Science Fiction writers have been describing it for years, and viewers have seen it on movie screens, but until recently, the idea of the Smart House or Home, was still mostly fantasy. Not any more, as Tim Bajarin noted recently in Techland, as evidenced by his trip to the Consumer Electronics Show this past January, the Smart Home is finally ready to become reality.
First off, what is a smart home anyway? It’s where digital electronics are embedded in everyday life-smart thermostats that raise and lower the temperature based on whether people are home, for example or hot-water heaters that do the same. It’s where digital display devices appear on walls keeping home-owners abreast of the latest news, weather or appointments they need to keep. It’s where robots keep the carpets vacuumed and refrigerators automatically maintain a shopping list. In short, it’s a home where modern computer technology converges with modern human need.
But what makes this year so special? It’s the turning point, where advances in microelectronics are converging with advances in wireless technology and with apps developed for smartphones and tablets. And as Bajarin points out notes, it’s the year when several developing technologies are reaching fruition.
Take smart-light bulbs, for example. LG just recently announced a combination lamp and light bulb that consumers can control using their smartphone. That means people can leave the lights off to save energy, then turn them on from the car just before they arrive home. It also means they can be programmed to go on and off creating the impression people are home when they are not, to ward off burglars.
Other cool new gadgets coming to homeowners: teddy bears that put kids to bed, smart doors that unlock when there is a fire or the homeowner is walking up the front steps. It’s all part of connection schemes companies are creating to smarten up every part of home possible. Image toilets that monitor stool specimens for ailments, reading lights that automatically adjust brightness depending on ambient light or phone apps that allow people to do all the things seen in commercials of late: turn off water taps, lock doors, or feed the dog. It’s all coming to the homes of people that can afford it. And more and more experts say, it’s likely to be average citizens, not just the rich.