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Smart Homes for the Future


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Photo courtesy of: ineni Realtime

For decades, we have imagined what our homes might look like in the future. In 1962, Hanna-Barbera predicted life in the year 2062 with the cartoon The Jetsons. 

While we can’t yet drive flying cars, and our workdays are still longer than George Jetson’s three hour day at Spacely Sprockets, there is a way to realising some of the predictions of the 1960s.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are coming along in leaps and bounds. Video chat and messaging is already the norm, and we already use the term “digital natives” to describe a whole generation who have never known life before the internet. Uptake of Google Home and Amazon Alexa is gaining traction, and with a home assistant, all we need to adjust our heating, lighting, and other functions is a voice command. Looking forward, what can we expect from our homes of the future?

Smarter Buildings:

ineni Realtime is a design consultancy with an experienced team of designers, programmers, marketers, and engineers, and its aim is to humanise digital technology, data, virtual and physical environments. It is involved from the design stage of a building through to a real-time ability to interact with objects in the built space.

“We do life-cycle modelling, turning visual content into a control model once it is built,” says ineni Founder and Director Jeremy Harkins. “My take is we get too much data through too many apps. The Internet of Things (IoT) has too much data. Each function comes with its own app.”

It is involved from the design stage of a building through to a real-time ability to interact with objects in the built space. 

“I like to think that our model is like having a dollhouse inside an app. Users can control various functions, like heating and lighting or their smart washing machine, all with a single app. I believe in three to five years a consumer version of this will be available in homes,” he continues.

“This is already evidenced by Google Street View now giving images inside buildings. By mapping indoors, we start to build a more complete view of our world and built environment.   

“Everyone relates to visual information. This technology is already used by facilities managers at places like Barangaroo, and they are considering widening access to the office workers so that they can access functions such as building guides, turning off lights, and so on.”

He continues: “The technology can be retrofitted to older buildings through drone photography and laser scans, so once smart devices are into your home, you can locate them and operate them.” 

Energy Efficiency:

Tesla is leading the way when it comes to energy efficiency in and around our homes. 

While the uptake of solar energy is increasing, Tesla has resolved the issue of unsightly solar panels by introducing the Tesla and SolarCity solar roof. The solar roof is due to be released in Australia soon. It is comprised of uniquely designed glass tiles that complement the aesthetics of any home and appear invisible, not detracting from the homeowner’s individual style. 

The solar roof tiles are fitted photovoltaic cells.  

Tesla has also developed the Powerwall — a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to enable self-consumption of solar power, emergency backup, load shifting, and other grid service applications. The streamlined unit mounts on a wall or on the ground, indoors or outdoors, and is integrated with the grid to export excess energy, maximising the opportunity for economic benefit.

In the event of a power outage, the battery can switch over in a split second giving users peace of mind and minimal energy interruptions.

In the event of a power outage, the battery can switch over in a split second giving users peace of mind and minimal energy interruptions. 

The Powerwall can store surplus solar energy and use that energy later when the sun isn’t shining. This functionality can extend the environmental and cost benefits of solar. It is also capable of load shifting. It charges during low rate periods when demand for electricity is lower and discharges during more expensive rate periods when electricity demand is higher.

In a future which may see us all in electric cars, Tesla makes charging your car at home as simple as charging your smartphone. Just plug in overnight and wake up to a full charge. Already Tesla offers the charging unit as standard in Australia where, unlike the USA, charging points are not yet so readily available at petrol stations or workplace carparks. 

Smart Gardens:

Rainwater harvesting and community gardens are increasingly becoming more popular. Actually, they are even being integrated into commercial buildings. Like any other part of the house, gardens of the future will be more than just old school gardening techniques. They will also benefit from high-tech gadgets, IOT, apps, and online wizardry. 

Already available, The Parrot Flower Power is a wireless Bluetooth low-energy sensor, which precisely measures, in real-time, soil moisture, fertiliser, ambient temperature and light intensity. Via a free dedicated app, it lets the home gardener know what action is required. Parrot’s database contains essential information about more than 7,000 plants and the whole system connects to GreenIQ’s weather-based irrigation technology, which can control functions like sprinklers and garden lighting.

Robotics in the Kitchen and Laundry:

We are well acquainted with robots which can vacuum and mop. From this year on, however, consumers can purchase a fully robotic kitchen. Dubbed Moley Kitchen Robot, this personal chef (or rather two robotic arms from the ceiling) can chop, blend, and make your meal at the same speed as a human. The AI functionality copies a “master chef’s” movements from a database of recipes on an app. The manufacturer claims Moley Kitchen Robot can perform even the most delicate of functions, such as slicing sashimi.

We are well acquainted with robots which can vacuum and mop. From this year on, however, consumers can purchase a fully robotic kitchen. 

Samsung has already released a fridge with an integrated LCD touchscreen, which allows users to make phone calls and write notes. It can also order groceries from Woolworths and show you its contents without the need to open the door. 

Meile has also just released a revolutionary new oven which uses electromagnetic waves (like a microwave) and combines it with radiant convection heat to create a perfect and delicate meal every time. The Meile site claims the Dialog Oven can cook a fish in ice or veal tenderloin in beeswax without melting ice or wax, separate browning from baking, and prepare different dishes and ingredients simultaneously.

Meanwhile, Bosch has worked hard to create the connected kitchen, all operated by a smartphone app. You can order your coffee from bed, and it’s ready by the time you get to the kitchen. The dishwasher can order its own detergent. The fridge can adjust its own temperature and move to holiday power-saving mode if you are away. The wall oven has remote preheat functionality and the ability to check if you left it on when going out (and switch it off if necessary).

In the Bosch Connected laundry, the washing machine will automatically choose the right setting for your load, and operation can be done remotely as well.

Creating a domestic world where humans can offload many manual tasks and create a more personalised and comfortable life. 

While nothing is yet officially released, automated smart ironing systems are set to become part of our laundry in the future. Start-up project Effie has created an app-operable system that can dry, deodorise, and iron up to 12 items (of various fabrics) in a few minutes. While the prototype is bulky, the future should see the size come down, freeing us from the drudgery of ironing once and for all.    

While we have not yet reached the predictions made by the creators of the Jetsons in 1962, it would seem we are well on our way. Many elements of a smart home are already available, creating a domestic world where humans can offload many manual tasks and create a more personalised and comfortable life. 

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