Until recently, the very idea of ‘smart’ products seemed almost alien to us, a concept that perhaps wouldn’t be possible for decades, if then. However, since the launch of the first Apple iPhone in 2007, the smartphone has become the mainstream, and there are now tons of smartphone manufacturers competing on the market.
Every year there are newer, upgraded smartphones available with many more features available than before. As a society we’re encouraged to replace our phones much more regularly than we need to in order to access newer, more convenient features and apps.
Of course, this development in technology makes tasks much easier and much quicker, with almost everything being accessible at the touch of a button. You can instantly take photos or videos and share them across the world via the internet, and you can find out anything you need to know instantly within seconds.
Some argue that while this level of accessibility is undeniably convenient, it’s making humanity become much lazier, lacking the ability to even think for ourselves without relying on a gadget or a robot, at least in Westernised cultures. However, you can’t deny that once you’re given access to smart technology, it’s hard to go back.
So, we’re all used to the smartphone industry and being able to connect our phones to the internet easily, and sync any online accounts we have with our mobiles. This concept in mainstream, and has only taken several years to become the norm.
Gradually, over the past few years, newer innovations have developed to move up and manufacture other everyday objects with ‘smart technology’ which can be connected to the internet and smartphones so that we can access them from our screens.
The app store is developing more and more apps that can connect to more modern, smart household appliances, meaning that you could brew a cup of coffee from upstairs, just by tapping a button on your mobile that syncs with your coffee machine.
How can our homes becoming ‘smart homes’?
After the invention of smart phones and smart technology which allows us to link our phones with the internet and online accounts, it didn’t take long for household appliance manufacturers to jump on board and use similar ideas to develop their products further.
This can and has been achieved, although building smart homes/appliances, or at least making them common, is still a work in progress. However, the way in which this innovation could become successful is through ‘the internet of things’, a phrase referring to everyday inanimate objects being given an identity, and connecting them to the internet so that you can control them from your laptop, PC, mobile phone or tablet, or any other smart products you may own. There are several companies that are working on developing this idea, including ‘Evrythng’ who have devised a business plan which can connect everyday objects to the internet.
The idea is that smart appliances will have access to the internet, and will be able to be controlled through apps. The smart appliance will essentially then use this to help fix itself or arrange for it to be repaired, set reminders for its owners, set its own timers, record data and usage, and generally work to the best of its ability.
By integrating the household appliance’s smart technology and the owner’s usage, the objects will subsequently become personalised, so that they won’t only save time and effort, but they can also help to cut down unnecessary energy usage and, perhaps in the long-term, money from bills.
What smart home trends and innovations are being made?
Smart homes are already becoming a thing, and manufacturers have already created appliances that can connect to the internet, and can be controlled via an app.
Perhaps the most common smart object is the thermostat. Some say that a lot of standard thermostats aren’t programmed properly, which can waste around $172 each year. However, smart thermostats can be controlled through your phone, and they learn the user’s preferences quickly by monitoring how you use it. While they’re slightly more expensive than the average thermostat, they’re said to save around 20% on heating and cooling bills.
Another popular smart trend is advanced security systems. Sure, most people know about setting up CCTV cameras, but smart security equipment allows users to monitor their cameras on the go immediately, whether it’s on their laptop or PC screen, or through their mobile phones. This saves a lot of time and can be much more effective than having to wait and watch any footage later.
Furthermore, you can buy smart kettles and coffee machines that can be connected to another smart device through an app. This means that you can brew a cup of coffee from the comfort of your own bed, saving time and effort, and just generally being more convenient.
Smart vacuum cleaners are another smart innovation. Is vacuuming the house a chore you hate, and just wish you could get a robot to do all the dirty work for you? Well, that wish may just be granted, as new technology allows a compact robot-style gadget to clean floors around your house, and can be controlled from your smartphone. They contain cameras and sensors so they can map your house and memorise the route, navigating their way round until everywhere is vacuumed, saving you a lot of time and effort.
A lot of larger household appliances are also becoming ‘smart’. You can buy smart ovens that tackles and syncs more complicated recipes and is more time-efficient, and slow-roasters that can cook your dinner while you’re at work.
Smart dishwashers and washing machines can monitor your wash cycles over time, and can connect to the internet to calculate your water and energy usage and subsequently advise you on how to be more efficient to save time, energy and even money over time.
Even refrigerators are becoming smart, and can collect data and memorise your grocery buying patterns. They can then use this information to alert and notify you if you’re running low on anything, and you can even personalise it to create a food order for you.
Are smart homes becoming mainstream?
The advanced technology used in smart technology appliances, and the time-saving features that are available are enough to persuade anybody to want to own at least one.
The vast majority of people now own smartphones, and lots of people own other smart objects like tablets or smartwatches, and most people have access to the internet through laptops or PCs. This means that most people would be able to use smart appliances and would have at least one compatible device that can connect to it.
However, smart homes aren’t exactly mainstream yet, and although the technology is there, and they’re clearly very appealing and would be convenient for many people, they’re just not commonly found in the standard household.
Appliances fitted with smart technology are generally found in very modern, contemporary homes, and are often owned by people who want to spend more on their household.
There are various reasons why smart homes may not be very mainstream just yet, which is discussed below, as well as suggestions on how companies and manufacturers can make their products more mainstream.
What may be preventing smart homes from becoming popular, and how can this be solved?
Perhaps the biggest issue when it comes to smart homes and smart appliances is the price tag that is attached. Not many people are as willing to spend such extortionate amounts on their household products, especially when they already own a more basic version.
However, a lot of smart products claim to save money in the long-run, which may mean that – over a few years – you could end up paying the same, or even less. The reason smartphones are mainstream is because most people pay for them through a monthly contract, whereas most appliances are bought with a one-off payment. A lot of brands and retailers, however, offer pay monthly deals to make the price seem a little less.
Some people are unaware that these products exist. Smart objects are a very new concept, and they’re still developing and breaking into the mainstream market. Also, some people are put off by smart products because they’re intimidated by the complexity of the gadgets. If you have a whole smart home equipped with numerous smart appliances, you might end up having a different app to control each, which could become confusing and cluttered.
A solution may be to develop just one app that can be used to control a number of different products, and this may be an innovation being developed by companies such as ‘Evrythng’.
A lot of people also worry about security risks associated with smart homes. With many scandals regarding hacking, leaking and other cyber-crimes dominating the news, people are afraid to allow technology to get so personal. If companies were to include strict policies and inform customers on their privacy rights, customers may be more inclined to purchase smart products.
While smart homes may not be incredibly mainstream right now, that isn’t to say they never will be. With the constant upgrades in household appliances, and the amount of manufacturers that are producing smart products, they seem to be slowly but surely becoming common.
Perhaps one day it will be the norm to have a home fitted with appliances fitted with smart technology. After all, before smartphones were the norm, the very concept seemed unbelievable, and we may not have imagined them to be products that everybody owned. However, over just a few years, they became mainstream with newer features developing every year, and this may also happen to smart homes in the near future.