Smart home tech

Is Your Home Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?

Food is cooked without touching the stove. Machines control the lighting. Automatic vacuums pull dust bunnies from under the bed. The home itself talks to you, asking what you prefer to listen to that evening.

Ray Bradbury, science fiction author, illustrates this futuristic world in his dystopian short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains.” His descriptions paint a picture that many viewed as simply fiction when he wrote it; however, like many other science fiction stories it is now becoming reality.

Many smart home concepts look remarkably similar to Bradbury’s vision.

Several pieces of smart technology have already made it into high-end homes. Phillips Hue light bulbs, for instance, allow you to customize the lighting in your home through your smart devices. Google’s Nest has the ability to learn what your temperature preferences are and can automatically start heating or cooling your house while you are away or when you are asleep. Nest also integrates other functions such as controlling when the washer and dryer are run to save on energy costs.

However, assimilating these different pieces into a streamlined process often costs a small fortune and gives the user basic controls over a sophisticated system.

Smart Homes Need a Unified Solution

Smart homes have the potential to become truly smart, but they have been stuck at average intelligence for some time because automation systems don’t incorporate all the different products into their network. In other words, Bradbury’s idea that inspired millions of readers is feasible; it simply isn’t efficiently set up.

In Berlin, a company called Airfy is looking to change this with their product Airfy Beacon, which includes sensors to be placed around the home and an app that communicates with the sensors. These tools help to integrate the different smart devices in your home so they can work together. Its whole focus is on making the smart home more “conscious and thoughtful.” They just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign in which they raised around $40,000 to be put towards manufacturing the product.

Who could have imagined a home that consciously thinks about your needs? It’s not just a cute story anymore, it’s coming true. A room lights up before you walk into it and dims or turns off when you leave. Your coffeepot brews your favorite blend while you’re getting ready for work. The dishwasher, washer and dryer, crockpot and anything else you want, runs while you’re gone. The thermostat turns on before you get home so the house is heated or cooled to your liking. Such a home would mitigate energy, water use, heating and air conditioning and other costs that in the past the consumer was unable to control.

Ray Bradbury isn’t the only one who fantasized about such an idea. The cartoon show “The Jetsons,” which originally aired in the early 1960’s, illustrated peoples’ fascination with the concepts of flying cars, robot maids and programmed meals. The second installment of the movie Back to the Future in 1989 further demonstrated what people envisaged the future would look like, showcasing a sort of smart home with instantly microwaved pizza and TV walls.

Our culture is saturated with ideas about what we want our homes, and our lives, to be like. As technology continues to evolve, this idea of a truly smart home is one that that will most likely become just as popular as smart phones, meaning that many companies will probably come out with more affordable options to tailor your home according to your needs and desires.

Though this concept might seem like a merely entertaining topic to talk about over dinner, it actually represents much more than that. It represents a better life. It will save time and money so that we can spend them in ways that matter, that will make a difference to those we care about. Instead of coming home to several loads of laundry, for instance, you would be able to come home to everything cleaned already, allowing you to use that precious time to spend with your loved ones. It will save you money with its ability to conserve energy when you aren’t at home, or even when you are out of the room, enabling you to spend it on those diapers you need for your one-year-old son. Collectively, we will be less of a burden on the planet as we use less energy and contribute fewer chemicals to the atmosphere.

Our futures are, apparently, limited only to our imaginations.

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