The “home of the future” is something that people have speculated about for as long as anyone can remember. It’s hilarious to look back to the 1950s, or even earlier, and see how wrong they were. But we are, finally, seeing signs that the home is about to be completely transformed by science into an environment that just takes care of things for you.
Here’s an example. You’re out at work all day, so there’s no point running the air conditioning while you’re not there. But you don’t want to walk into a hot home either, so you set a timer to fire up the AC an hour before you get home. That’s all fine and dandy, but what if you leave the office late or early? With a smart home, you could log in and remotely switch the AC on when you’re ready for it. And, while you’re at it, set the oven going so that your lasagna is perfectly cooked when you arrive. With a really smart home, you wouldn’t even have to do that. Your phone would notify your house when you’re on your way, and the house would take care of the rest.
The technology is already here, though it’s not yet as slick as it could be. Some people refer to it as “The Internet Of Things”, where your devices just talk to each other without the need for human intervention.
For example, the Samsung Smart TV connects with suitably enhanced kitchen appliances, including your fridge, washer or air conditioner. Without moving from your couch, you can check whether your laundry is done or if someone has opened the fridge. MyEnviro will monitor your home and alert you in the event of floods or other disasters. You never need to worry about leaving the lights on again – a smart house will realize if there’s nobody in a room and power down. The Nest Thermostat is a gadget that adjusts the temperature throughout the day to your preferences. Importantly, it’s not just a neat toy – they reckon you can save up to 20% on your fuel bills. In Florida, where summer energy bills can easily top $400 a month, that’s a hefty saving. Your fridge, freezer and cabinets can monitor everything you store in there, and will alert you if you’re running low on something, or if you have food nearing its expiry date. It can even put in an order for you or suggest recipes. And these are just the initial applications – there are plenty more in the works as innovators realize the potential in this market.
One of the biggest changes is that the phone will become a less important part of your life. You won’t need to pull out your phone to order pizza. You can just talk to your house, and it’ll talk back. Already, smart homes are learning to use cameras based on Kinect to track you and understand gestures. It’s truly like something out of science fiction.
One slightly scary downside to all that is that your smart house knows more about you that you probably feel comfortable with. “Yes, honey, I’m already on my way!” isn’t convincing when your house is telling your other half that you’re still in the bedroom. And, “I have no idea what happened to the chocolate cake!” doesn’t wash when the log shows that the fridge was opened at 2am… When your own home turns whistle-blower on you, you have a right to feel more than a little paranoid!