Welcome to ‘Kagoo Explains’ - a series of short articles de-mystifying some of the confusing terminology used to describe tech. Today we’re continuing our investigation into Smart Homes, looking ahead to the smart tech of the near future, and the end goal of the perfect Smart Home!
By now, you’ve been introduced to the Internet of Things & looked at lots of different smart devices you can buy for your home. So let us look ahead, and speculate what the future of a Smart Home may look like!
Sensors everywhere, and on everything
Right now smart home technology is very much in adolescence, and the majority of appliances and devices in homes are ‘dumb’ - i.e, they have no computers or sensors inside. However this will change - already we are starting to see sensors and smart tech being added to devices that have always been very simple things: such as lights, smoke alarms or watches. However smart versions of these devices are rare and more complicated to produce, and therefore usually far more expensive.
However as the idea of smart homes starts to mature, the sensors and technology will become more affordable and easier to implement. We will start seeing more of these products having smart technology baked in as a standard - much like how almost all phones produced these days are smartphones.
This will fuel smart technology being added to many other objects that have historically remained very simple - toasters, kettles, cooker hoods and more will be added to the smart home infrastructure, gaining sensors, network connections and more. Before long nearly all the appliances and devices you can buy for your house will have a popular smart version ready to add into your home network.
Smart homes for everyone
Cheaper and more readily available smart technology will allow more people to buy new devices, and it will become far more standard to have smart technology wired into your home - just like having a smartphone is completely normal now.
At the moment smart home technology is still perceived largely as a fad, or something that will vanish in a couple of years (like 3D movies). However this will change with time - remember that most standard appliances were seen as unusual when first introduced to the market. Heck, even refrigerators were originally seen as strange and faddish items, and now you can’t imagine a kitchen without one!
Eventually smart technology will become as standard as plumbing, and new houses will be built from the ground-up to fully embrace smart tech. This is actually already happening - i’m buying a new house, and it comes with smart heating as standard. Fairly soon a house you buy will have a full contingent of smart appliances and devices, from the lighting to the security system to the cooker!
Smarter smart homes
As smart homes become more prevalent throughout society, the tech powering them will become more mature and far more potent. Smart technology works best when connected together with lots of compatible devices - that way it can best leverage the sensors and data it collects, and can be controlled in more ways. With more data inputs, the possibilities for automation become far more powerful - and we will start seeing far more powerful automation chains, as I’ll talk about later.
Increased usage of smart tech will also help smart homes become more energy efficient, using the sensors and connectivity in increasingly powerful ways:
Sensors in kitchen appliances can detect the conditions inside and outside the device, and modify automatically so as not to waste energy unnecessarily (i.e - fridges monitoring the air temperature to keep the inside of the fridge cool enough without needlessly using energy)
Temperature sensors monitoring the house and automatically lowering the temperature to avoid waste energy.
GPS/motion sensors systems could detect who is home, and adjust heating automatically to prevent wastage.
Smart devices could ‘learn’ your routine, and automatically adjust house systems like lights and heating to best suit your routine, without being active needlessly.
Automation can allow systems to know when related systems are running, so activate at the same time for better efficiency (i.e - a soundbar only turns on when it detects the TV or a music source, saving energy)
Such changes will only make a tiny difference every day, but when added together and multiplied through smart homes across the country, that adds up to a significant improvement to energy use worldwide!
Robots, smart cities & beyond
Once smart homes become the norm, then who knows where the technology will go next! There are many ideas about the future of smart technology - some closer than others. We’ll finish up with a quick look at some of the most interesting ones!
Health Monitoring - You can already get devices to monitor some vitals - smartwatches like the Fitbit or Apple Watch monitor heart rate, blood pressure, etc. However this data currently isn’t used much apart from some alerts to your phone. Tied in with a smart home system, it could be used for far more vigorous health monitoring, especially for the eldery and infirm. In an emergency, the house could place emergency calls if it detects something is wrong. You could also use health monitoring for general fitness, especially connected in with a smart fridge that tracks what you buy/eat.
Voice commands anywhere - right now you have to speak directly into your smartphone or smart speaker to use voice commands for smart gadgets. However a fully-specced smart home could have microphones through every room, allowing you to use voice commands no matter where you are in the home.
Augmented reality/Motion tracking - At the moment you either need voice commands for your smart home, or a physical control like a smartphone or dedicated remote. However there is the possibility of using holographic/augmented reality controls for smart homes and motion tracking to provide alternate ways of controlling your home. Think something like the high-tech computers seen in ‘Minority Report’.
3D printing for smart devices - 3D printing is already an impressive tech, allowing you to assemble complex 3D shapes within hours. With time, this technology could become even more powerful, allowing you to fabricate parts for smart devices to improve and repair your smart home.
House AIs - at the moment virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, etc) are relatively limited - listening to your commands and passively interpreting them. However in the future they could be far more powerful and intelligent, capable of understanding your needs without you having to directly order them. Think JARVIS from the Iron Man films - although hopefully with less sarcasm!
Robots - Right now you can buy a robot vacuum cleaner that autonomously trundles around, cleaning your home and emptying itself without any input from you. This is fantastic, but what about the future? There is the possibility of multipurpose robots designed for all types of chores - cleaning, cooking, medical emergencies and more. Such consumer robots are far in the future, but will be a revolution when they arrive! Just hopefully not the ‘overthrow all humanity’ kind of revolution...
Smart Cities - Finally, the next step from smart homes is ‘smart cities’. As you might have guessed, these take the philosophy of a smart home, and turn it up to 11. Sensors and interconnected devices spread across the city and public buildings could revolutionise everything, from crime reduction to traffic management. The energy efficiency mentioned above would be applied to an entire city, potentially saving a massive amount of energy and resources through careful management of water, electricity and heat. Integration with local government could help with gathering concrete data on the needs and wishes of the citizens, allowing them to target improvements to the overall quality of life in the city.
Some of these ideas are decades away, but the future looks very exciting indeed for smart technology!