Smarter homes, sustainability and better lifestyles
The home of the future is already here. Or so it seems. Ten years ago, who could have imagined programming a central heating system using a smartphone, receiving oral health advice from an electric toothbrush, or a refrigerator that monitors food stocks and re-orders automatically? These innovations are all now a reality, but upcoming developments are bound to take things a lot further than what the Internet of Things (IoT) has been able to offer.
So-called ‘smart’ devices have delivered plenty of ‘wow’ factor, bringing greater flexibility and convenience to their users, but can they really be considered ‘smart’? While most of them operate via a smartphone, they rarely connect with one another in the home or with wider networks beyond the four walls. Greater integration and connectivity are the key trends that will really change homes and lifestyles in the 21st century.
Integrated and connected
This may sound a bit vague, and in many ways it is… for now, at least. However, the 5G mobile phone networks currently in development won’t just revolutionise content and entertainment on mobile devices – they’ll bring connectivity to just about every aspect of life in the home.
The projection is that up to 100 devices per square metre will be able to connect at speeds of up to 1.4Gbps. In cities, broadband routers might soon be a thing of the past. Everything will be connected via 5G.Automation, already a global trend in manufacturing, will step into the home. For example, when an air purifier senses more dust than normal it will be able to automatically activate a robotic vacuum cleaner to do some cleaning. Voice-control systems like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri will spread from smart speakers and tablets to security systems, climate and lighting control, and more. Artificial intelligence will help people do a lot more than find music similar to their existing tastes.
Imagine a smart meter that doesn’t just indicate how much energy is being consumed, but switches the home to a cheaper supplier when a better deal comes up.
Healthier people, healthier homes
One of the areas that will benefit most from connectivity, integration and artificial intelligence is health and wellbeing. Wearable and room-based sensors will be installed to monitor a variety of conditions, helping healthcare providers to prevent serious problems from arising. These systems could cue remote appointments with specialists, order prescriptions and monitor the taking of medicine and dosages.
Similarly, nano sensors will be installed to monitor the health of the home itself. A drip will be detected before it turns into a burst pipe, and before any real damage occurs. The system will remotely notify a home emergency service so that someone’s there to fix any problems before consumers are aware of them. With systems like this in place, perhaps the homeowner insurance premiums will fall.
Sustainable homes and cities
With energy providers constantly monitoring consumption they’ll be able to allocate resources accordingly, taking into account climatic conditions, for a more efficient grid. Many new office buildings are now able to generate their own energy and regulate its use, and this concept is likely to extend to home construction at a greater scale.
Homeowners with solar panels already sell any surplus back to the grid and as more efficient homes capable of generating their own energy are built fewer people will have to rely on the big energy companies. Domestically generated wind energy could enter the mix alongside solar if designs like O Wind, which won the 2018 Dyson Design Award, are developed into viable generators.
Designing net zero homes
The way homes are constructed will also evolve with a similar focus on efficiency and sustainability. Net zero – the concept of a building that consumes zero net carbon over the course of a year – is at the cutting edge of thinking in architectural design. There are already examples of net zero office buildings around the world and some developers are now using the same principles in housing.Better insulation, the use of natural light and sustainable materials, and more efficient construction techniques are drastically changing the way homes will look.Rather than laying heavy concrete foundations, transporting all the building materials to the site and then building a house brick by brick, walls, floors and roofs can be assembled in factories. The process is quicker, safer, never subject to the elements and more efficient all round.
Technology, décor and wood floors
The first 5G networks will be rolled out in 2020, so imagine the scenario in five or 10 years’ time. A homebuyer will be able to specify all the options for their modular net zero, from the skylights down to engineered wood flooring and energy efficient underfloor heating. They’ll take a virtual reality (VR) tour of their new home, tweaking the fixtures and fittings to their exact taste, trying out various different floor and wall colours for a perfectly matching scheme. Soon their flat-packed home will arrive to be erected on light foundations and connected to electric, water and sewerage.
Then it will be switched on, generating its own energy, its internal climate monitored and regulated for warmth and comfort. The house will keep its owner informed of its status, have things fixed before they go wrong, and link into wider networks across the smart town or city it is a part of.