In today’s world, everything is becoming “smart.” We have smartphones, smartwatches, and now, smart homes. But what makes a home “smart”? At the moment, we have access to many electronic devices that make our home lives easier, but what will the smart homes of the future bring? With this technology increasing at lightning speed, the options for future smart homes are endless.
What Defines a Smart Home?
While an official definition of a smart home doesn’t actually exist, that is almost fitting for a technology that is changing and evolving at such a rapid rate. At the moment, a smart home is more or less defined as “a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer”. Smart home technology is associated with control and ease of everyday household functions.
Current Smart Homes
When one thinks of a current Smart Home, one may think of Alexa or Google Home, Nest thermostats, Ring video doorbells, or even the Roomba vacuum. These smart devices are perfect examples of how technology is becoming an integral part of our lifestyles. It has become so easy to check the weather, play music, or simply find an answer to a question just by asking a device. In fact, one study shows that 72% of people who own voice-activated speakers use them daily. What was once only a reality for the super-rich or tech-savvy has now become accessible to every homeowner.
While today’s smart home devices are already more advanced and accessible than they were 10 years ago, there is still one big hurdle that must be jumped. That new hurdle is integration. Not integration of users, but the integration of devices. While you may have a voice-controlled smart fan, a video doorbell, an Echo Dot, and a remote-controlled air purifier, do they all work together? The answer is most likely, no. But don’t worry – this will soon be a problem of the past. What many home-tech companies are now focusing on is what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) in a broad sense encompasses any device that is connected to the internet. But in terms of smart home technology, it is more precise than that. The Internet of Things is a network of computing devices that are able to collect and exchange data. The IoT can include any and all electronics from cellphones to washing machines to lamps to wearable devices like smartwatches. Gartner, the leading global research firm, estimated that by this year there will be 20 billion devices connected to the IoT, while others predict as many by 100 billion by the year 2022. What’s more, half of those devices are estimated to be residential rather than commercial. Samsung is making all of its devices IoT enabled by this year. Comcast has already partnered with Nest to integrate the technology into Xfinity TVs. And many other leading brands are following close behind. With the IoT already booming, that means the increase in Smart Home technology is coming at record speed.
Future Smart Homes
While the idea of a Smart Home may make some people uneasy, studies show that even back in the years 2014-2017, 60% of consumers favored the technology. Berg, a Swedish research firm, predicts that 63 million US homes will qualify as “smart” by 2022. Gartner predicts that by that same year, a typical family home will contain more than 500 smart devices. Now those numbers might seem huge and unimaginable, but it could be a lot more realistic than we think.
With the integration of the IoT, our home technology will become more efficient, more secure, and essentially smarter. Going about our daily life will become easier because our home will know exactly what we want. Many of today’s devices still require some sort of engagement from the user, whether it be voice activation, use of an app, or a tangible touchpoint. Yet the future devices will cut out this step completely. The goal of many tech companies is to create technology so advanced, that your home will truly learn about its occupants. Future smart homes will know exactly where each person is in the house, as well as their likes and dislikes, so the different devices can anticipate our needs without us needing to do anything at all.
Imagine this: You are coming home from work. Sensors in your phone alert your home of your location when you get close. The garage door will open as you pull in the driveway and the house door will unlock. The lights will come on as you enter the room and the air conditioner will be set to your preferred temperature. You go into the kitchen to start making dinner. You open the refrigerator and subconsciously reach for that slice of cake you’ve been saving, but instead, the camera and sensor embedded in your fridge suggest a healthier option. You decide to start cooking and your sous-chef, a small robotic arm, helps you by chopping all of the vegetables. After dinner you go into the living room and roll down your 65” TV – it’s so nice to not have it taking up wall space all the time! After finishing tonight’s episode, you head to the bathroom. It’s been a long day and you are tired, but luckily the camera and sensor in your medicine cabinet remind you to take your nightly medications. As you get ready for bed, the lights in the bedroom are already dimmed, and automatically switch off as you get into bed. The next morning, instead of waking up to a shrill alarm, your alarm wakes you up with the smell of fresh espresso wafting through your bedroom. It’s time to start a new day.
This imaginary enactment may seem lightyears away. Surely more things like that would happen in the Jetson home than in your own. But in reality, all of these devices and more are already in the works. And these smart devices won’t just adapt to one person, they will be able to adapt to the needs and preferences of a multi-person household as well. The likes and dislikes of everyone in the family will be factored into the devices’ settings, making each household member’s living experience unique but unified.
Whether you want to end up in a Smart Home or not, chances are you probably will. Not only are smart devices already becoming an integrated part of our daily lives, but the technology will also only become more and more prominent. Even construction companies are now starting to build houses “smart” from the ground up, rather than trying to integrate smart technology as an afterthought. In addition, the growth and development of the Internet of Things pave the way for new, more fully integrated devices. That means devices will be easier to use, easier to control, and even more personalized. Soon, we will move from just having a collection of smart objects to having a truly Smart Home.