Smart home technology has progressed considerably in the last five years, but we’ve still only scratched the surface of what’s possible.
Gartner predicts the average North American home will have as many as 500 smart gadgets by 2022. If the claim is accurate, we’re about to see an explosion in both the number and usefulness of devices available.
So, what technology do experts think you’ll have in your house by the turn of the decade? I’m going to walk you through a typical day in the smart home of the future.
7 AM: Wake Up
Is there anything more jarring than waking from a deep sleep to the sound of an intrusive alarm clock?
New bio-adaptive lights are coming to the rescue: they’re going to be the next big trend in lighting. They’ll use a mix of existing LED and cloud technology to match artificial light in a room to human circadian rhythms.
Complex programming has long been the Achilles heel of lighting control. Controlling lighting using power over Ethernet light will enable users to use richer, bio-adaptive lighting in new ways to create healthier environments. This will lead to better human-centric lighting in terms of intensity and color changes. — Neil Macdonald, COO at AmBX
AmBX is leading the way. The company hopes its lights will let you customize your own circadian rhythm. It claims exposure to the right light in the evening will delay your rhythm and lead to later sleep/wake times, early-morning exposure will advance the rhythm and result in earlier sleep/wake times.
7:15 AM: Breakfast
Just because bio-adaptive lights have woken you up gently, it doesn’t mean you won’t still feel a bit sleepy. And when we’re sleepy, we make mistakes. Be honest, how many times have you poured coffee over your cereal first thing in the morning?!
Using Smarter.am might help. It’s still in pre-order, but its goal is to get your kettle, coffee machine, and smartphone working in tandem. It will let you set how many cups you want, how strong you want each one to be, and when you want it to be ready.
It’s not all rosy, though. Italian designer Simone Rebaudengo produced a design experiment with five toasters in 2014. The toasters were not only web-connected but also connected to each other. They benchmarked themselves against each other; if they were being underused compared to their peers, they became petty and vindictive against the owner.
People were less users and more used by the toasters. They would host them, they could know how they were doing, but they were mostly spectators, judged by objects, trying to change their habits as a reaction to the toaster behavior. — Simone Rebaudengo
What do you think? An interesting glimpse into a future of sentient technology or a fun gimmick?
7:30 AM: Shower
Once you’ve won the battle with your toaster, it’s time to get ready for work.
If you’re conscious about the environment, your bathroom routine is about to get a major upgrade. New types of shower will soon be available, they’ll save water and protect the eco-system.
Orbital Systems has developed a series of filters that’ll purify and recycle water as you shower. It’s a closed-loop system, hot water in the drain is instantly purified to drinking standards and pumped back out through the head. It’ll also cut back on energy bills. Because the water doesn’t have time to cool, very little reheating is required.
With my shower, which is constantly recycling water, you’d only use about five liters of water for a 10-minute shower. In a regular shower, you would use 150 liters of water — 30 times as much. It’s a lot of savings. — Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, Orbital Systems CEO
If you think using recycled water sounds unpleasant, don’t worry. There are alternatives. Nebia’s shower atomizes water into millions of tiny droplets. It creates 10 times more surface area than a regular shower, using less water and giving you a better wash.
8:00 AM: Get Dressed
What should you wear for your big presentation at work later? You’ve got a wardrobe full of clothes but no idea where to start.
Help is coming in the form of smart mirrors. In October 2016, the newest Panasonic Smart Mirror debuted at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies conference in Japan. It’s not available to buy yet, but when it is, it’ll revolutionize how you get ready for the day.
The smart mirror analyzes the different ways your skin reflects and absorbs the light. This is not a gimmick, it’s a serious technology solution. — Julie Bauer, Panasonic president for consumer electronics, North America
It’ll outline wrinkles, redness, and sun damage, giving women advice on what makeup techniques to use and offering a step-by-step application guide. And if you want to try something wacky? You’ll be able to draw your own design on the mirror, use a 3D printer to create it, then apply it directly to your face like a mask.
It’ll also make suggestions about your outfit based on the weather, how you’re looking on a given day, and makeup styles you used.
9 AM to 5 PM: Work
You might be away from your home, but the smart home never stops. It’s trying to make use of every bit of activity it can.
Take Pavegen, for example. Its flooring technology will be able to generate electricity directly from footsteps. Cover your garden path, and every time the postman visits or a Jehovah’s Witness comes calling, they’ll be helping to power your home. Local authorities have already installed them in some parts of London and Washington DC.
