Ahhh, the future! When will it come. Oh, it's here already.
Smart homes are here to stay. It may be an unfamiliar concept for some but many people are already reaping its benefits. Smart home technology uses the Internet to connect devices in a network. This is a process called automation that permits remote monitoring and control of these devices. It may sound complicated but we'll delve deeper on what makes smart homes the future of our daily lives.
A S.M.A.R.T. History
Most gadgets that exhibit intelligent features or functionalities are referenced as smart devices. The term 'SMART' goes a long way back. It started as a proprietary technology standard from IBM a few decades ago. This is the Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology or S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T. gave warnings to mainframe drives for possible failures in the system. It analyzed the mechanical aspects of the system for discrepancies and recommended replacements once the hard drive moved out of tolerance. If you lived during the days when desktop computers had substantial CRT monitors, you might remember reading S.M.A.R.T. every time you boot the computer.
S.M.A.R.T. technology evolved beyond desktop computers and is now used for appliances, smartphones and other devices that can be connected to a network.
The Internet of Things (IoT): The Evolution of Automation
Smart home technology is steadily becoming accessible to households, giving rise to terms such as 'home automation' and 'domotics' from the root word domus or home. Home automation enables the remote access of devices inside a household. It is now possible to monitor and adjust various controls from a distance such as temperature, lighting systems, domestic appliances, and home theatre packages, just to name a few. The Internet is the bloodstream that allows home automation. Smart gadgets are connected to gateway hubs such as wall-mounted terminals, computers, website interfaces or smartphone apps. People can then access these devices through these gateway hubs online. Because of the reliance of this system on the World Wide Web, a term has been coined to describe this interconnectivity: the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is a concept that expands the functions of the Internet beyond usual computing. It provides a platform for devices to communicate and interact with each other. The sum of these devices becomes greater than the parts. This interconnectivity creates more useful functions for users.With the help of the Internet of Things, several aspects of a household that were mostly overlooked can now be connected online. These include home security monitoring systems, smoke detectors, refrigerators, door locks, laundry machines, domestic cleaning robots, and energy consumption meters.
Home automation is gaining popularity among consumers. In 2012, the National Association of Home Builders compiled data on the preferred smart home devices of consumers. Here were the leading vote-getters:
Wireless security systems: 50%
Programmable thermostats: 47%
Security cameras: 40%
Wireless home audio systems and lighting control gauges: 39%
Home theatre bundles: 37%.
The home automation industry started with an encouraging worth of US$ 5.77 billion back in 2013. It has since surpassed these numbers with a trajectory of US$ 12.81 billion by 2020.
Home automation began with features designed to save time and effort. The first generation of these smart devices started with wireless technology with a proxy server. This has since evolved into devices that can be controlled by artificial intelligence such as Amazon's Alexa. The next frontier is the exploration of robot usage such as Roomba and Robot Rovio. The Internet of Things is continually growing. Beyond remote access and interconnectivity, the IoT can collect data about the usage of these devices. These data can be mapped out to create digital trends that can help guide users and manufacturers about features that work or that need improvement.
Efficiency is also one of the core benefits of using home automation. Devices that can be self-contained or regulated with presets can have more energy savings because it can turn itself off when not used. The Internet of Things has also been applied for automated assistance for people with disabilities or elders needing care. Home systems can adapt to the needs of users with particular disabilities.
Persons with disabilities who may have sight limitations can be guided with voice control. Those with hearing impairment can have alert notifications through cochlear implants. There are also motion sensing capabilities for seizure and accident emergencies.
These features would not be effective without the Internet of Things. The early returns are encouraging; the IoT can significantly improve the quality of life of people.
When various smart homes live together in a neighbourhood, it can create a synergy within the community.
Smart cities take the concept of the smart home up a notch by applying the Internet of Things to the entire metropolis. Various devices are connected into a network to provide boosts in daily city operations.
When applied to a larger scale, the possibilities of the Internet of Things are immense. The synergy of devices can help manage city resources more efficiently such as water supply networks, power grids, waste disposal, law enforcement, school databases and hospital management. With an overall system that embraces all these functions, it is easier to spot problems.
Smart technology through information and communication (ICT) can also help improve the interaction between politicians and the people. Data collection systems can analyze how the population is using different types of technology. Analysis of this information will help the city react more efficiently to the needs of the people. They can also anticipate what direction the city is taking. For example, with the help of IoT data, it is now possible to study if a city is becoming more environmentally responsible as a whole.
