Steve Sammartino On The Smart Home
After 18 months of battling lockdowns, you’re probably thrilled to start seeing something other than the four walls of your own home. The COVID crisis will be a long overdue start to influencing changes to the buildings we spend our time in.
Houses & Offices Merge
When we think about the smart home, we obviously think of where we live. But it’s time to open up that scope. As the lines between home and work blur during a Work From Anywhere revolution, houses and offices will start to change shape – or more aptly, start to look like each other.
Offices are starting to look less like cubicle farms with the arrival of lounge spaces, entertainment zones, eating areas – somewhat replicating what we see in boutique hotels. What’s ironic is that this is how things used to be pre-industrialisation. We lived where we worked. Craftsmen had workshops out the back of houses. Bakers lived on top of their shop front. Now that many of us are becoming modern day digital craftspeople, we are going back to that model.
Caves with upgrades
It is valuable to remind ourselves of how we upgraded our ‘caves’ and got to where we are now, by looking at how long some of the current technologies in our homes have been around:
- Letterboxes – Mail services started encouraging their installation in houses for deliveries in the mid-1800s.
- Indoor plumbing – In 1965, 45 per cent of Australians lived in homes which were not connected to a sewerage system. Outdoor showers and wash basins were common well into the post WW2 era.
- Driveways – Only became a standard inclusion fewer than 80 years ago.
- Electricity – Uncommon in suburban homes until the 1930s.
- White goods (electricity needed) – Rare in modern economies until post WWII.
- Televisions – In 1956 in Australia.
- VCRs – Early 1980s.
- Home Computers – Late 1980s.
- Internet – Mid 1990s.
So, what’s coming?
Artificially Intelligent Homes: Talking to the walls used to be reserved for crazy people – I guess we are all crazy now. Automation utilising voice and gesturing will replace traditional interactions and buttons to turn things on, activate electrical appliances and to manage re-ordering of household items. Every electrical and white good will be connected and talk to each other.
Biometric Sensors: Will know who is in the room or house and adapt to their needs accordingly. Simple facial recognition, or finger print data software will be added to switches and cameras so that the house serves the person, pre-emptively.
Houses that Change Shape: Walls will be moveable in most apartments to maximise space usage across different hours of the day, like hotels often do in its meeting spaces. They’ll become modular. Houses of the future will be designed with non-permanent room sizes, allowing us to get more from less. Kitchens and eating spaces will be able to expand and be converted back into lounge rooms or even theatre rooms. These will all be enabled by electricity and require electrical trade insight at the onset, not as an afterthought.
Delivery Boxes Replace Letterboxes: The letterbox is sorely in need of an upgrade. Our houses now are the recipients of packages, not letters. In the future, letterboxes will have three sections: dry, fridge and frozen, so it could take all kinds of deliveries. Letterboxes will likely be as big as a fridge and possibly underground, with a button for the courier to press, so it could rise up to take the delivery. When a delivery arrives, the recipient is notified and can view live video footage, to verify the delivery person’s identity. The delivery unit would be as secure as a safe for delivery of high value items.
Upgraded Home Office and Virtual Reality Room: High-end home offices will be as common as gourmet kitchens. We’ll have virtual reality meeting rooms with travellator floors to make us feel that we are in the same room as someone else on the other side of the world. These video studios will be capable of creating TV quality content. We’ll also use our VR rig, including haptic gloves and suits, to shop online for things we want to touch and experience before purchasing. We’ll also use it to exercise and browse holiday accommodation and experiences, using a treadmill to keep us stationary while we seemingly explore other places.
Smart Toilet: It will become our health partner assessing if we are sick or deficient in nutrients long before we know. In 2020, we saw this occur at a macro level with COVID testing. It will soon enter our homes and we can expect it to be our health partner in life. It will talk to our smart fridge and order the right food to keep us healthy.
Smart Shower: One that takes a photo of you every day… not to invade your privacy, but to ensure it knows you have a dangerous sun spot long before you do.
Glass = Screen: If you’ve always wanted a house with a view, it’s about to become a lot cheaper than anyone expects. All the glass in our homes will become web-enabled screens. The resolution of our windows will be indistinguishable from an actual view into the real world. We could have a beach view, check the weather, or emails while doing the dishes.
Charging Stations in all Driveways: Our driving future is all electric, as is our entire economy. Expect that every place cars stop, we’ll have a charging facility on hand. If they ever stop – I’ll probably send mine out to work for me when I’m not using it.
So, if you are wondering how buildings will change, wonder no more. The exciting part is that this will all lead to more work for the electrical trade, more often. In fact, the electrical industry is about to become the centre piece of the smart home. The technology for most things above already exists, with suppliers keen to work with trades to implement it.
It’s time to think big, and get smart.
This article was originally featured in our quarterly Middy's MAG #35 Oct - Dec '21 Edition. Read Latest Issue