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By Natalie Seaman
23rd February 2017

 

If you are like me you have read the odd article about fancy, smart home technology and clever home automation systems, but where are we at in Australia as far as adapting these new technologies?

At the moment in Australia we can purchase smart home technology to control functions such as lighting, air conditioning, heating and entertainment systems. With one touch of a button on your tablet or smart phone you can dim the lights (or turn them on or off), ensure the internal temperature of your home is optimal, control your television and security system all with one touch of a button on your tablet or smart phone. Widespread access to wireless internet or Wi-Fi has made home automation technology more accessible through a range of home automation hardware, compared to more expensive systems like C-Bus and Dynalite that require wiring throughout the house.

A recent survey by international market research company MarketsandMarkets estimates that global investment in smart home systems will grow from $32.11 billion in 2015 to $78.27 billion by 2022. Even though the big players are yet to arrive on our shores, Australia currently has the highest growth in investment in smart home systems within the Asia Pacific region.

There have been a few hiccups with the technology to date, such as lights that switch off at the wrong time, thermostats that don’t perform as they have been instructed to, and people being locked out of their homes if their mobile phone battery runs flat. Still, we have to start somewhere and this new technology has been around long enough now that we are starting to see more reliable systems at increasingly affordable prices.

 

The next wave

It seems as though our friends in the USA get everything before we do – convicts, Netflix, the latest iPhone, disruptive dictator-like political leaders and the latest fashions. Smart Home technology is no different with two brands of “smart” speakers being released recently – Amazon Alexa and Google Home. They may look like fancy speakers but they are capable of much, much more.

Both systems support many voice apps that not only offer smart home functions but many other voice command functions. You can order a home delivered meal, a coffee to be ready and waiting for you to pick up on your way to work, get the latest news played to you on demand or play the latest episode of your favourite podcast – all via voice command.

Another recent release is the Samsung SmartThings hub which combines home software with the SmartThings family of physical products that includes smart light bulbs, locks, thermostats, cameras, doorbells and more.

Something that is available now in Australia is the latest fridge from Samsung. The new Family Hub Fridge will make your kitchen the envy of your friends with it’s cool new features. The 21 inch touchscreen syncs with your phone so you can display your calendar on your fridge and leave notes and pictures for your friends and family – all from your phone. You know that moment when you are at the shops and can’t remember if you need eggs? Use your smart phone to remotely take a snapshot of the contents of your fridge whilst you are at the shops. In fact, no need to go to the shops at all.  Just enter your shopping list on your fridge’s touchscreen and have the items delivered to your home the next day thanks to Samsung’s ingenious deal with Woolworths.

It’s not only the kitchen undergoing a smart makeover, the bathroom will too. The Hydrao smart showerhead can tell you how much water is being used, allow you to adjust the flow rate, and calculate the energy used for shower.  A smart toothbrush is also on its way. Prophix by Onvi has a video camera and torch aimed directly at your teeth, and can send photo’s directly to your dentist in order to diagnose problem spots earlier. Smart toilets are also available that minimize water usage and clean themselves.

 

Out of this world!

Into the future, surfaces in our homes like walls, ceilings, countertops, and window glass will all be able to act as makeshift computer screens. They will be able to interpret environmental data and take action accordingly. “Smart Glass” is well into development, and is able to gauge external and interior temperatures and respond by reducing glare or increasing air flow through the glass. Solar energy developers have developed glass with small solar cells which could transform household windows into energy production centers.

Imagine a home where smart windows not only predict a hot spell but adjust the window settings to keep the heat out, send a signal to the air conditioner to ramp up and send a message to occupants to wear appropriate clothing and drink lots of water.

Biometric uses are also flagged with homes of the future potentially being able to track changes in blood composition which will help occupants keep track of medications, automatically alerting emergency services if anything goes wrong.

Our cars will not be immune from the march towards smart technology. We are already seeing the driverless car revolution develop before our eyes. Soon we will be able to program our car’s GPS from inside the house and use voice command to start the car. Other advances such as biometric technology are estimated to be ready for mainstream use by 2022 and include driver identification methods such as facial recognition using a camera. An infrared ray will take the temperature of the drivers face, and a sensor in the seat will measure the driver’s heart rate. Using this information it can allow the driver to start the car, and set music, seat location, dashboard display and temperature preferences. Constant body temperature and heart rate monitoring allow the car to detect if the driver becomes ill and to divert the car to the side of the road in case of an emergency.

With so many possibilities, the homes (and cars) of the future will not only be comfortable but life changing as well. Are you currently using smart technology in your home and have some tips for the rest of us? Leave a comment below.