future of smart homes
Predictions of how we will live in the future are always destined to be somewhat hit and miss… We’ve been expecting flying cars for quite some time. Sadly, aside from a few companies like Terrafugia, this is some distance from a daily reality yet. George Orwell’s dystopia of 1984 may have taken longer than predicted to kick in but our society today has many elements the British author foresaw, the overarching theme of Big Brother always watching us in particular. So, you win some and you lose some every time you get into the business of predicting the future.

How about future smart homes, though?

Well, as far back as the 1960s, old movies were predicting robotic vacuums, now absolutely mainstream. The same movies showed smart blinds, intelligent lighting, virtual reality headsets, and many other staples of the 2018 smart home. Much more recently, the Scandinavian giant Ikea produced a catalog of the near future. You can download a copy right here. (And it really is free. If you click through, you won’t be compelled to enter any credit card details when you go through the mock shopping cart.) Fast-forward 3 years – this catalog was only published in 2015 – and you’ll see a smart home very much like any connected home in 2018. Today, we’ll take a look at smart homes of the future but grounded firmly in what’s actually likely to happen rather than throwing out completely random suggestions. We’ll start off with an extension of what’s already in place with the Internet of Things and explore how this interoperability is set to evolve in the near future…

Complete Connectivity with the Internet of Things: 2020 and Beyond

Gartner, the leading global research firm, has projected fully 20 billion connected Internet of Things units by the year 2020, with well over half of those objects being residential rather than commercial. If this comes to pass, it will represent more than double the 5 billion consumer IoT units in circulation last year and a sharp increase on 2018’s 7 billion connected objects. Samsung, a major player in the domotics field, has continued to consolidate its promise to make all its smart products fully IoT-enabled by 2020. The next step is for the inevitable follow-my-leader with competitors keen not to be left behind in the race. While it might seem like the IoT is an unstoppable force, what remains to be seen is whether any breakdowns in security will render this remarkable set-up sustainable long-term. As with all glimpses into the future, there’s really no way of knowing until we get there.

The Evolution of Digital Assistants: Up Close and Personal

Back in 2013 – an aeon in terms of smart technology – Spike Jonze’s seminal movie Her shows the lead character developing a romantic relationship with his digital assistant as he goes through a painful divorce in real life. Now, the days of fully intelligent virtual butlers are likely some way off, but both Google and Amazon are openly stating that Assistant and Alexa will start interacting with a lot more emotion. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine your trusty AI will start picking up on your mood through your tone of voice. If you sound stressed or angry, perhaps Alexa will intuit that from the way you bark out your voice command. Maybe she’ll act with a little more urgency. As with any advance like this, the immediate suspicion is that the companies behind these developments might have their own interests rather higher than yours on the agenda. After all, the chance to build systematic emotional profiles of your customers could be used pretty powerfully when it comes to targeted advertising. Gartner talk here about this mining of personal and emotional data along with offering up their own predictions about the sharp upswing in the intelligence of digital assistants in the coming years.

Robots For More Than Vacuuming and Cleaning The Pool

Once purely the stuff of science fiction, many of you will already have robots in your home. And no, we’re not talking R2-D2 quite yet, but robot vacuums and pool cleaning robots are completely commonplace. How, then, are robots likely to really evolve as we edge towards the 2020s? The International Federation of Robotics predicts that 3 million industrial robots will be in use within the next year, more than triple the number in existence a bare decade ago. While the kneejerk reaction centers on job losses, AI is also capable of creating jobs at an even greater rate. How will these robots make it into the home from the workplace, though? As robotics and AI surge forward at enormous speed, companion robots are already beginning to take shape. The smart home of the future could see you with a physical helper in the home helping you with all those tedious chores like folding laundry and even keeping you company. Maybe robots will be used in some capacity for childcare or simply staving off loneliness. Security is another area in which robots might easily come to the fore. Home security systems are all well and good, but how much safer would you feel with a no-nonsense 8-foot robot guarding your house? Robots could very well become guard dogs of the future! Imagination is your only limitation when you’re pondering the future of robots in smart homes, but the above use cases are not only realistic but also liable to become the norm in a relatively short space of time.

More Automation in The Kitchen

Imagine you’re relaxing with a good book and a cocktail on the beach as your vacation draws to a close… You’re looking forward to getting home but you suddenly forget whether you went grocery shopping before you left. A FridgeCam – and these are actually already coming fully to market – will make monitoring your provisions remotely a breeze. Smart fridges will also send instructions to your oven – LG are already on the case in this regard – while they’ll also slash wastage by pinging alerts to your smartphone when ingredients are approaching their expiry dates. Smart ovens and smart grills are both about to get even more intelligent while Moley Robotics, winner of Best of The Best at CES 2015, is pushing the envelope with robotic kitchens that will soon start becoming more mainstream. Forget food delivery services, robotic personal chefs could remove the mundane side of cookery sooner than you expect. All that remains to see is how much they’ll cost.

