Just a few decades ago, the idea of a wireless phone or a portable GPS device seemed so remote as to be impossible. Yet today, these gadgets are in daily use by most people in the developed world. Progress and change have always been a fact of life but since the industrial revolution in the 1800s, the pace of that change has escalated. You need only look at how quickly your computer or your car becomes obsolete to realize it.
Smart homes may not yet be as ubiquitous as mobile phones but the signs of an unstoppable future trend are all around. The growing popularity of devices like Amazon Alexa, iRobot, AI-based security cameras, and smart thermostats are only the beginning of a wave that will make the home of the future almost unrecognizable from the ones we live in today.
The catalysts of all this change are exciting new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), voice recognition, and virtual reality (VR). These advancements are rapidly seeping into and transforming nearly every industry – from banking to agriculture, medicine to insurance – and make no mistake, your home is next.
In this article, we review some of the technologies that will impact the homes of the future, highlighting trends that investors need to become aware of.
Sensors that gather data about temperature, light, sound and other touchpoints are relatively common and inexpensive to make these days. Alone, they are nothing special, but when this data is fed into an AI-based system the possibilities are astounding. Artificial Intelligence (AI) does exactly what it’s name suggests. Using predictive algorithms and machine learning, computers effectively “learn” how to respond in a given situation without the need for human intervention. For example, an AI system can receive temperature data from sensors in your house and “learn” to adjust the temperature automatically according to predetermined criteria. Lights and alarm systems can be programmed to switch on or off as needed, and facial and voice recognition software can be used so that doors automatically unlock when members of the house arrive or alarms trigger as soon as an unrecognized face is detected in the home. Many of these technologies already exist but are just the tip of the iceberg. As AI advances, so will the solutions that can make our homes more efficient, safer and better adapted to the demands of modern living.
The environment is something that no one on the planet can afford to ignore and governments around the world have woken up to the danger of squandering precious resources. As such, energy efficiency targets and regulations exist in most countries. For example, the UK targets an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and the United States has set a goal to reach 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. To make these savings possible, our infrastructure and energy networks must change and the ways in which we power our homes will be a big part of this.
Many homes already make use of alternative energy sources such as solar or wind energy and the technology to deliver this type of energy efficiently is developing fast. Homes that are integrated within smart grids that switch to alternative energy sources whenever it’s available will become commonplace. As will the use of smart appliances and smart meters to keep energy wastage to a minimum, for example, smart, adaptive glass which adjusts window tint in order to manage glare, heat, and sunlight.
The Customizable Home
The home of the future will be more flexible and better able to adapt to the changing demands of the users. With the worldwide population booming, space will become an issue especially in highly-populated cities around the world. Micro-flats and micro-homes are increasingly common in large cities – think China. The average new home size in the UK is already the smallest in Europe (at 76 sq m15) and is expected to get smaller still while it is projected that the tiny homes market will grow by USD 3.33 billion between 2021 and 2025.
The need to preserve space is kicking off a wave of automatically customizable homes. Expect to see more moving motorized panels that allow rooms to be reconfigured at the touch of a button, while in-wall audio-visual equipment and biodynamic lighting could help transform a single-purpose room into a space that can be used for a wide range of activities. Retractable roofs, windows, and walls could bridge indoor and outdoor areas and walls and tables could be turned into interactive touchscreens to save space. As an example of this, Sony is already experimenting with portable projectors that can display touchscreens onto walls, floors, or tables.
Security and the Smart Home
Smart technology relies on multiple systems being linked together via the cloud – something which is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). The number of IoT-linked devices is expected to exceed 25.4 billion by 2030. This exponential growth in connected devices creates enormous vulnerability as it makes it easier for malicious parties to hack into our homes and access sensitive information.
Experts are already anticipating a global shortfall of cybersecurity specialists of up to 1.8 million by 2022. The rise in smart homes will trigger a concurrent rise in the usage of security-related devices. Facial recognition cameras or alarms and drones that patrol a property’s boundaries and feedback real-time information will be a part of this. A host of cybersecurity solutions designed to deter hackers and make data more secure will also be spawned.
The combined VR and AR sectors are expected to be worth $333.16 billion by 2025. Over the coming years, industry watchers believe headsets will become as commonplace as televisions. You may think that headsets are only for games but there are several very useful applications of the technology. Think hyper-realistic remote meetings taking place in VR, or buying a property from a VR tour without ever leaving your home. AR/VR may also affect how homes are repaired and maintained. Another massive area is the ‘open world’ environment VR can create where daily activities are superimposed on a digital overlay. It sounds very sci-fi but this can make it possible to do things like control your home from a headset, get data about anything you’re doing in your interface, see if your train is late, make automatic payments, gauge what temperature your room is, get traffic warnings and route planning information and many things that have not even been thought of yet -especially in the realm of homes.
Why Should You Care?
By 2030, there will be a host of new technologies that we currently do not foresee, and the rate of progress will escalate over the coming years. As investors and business people who want to stay ahead of the curve, it is critical to understand the developments that are set to be the next big thing. If the past is anything to go by (and history is generally a very good teacher), technologies that are in their infancy today are likely to be ubiquitous within a few short years. With the explosion of the world population and concerns about the environment growing every day, homes that are convenient, energy-efficient, maximize the use of space, and fit the purpose of modern living, will become more and more of a necessity. Alongside, will come the need to secure these connected homes from cyber-threats and security concerns. All the technologies mentioned ( and probably others that we have not yet dreamed of) are where the future is at.