Mark Deakin and Husam Al Waer noted in their research -- entitled “From intelligent to smart cities” – that there are four factors that contribute to the transformation of a community into a smart city.
First is the application of electronic and digital technologies over a wide range. Next is the use of ICT or Information and Communication Technology to transform the quality of life and working conditions of the citizens. The application of these ICT to government processes is also vital as a third factor. Lastly, the interconnection of the citizens is crucial to help facilitate community discussions.
There is a variety of ways that the Internet of Things can help power the success of a smart city. Government transactions are more manageable when there is a digital payment platform. Some cities use smart parking apps that allow people to find the most convenient parking slot in the city. This is possible through data collected from lampposts with sensors that analyze areas for parking.
When it comes to transportation, smart apps have made it possible to meet the demands of public transportation from ride-sharing apps and volume management in public transit systems. Traffic lights with sensors can also adjust their performance if they can assess that roads are becoming congested with vehicles.
A smart city is not solely about technology. It is about people and how their quality of living can be improved by using ICT and smart devices.
Homes of the Future
With the emergence of smart cities, individual homes stand to benefit. More devices are being designed to be compliant with smart home technology.
An increase in demand may also lessen the prices of sensors that are essential components of smart home technologies. These parts will become more affordable and accessible to many people if it becomes more prevalent. This is vital in easing the transition of this technology from being luxury to standard.
While technology trends will change at a moment's notice, we can safely predict that people will always have homes. This stability is a good assurance for tech companies; you can be sure they will continue to innovate these smart home devices.
The research and advisory company Gartner released predictions that a typical household may have more than 500 smart devices in the year 2022. The analysis firm Crimson Hexagon discovered that the preferences of people for smart home technology had received an upswing between 2014 to 2017. 60% of consumers are now looking to integrate these technologies into their households. The hope is that these devices will make their lives easier and even save them money.
This goes to show how, through time, technology becomes embedded as part of people's daily lives.
Case in point, refrigerators were weird contraptions when they were introduced to the public back in 1913. Now, people probably cannot imagine life without refrigeration in their homes.
Some technologies have become prevalent in homes. The smart speaker is one of the leading devices in American households now. One in six Americans or roughly 39 million people own one. They are compact, energy efficient and do not require wires that can clutter homes.
Smart Home Control Hubs
Smart speakers are just one of the devices that can be linked to a home network. Today, the living room is being transformed into a central hub. Lighting controls, thermostats, and door locks can also be integrated into this overall system. Homeowners can control and monitor these devices with the touch of a smartphone.
Smart Home Display Devices
Display devices may see innovation as well with the possibilities of screens that can roll up when not needed or high-definition projectors that can convert walls into makeshift yet powerful displays.
Open Source Furniture / Interior Design Software
Open source furniture is also available already. You can be your own interior designer; if you are envisioning a certain furniture design for your home, you can visualize it into existence with the help of online platforms and apps such as Hutch and Modsy.
If you feel alone in your living room, Facebook is currently developing a smart camera for living rooms that will make you feel as if you are sitting face-to-face with a loved one.
Monitoring the Elderly
Beyond these exciting functionalities, living room hubs can also be a safety measure at home. Elderly parents can be monitored with the help of security cameras. Smartphones can have access to these video footage at any given time. There are also motion sensors that can alert people if anyone at home is experiencing seizures or similar cases.
In the kitchen, smart ovens have digital thermometers to regulate the heat of your dish when you are cooking. This is a feature to ensure that you won't be overcooking your meal. It is also an added safety feature to protect against fire incidents.
Smart refrigerators can alert people if any of the produce inside may be going bad. It can also provide cooking recipes and instructions if you need them at a moment's notice.
There are also ice cream makers outfitted with smart technology to tell you if your sundae's mixture is hard enough. 3D food printers are now available to help create all types of food ingredients that you can imagine. The sky is the limit!
In the bedroom, there are a variety of smart devices designed to provide you with a good night's sleep. Smart thermostats can regulate the temperature according to your preferences. Smart mattresses have sleep trackers to monitor the quality of your sleep, allowing you to chart your daily sleep hours and attempt to make improvements. There are smart alarm clocks that can provide you with weather updates and news headlines every time you wake up.
There is also an alarm system that can give you a gentle wake-up call with the use of aromatherapy. This system takes note of your sleeping cycle and releases a scent of your choice to wake up your senses.