Kiss Goodbye To Endlessly Charging Your Phone

Whether you’re an Apple fanboy or a dyed-in-the-wool Android aficionado, you’ll be only too aware of the feeling of almost permanently needing to give your phone a burst of charge. You’re likely sick and tired of running out of juice just when you need that Uber. How might this change in smart homes of the future? Solar technology and nanotechnology are paving the way for your clothes to harness the sun’s energy so it’s not at all out the question you’ll be able to charge your iPhone 13 by simply popping it in your pocket. This type of advance and the elimination of that bag of cables everyone now seems to have will be as welcome as other more major advances in smart home technology. After all, convenience underpins home automation and this will soon start dripping down into things like the way you charge up your devices.

Reduced Clutter As Home Theaters Slim Down

Don’t get us wrong, in some ways a home theater filled with bulky kit is a sight to behold and a nice room to enter. Wouldn’t it better though if that hulking great projector could be replaced with something that furls up when not in use? Once again, LG are stealing a march on the competition with a 65-inch rollable OLED TV that paves the way for stealth smart appliances that don’t eat up too much precious real estate in your connected home. Short-throw projectors are also moving from fantasy to reality. Sony have a $30,000 model which is a bit rich for most tastes but prices always ratchet sharply downwards with smart products and these nifty pieces of kit are likely to become affordable and penetrate more smart homes in the next few years. Advances in audio are sure to follow and smart speakers continue to become ever more robust. Home theaters of the future will become increasingly immersive while you’ll see a significant reduction in the clutter of equipment.

The Future of Delivery Services

From self-driving cars bringing you pizza to drone delivery of Amazon packages, futuristic delivery services to your smart home are already in place and set to bounce off in other directions. While keeping your packages safe over the holidays is easily achievable, the future of delivery services will focus far more on getting things to your home more efficiently without demanding much by the way of user input.

Smartened Up Bedrooms

While the living room and even the garden get plenty of traction in today’s connected homes, we feel the bedroom is long overdue a dose of smarts. How might this happen? Well, further development of sleep trackers could help you to monitor just how much sleep you are – or likely aren’t – getting. You can then make use of these key metrics to establish a better routine and live an even more productive, energy-filled life than ever before. Alarm clocks and smart speakers are set to evolve and help you get your day started swimmingly without needing to lift a finger. The introduction of scents would be a wonderful way to replace the regular way of being woken by a shrill alarm and the thought of heading straight down to make your morning espresso. The way you choose your clothing is due an upgrade from the traditional rifling through a crowded closet. Clothing like the Mood Sweater is simply the tip of the iceberg and set to hit the shelves very soon. You can pre-order one right now if you fancy a quick taste of the future as early as 2019. When it comes to clothes shopping, Amazon has already been granted a patent for a mirror that will allow you to try on outfits virtually without even needing to leave your bedroom. Advances in beds will also doubtless come thick and fast as memory foam is seeming quite tired already and new methods of getting that perfect cocoon experience will give you an even deeper and more soothing sleep.

Fewer Clashes of Communication Protocols?

We’ll round out with a more pedestrian but extremely practical glimpse at how smart homes might get even better… Even as we edge toward 2019, one of the key sticking points of smart home devices remains the lack of accepted and universal standards when it comes to communication and interoperability. From X10 of the 70s through to Zigbee and Z-Wave, from Bluetooth to Ethernet, it might be possible to get devices singing from the same hymn sheet but it can be a colossal pain. As we move into the 2020s, we predict that communication protocols will become more standardized without the constant quest to ensure that devices you have on your wish last will sync neatly with those already in place. We’ve certainly got high hopes for this and you, the consumer, will benefit while manufacturers will also gain from more new converts to home automation. The easier things get, the more chance that people with little interest in technology will see the obvious benefits of a user-friendly connected home without the headaches than can blight smart home technology in 2018.

Final Word

We hope you’ve enjoyed this romp through possible smart homes of the future as much as we have. Get in touch if you’ve got any other ideas about how you expect your connected home to evolve as we edge toward the 2020s. And, as always, come back soon. We’ve got a wide array of informative articles on the slate this month and we’re ready to help you make 2019 the year when you smarten up your home even further. Want more? Visit the home automation blog for the latest and greatest pieces on IOT and smart home devices.

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