It’s the year 2025, and you wake up to a warm, sun-lit room. Or at least that’s what it looks like — thanks to the pre-programmed room lights that mimic morning sunlight, and the thermostat that automatically warms the room to wake you up naturally.
Across the house, in the rooms you’re about to use — the bathroom, the kitchen, your garage — lights and appliances automatically whirr into action. The coffee starts to brew. Your fridge reminds you which ingredients are running low, and asks whether you’d like to add them to your shopping list.
Once you drive out of the garage to work, the security system in your house springs into action. Doors and windows automatically lock. Appliances switch into energy-saving mode. On your way back from work, when your house senses you’re 10 minutes away, it gets ready for your arrival. The thermostat kicks in, the alarm system deactivates, and your favourite album starts to play on the stereo.
Technology is becoming more and more integrated into our lives. Scientists and inventors have come up with futuristic devices, appliances and control systems for the home. As part of what’s dubbed the “Internet of Things”, more and more of our household products can perform intelligent functions and interact with each other, making our busy lives a bit easier.
“In many ways, all of the technology for this to happen is already there; it’s more about making consumers aware of those possibilities,” explains Alex Hawkinson, CEO and founder of SmartThings.
Homes in the not-so-distant future will be built to cater for our growing affinity for tech-savvy living spaces. Here are a few ways our homes will adapt to our preferences.
Robots will handle our chores
We’re not quite at the stage where humanoid robots like Robin Williams’ “Bicentennial Man” will be able to do everything for us. However, automated robots are already available for a range of tasks in our homes.
Roomba and similar automated devices can autonomously move around the house and clean the floors. Some can even be set to vacuum on a specific schedule, navigate around furniture, and stay within a set boundary in the home.
In the next 10 to 15 years, we’ll be able to buy even smarter robots able to handle tasks like cleaning windows, sweeping the floor and conducting minor maintenance repairs. One prototype robot in Germany can pick up items, clean up after itself, operate machines and even serve drinks to guests.
Our appliances will become smarter
Let’s face it: smartphones are now an indispensable part of our lives. Air conditioners, fridges, washers, and some entertainment systems with smart functions are already available. But the connected home will extend even further. In the future, even countertops and stovetops will boast smart functions.
Provided manufacturers can come to agreement over industry-wide standards, we’re sure to have even more integrated tech in our everyday appliances.
You’ll be able to put a saucepan anywhere on a surface, and it will detect what’s in the pan and start to heat it up at the right temperature.
A smart fridge will alert you to expiration dates, let you know what ingredients are available (Siemen’s Camera Fridge) or how much milk you have left (GE’s FirstBuild). All this information will integrate seamlessly into the appliances or the surfaces around them. For example, one day your detergent bottle could have a flexible display showing instructions for use, depending on which room you’re about to clean.
What’s tantalising about the smart-appliance revolution is the potential to make lives easier by learning your preferences over time. Provided that manufacturers can come to agreement over industry-wide standards for all this smart connectivity, we’re sure to have even more integrated tech in our everyday appliances.
Advanced lighting and energy controls will become commonplace
Most cars alert you when your headlights are on — a simple control that saves you time (and your battery). But what can your home tell you about your lighting and energy use? Not much. At least at the moment.
Imagine a home energy system that tells you when you’re about to exceed your power budget for the month. Or lets you know what time of day it’s cheapest to run your lights. Or automatically switches your lights on and off depending on who’s home, and to match each person’s individual preferences.
Advanced lighting and power-tracking systems will become more commonplace in our future homes. The HomeBeat platform keeps track of a home’s total energy consumption, costs and carbon footprint in real time.
These systems can even assess how much power individual items consume and suggest appropriate adjustments. More advanced systems would do all this automatically. In the years ahead, they will become commonplace in the home.
Smart tech will help us feel more secure
For most of us, home security means having locks on your doors, a simple keypad alarm ready to wail and wake the neighbours, and not much else. But all this will change.
Kris Hogg, chair of the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, says: “A lot of the time-monitored alarm systems can be integrated with the very latest high-tech lighting and automation facilities in order to provide even greater levels of security.”
For example, with a smart home, you can set up pre-programmed usage patterns for your lights and curtains so that it looks like someone’s home all the time. It will become common practice for infrared and window sensors to relay any unusual activity directly to you via email or text alert.
A range of video-monitoring systems with Internet connectivity are already available to help homeowners see what’s happening in their house at any given time. These systems could measure more data points including temperature, sound and levels of gases, and take corrective actions in response. Nest Protect’s intelligent smoke detector can automatically turn off a hot-water cylinder if it detects carbon monoxide in the house.
So whether it’s looking in on elderly parents or checking your pets are happy, tech-enabled homes will one day help us feel more secure.