Times are changing. Eleven percent of homes worldwide are now considered smart homes, residences where much of the interior can be controlled through Wi-Fi and adjusted to the user’s preferences. In the U.S., that number is at 17 percent and growing. Everything from home security to room temperature can be controlled through internet-enabled devices that can increase energy efficiency and user comfort. Products like Nest have become a ubiquitous part of modern living. The future belongs to the smart home, so it only makes sense to ask what’s coming down the pipeline for the smart home in the short term and beyond.
Home Efficiency and Electrical Usage 2.0
One of the earliest inventions that accelerated the transition from the typical home to a smart home wasn’t even inside the house: the humble meter which tracked electricity usage became the first part of a larger smart home revolution with the advent of the smart meter: electrical meters capable of transmitting information back to the electric company for more accurate and near instant readings. As time went on, the value of the smart meter increased, and in many areas, alternate types of billing such as prepaid billing became increasingly popular due to better energy usage tracking.
These meters opened up a door to helping identify problem energy usage, and eventually other items, such as thermostats, were designed to correspondingly track and reduce needless energy consumption. Eventually, this mix of increased user control over appliances versus energy efficiency expanded to virtually every appliance in the home.
Smartphones, Wearables, Adjusting Based on Your Heartbeat
According to Home Exterior Systems, smart homes today can be always controlled at appliance access points, but their strong sell is of course their remote use via Smartphone: when coming in from cold weather outside, it’s an added convenience (and an energy saver) to turn your heat on remotely shortly before you get home, as opposed to either leaving the heating off or on all day. Yet with the coming of smart wearables, even more is possible than ever before. Besides adjustments that can be made now, apps are coming that will allow homes and rooms to adjust based on the “stamp” left by a person’s heartbeat. Other future applications include giving your Smartphone the ability to track individual appliance usage just by pointing the phone at the appliance’s power cord and clicking, allowing you to measure your appliances’ energy usage in real time.
Increased Company Access To User Data: Is Comfort Worth It?
Meanwhile, some are starting to wonder if the convenience is worth the trade-off of giving so much information to utilities and private companies, which have access to user preferences. Privacy groups are concerned that having so much access to user information opens up users’ private lives to both unwelcome scrutiny and data breaches. Many are concerned about the level of security being used in smart devices that could make homeowners vulnerable to hackers. Especially in cases where such companies have full user preference integration with other devices, such as those with iOS HomeKit, there is a huge risk that the massive amounts of user data can be compromised. All agree that the solution is putting the greater level of information in the user’s hands.