It’s just a dumb tile. When you walk on it, that’s when it gets smart. — Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen CEO
Your smart home might also be tidying up for you. Fraunhofer’s thoroughly impressive Care-O-Bot 4 is a “human helper”. The modular design lets you customize it for your needs. It could do DIY chores around the home, wash and iron your laundry, or even mow the lawn.
7 PM: Dinner
Wouldn’t it be nice if you never had to worry about cooking your dinner after a long day in the office?
Moley is the world’s first robotic kitchen. It won the “Best of the Best” award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Asia in 2015.
It features two robotic hands which can move as fluidly and quickly as human hands. The developers have programmed them with the movements of BBC Master Chef winner, Tim Anderson.
It was really important to make sure it wasn’t scary. It would have been more cost-efficient to use a two or three-fingered gripper, but people may be scared by that — they don’t want a two-fingered robot in their kitchen. We also made sure that the robot works at the same speed as a human, not fast like industrial machines. — Alina Isachenka, Moley operations manager
Moley comes complete with an integrated oven, hob, and touchscreen unit. You’ll be able to choose your recipe from an iTunes-esque app then sit back and relax.
The consumer version should be ready for release in 2018, but it won’t come cheap. Initial estimates put the price at $75,000.
If that sounds beyond your price range, check out June. You’ll still have to do the preparation work, but once you put your dish in the oven, June takes over. The built-in camera will scan it, recognize the meal, and set the temperature and cooking time accordingly. You’ll never have a burned turkey on Thanksgiving again.
8 PM: Relax
Finally, the day is over. You can chill out and enjoy a few hours on the sofa with your dog.
4K televisions have once again pushed the boundaries of our visual entertainment, but what about the other senses?
Internet-connected scent cartridges could soon be widespread. Imagine watching a nature documentary and physically smelling the Serengeti as a herd of gazelle thunder past, or getting a waft of Jamie Oliver’s latest creation while you watch a cooking show.
The technology is still at a primitive stage. The most promising attempt so far is from Haruka Matsukura, a specialist at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. It works by feeding odors from vaporizing gel pellets into four air streams attached to the TV. It adjusts the strength and angle of the airflow to reflect what’s on the screen.
The generated odor distribution is as if an odor source had been placed on the screen, and leads the user to perceive the odor as emanating from a specific region of the screen. The user can freely move his/her head to sniff at various locations on the screen, and can experience realistic changes in the odor intensity with respect to the sniffing location. — Haruka Matsukura
The TV experience doesn’t end with smells. VR headsets will soon become commonplace, potentially letting you walk around the set of a film or documentary, and ultrasound haptic devices will let you reach out and feel the virtual world.
Touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel and complex touchable controls in free space, are all possible ways of using ultrasound haptic devices. In the future, people could feel holograms of objects that would not otherwise be touchable, such as feeling the differences between materials in a CT scan or understanding the shapes of artifacts in a museum. – Dr. Ben Long, author of Rendering Volumetric Haptic Shapes in Mid-Air Using Ultrasound
10:30 PM: Prepare for Bed
It’s back to the bathroom as you get ready for bed. Unlike the morning, when you’re rushing to get out the door, in the evening you can take a bit more time to pamper yourself.
OKU is currently developing a “personal skin coach”. The gadget will connect to an app on your phone, scan your face, and give you personalized skincare advice. The company’s website claims it’ll “keep aging at bay” and give you “a youthful, healthy glow”. Bold claims, but a guaranteed winner if proved to be true.
If it’s the weekend, you might fancy drifting away in a perfect hot bath. Moen has just released a “digital spa” so you can customize your tub time. It’ll automatically add hot water if the temperature starts to dip and lets you fill your bath from 30 feet away. A shower version is also available, you can pre-set your favorite nozzles and maintain the perfect heat.
11 PM: Sleep
Experts have warned us not to use technology at night for a long time. Phones, tablets, and computers emit a “short-wavelength-enriched” blue light which your brain’s ability to produce the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
But technology and sleep is not always a bad combination.
Scientists are becoming more knowledgeable in the field of directional audio. The concept of making sound travel in a narrow beam. It’s early days, but the Holosonic Audio Spotlight 168i will already let you and your partner both experience different white noises to help your drift off, even when you’re lying next to each other.
Does the Future Excite You?
Reading about some of the technology we can expect to see in the coming years makes today’s smart homes feel rather disappointing in comparison, doesn’t it? Who wants smart thermostats when robots and recycled water will be standard in a few short years?
Is there a particular technology you want in your home? Is there a certain product you cannot wait to buy?
As always, you can leave you thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych via Shutterstock.com