we've discussed these futuristic technologies, perhaps you noticed what many of them have in common: They collect mountains of personal data.
Of course, this isn't inherently a bad thing. Data is how many of our favorite apps and devices function. Take your map and navigation apps, for example. They use real time GPS data to build a traffic model, as well as giving you important information such as travel times and even alert you to hazards down the road.
However, as we invite these devices and technology into our homes, it is important to be aware of what data is being collected, where it is being stored, and how it is being used. Staying informed allows you to then make choices about what trade-offs you are willing to make, and ultimately, what you are comfortable sharing.
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