As human beings, we’ve always had deeply personal and intimate relationships with our homes. After all, a home is an oasis from the chaos and bustle of the real world. We seek to make our homes as comfortable and personal as possible. From early cave paintings to today’s modern technology, the way we live and the way we interact with our home has evolved significantly over the years. So, what ways will we enhance and enjoy our sanctuaries in the future?
Smart homes have evolved considerably in recent years. Today’s smart home tech offers numerous benefits, including safety and comfort. The following are a few areas of evolution.
In recent years, we have seen an explosion in the use of personal at-home assistants. Voice assistants are cloud-based services that use natural language processing algorithms to turn voice commands to text and use automated software to execute actions based on those commands in real-time. According to some studies, in two-year’s time, more than 50% of all search queries will be made via voice command. With the popularity of cloud-based voice control systems, we can expect this trend to continue and evolve. At the moment, Amazon’s Alexa is the market leader, with Google Assistant rapidly catching up. Each brand of home voice assistants offers its own specialized services, but they all have one commonality: the desire to interconnect with a range of smart home devices in order to create a home-based web of voice-controlled applications. It remains to be seen what the next step in the evolution of voice-controlled home assistants will be; however, if the current trend continues, we could see a future ecosystem of fully voice-controlled home technology.
To many, robots still seem like something out of the spooky realms of science fiction. Certainly, movies such as The Terminator did much to color the general perception of robots or robotics, but the truth is far more benign. Although we are still far-removed from sentient, humanoid-like robots, the field of robotics has advanced considerably in the last 10 years. Even though the use of robotics in fields such as medicine has come a long way, including the advent of automated surgical equipment, the evolution of the consumer application side has not seen similar advancements.
At the moment, the zenith of consumer-facing robotics has been home cleaners such as iRobot and Neato. However, with the growing complexity of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, humanity could soon develop social robots with the processing power to directly interact with humans and assist them with everyday tasks. This may sound far-fetched, but companies such as Boston Dynamics are already working on such projects. Social robots could be used for a variety of purposes, including home assistants for the elderly or disabled.
One of the most interesting areas of development in terms of smart homes has been energy-efficient technology. What if your home could alert you when your electricity consumption reaches a certain level? A Maine-based company, Powerhouse Dynamics, recently developed a program that tracks a home’s energy consumption. The system alerts homeowners to faulty appliances, which may be a drain on electric power and in urgent need of replacement. The system can even manage light usage and automatically turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. This is only one advent in a number of burgeoning energy efficiency fields. For example, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and General Electric are developing a new kind of refrigerator that uses magnets to create cold. Instead of environmentally harmful coolants, the new refrigeration system uses a water-based cooling fluid to lower consumer energy bills. Technology has also changed the way we build homes. For instance, next-gen insulation made from advanced composite materials is not only environmentally friendly materials, but it does a better job of making sure homes are properly heated and cooled, ultimately reducing energy costs. In addition to insulation, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has recently been working on new, fluorescent pigments that can naturally cool your home by reflecting light from your roof or walls.
Beyond comfort and accessibility, smart home technology has also advanced in the field of safety. One such development has been the arrival of smart security systems with connected cameras. Smart security cameras allow you to monitor any area of your home and can be connected to your smartphone through applications. These smart surveillance systems can also set virtual boundaries on your property and send you alerts if they’re breached. For example, many homeowners are often nervous about the safety of children in regards to their pools. With virtual perimeters, you can set a virtual boundary around your pool and receive a text or email alert any time this invisible boundary is crossed. In recent years, traditional doorbells have also received an upgrade. Beyond a simple ding-dong sound, doorbells have been upgraded with smart video screens and voice-activation systems, alerting you on your smartphone or tablet when someone is at the door.
Smart home technology has revolutionized the way we live and enjoy the comfort of our homes. It has brought innovation and convenience, in addition to added safety benefits. It remains to be seen how domiciles will continue to change, but one thing is for certain — if we continue to value our domestic oases as we always have, the future will certainly be interesting.