Smart Wardrobes and Mirrors
In your closet, smart gloves let yA S.M.A.R.T. Historyou interact with your wardrobe by detecting skin temperature and choosing the clothes that fit those readings. If you feel your wardrobe needs an update, you can shop for clothes online, and Amazon allows you to adjust these garments with a smart patented mirror. If it's just a matter of color choices, there are now smart garments that can change their hues and tints, depending on your mood.
The bathroom is also a part of the smart home revolution. Smart shower systems such as U by Moen can prepare your preferred water temperature with presets beforehand. There are tubs from Toto that can generate relaxing brain waves as you take a shower. Aromatherapy can be available with the swipe of a smartphone with apps such as Olfinity.
The Challenges of Smart Technology
While smart homes let you experience luxury and convenience with the touch of a finger, it is not immune to challenges. One of the biggest obstacles is connectivity.
The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) is immense, with an estimated 75 million smart devices in various households by the year 2025, according to Statista. But there is the issue of interoperability, especially for devices that come from different tech companies. The connectivity standards are still varied, and there is a need to consolidate everything in a unified system to avoid compatibility issues.
Different devices have their own network interfaces, and rival brands may even make it difficult for their respective devices to work together. This is an issue that must be ironed out soon to expand the capabilities of smart homes.
The reliability of the Internet is also a compelling touchpoint. Without an active online connection, these smart devices will not function together in a network. It may be hard to imagine living in a developed country, but there are still places that have a low Internet connection. There are at least 35 countries with less than 20% Internet access such as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua because of the absence of infrastructure.
Expert minds are hard at work to find solutions to connectivity. There are ideas for unified controllers so that smart devices can work efficiently together in a home. It will be a huge convenience for people if there is a single app or interface to manage IoT products for temperature control, lighting, security cameras and power consumption.
These control hubs should be designed in a way that is compatible with most existing connectivity standards such as WiFi and Bluetooth.
Voice assistants powered by artificial intelligence are also gaining headway as an ideal solution to connectivity. The increase of devices that can respond to voice commands can only help users manage their smart home systems more efficiently.
Once these connectivity problems are resolved, smart home technology and the Internet of Things will become integral aspects of daily life – not just a luxury for some households that can afford it.
Smart Prospects for Future Decades
The smart home may seem ‘normal’ nowadays, but its fundamental ideas were just fictional imaginations a few decades back.
The tablet was just a gizmo from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie trilogy Back to the Future predicted wearable technology such as smart eyewear, similar to today's Oculus Rift. Star Trek blazed the trail for wrist devices that work like smartphones.
Disney even has the 1999 film Smart House featuring a robot named PAT (short for Personal Applied Technology). This sentient being efficiently runs the house through voice commands and masterfully memorizes the habits and tendencies of its occupants.
Science starts with an idea. With the way technology is progressing, it is not far-fetched to think that these ideas can become fixtures of the future soon enough. It begs the question: if we have smart homes now, what can we expect in the coming decades such as the 2030s and the 2040s?
Smart home experts are bold with their predictions. When the 2030s usher in, they expect the population of the world to balloon to 8.5 billion people. Smart homes are primed to offer solutions to overcrowding by making the prospect of co-living as an ideal.
Shared living spaces can even be mobile with the idea of private dwelling pods. Mental health may also be at the forefront during this decade. Augmented reality and socialization through shared living spaces may offer relief for this problem.
The 2040s may be advanced enough to integrate robots into societies, as we usually see it in science fiction movies today. The artificial intelligence of robotic beings may become advanced to the point that they can co-exist with people, or even outnumber them. There will be ethical issues that must be resolved first, but the hope is that robots in development today will work to improve the quality of lives of humans.
Balancing the Optimism and Pessimism
Like any new concept, there will never be an immediate consensus on the success of smart homes. There will be doubts and criticisms. There will also be excitement and results, especially from users who are experiencing its benefits already. But it is clear: smart homes will be a global trend for years and even decades to come.
As far as trends go, the Internet of Things is being embraced by the world. According to the 2018 Consumer Electronics Guide from the artificial intelligence think tank Crimson Hexagon, sentiments about smart devices is mostly positive. Voice assistants are gaining more mainstream exposure, as evidenced by its exponential sales growth for the past seven years.
There are still concerns about privacy issues and data breaches, especially with online networks connected to homes. But tech companies are wasting no light of day to address challenges as they come. Statistics also show that despite these issues, users appreciate the convenience that smart homes bring to the table.
This is an encouraging vote of confidence for smart home technology moving forward. Smart home technology is here to stay, and the world will be better for it.