For years, people have been talking about so-called ‘Smart Homes’ that will transform live as we know it and forever alter the way we go about our daily lives. Both fiction and speculative science have been replete with visions of the dwellings of the future, from the fantastical to the more mundane. But the days of waiting are finally over, and the first pieces of ‘smart home’ technology are starting to reach the market. Primarily, these are technologies aimed at introducing advanced automation, wireless connectivity, and self-regulation into our households, and while the gizmos we see as ‘smart’ today may not be quite on the level of the ‘flying car’ dreams of yesteryear, they are nonetheless major innovations, and could very well herald a new generation of sustainability. Here’s a look at the current state of sustainable ‘Smart Home’ technology:
A New Era of Integration
With housing markets slowing around the world, developers are looking for ways to help new homes compete with the rising number used houses on the market. Like so many other sectors, they are turning to technology for the solution. We can expect to see affordable mid-range houses being outfitted with a completely integrated system of fiber optic cables, HD video connections, and interconnected electrical wiring––all of which can be accessed via a cloud-based system or traditional wi-fi. In the next few years, new homes will come outfitted with systems for remotely controlling lights, adjusting temperature, locking doors, and sending security alerts to smartphones.
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These high-tech energy savers are already on the market, and can be picked up for around $150. The Nest Learning Thermostat from Nest Labs uses cloud computing and a series of delicate sensors to efficiently heat homes. It learns your habits, preferences, and schedule, while taking into account current weather conditions to heat your home with the smallest amount of energy possible. These amazing devices can save you a lot of money, as well as being much kinder to the environment.
It seems the Smart Home revolution is more likely to be a Smart Appliance revolution. LG recently unveiled their so-called Smart Washing Machine, which launches later this year. It connects to a digital energy grid (soon to be debuted by various electric companies) to automatically operate during non-peak hours. It also connects to the web to self-diagnose and troubleshoot errors, uses less water, and requires shorter cycles.
A company called GreenPlug is now selling power outlets designed to shut off when the device being charged through them reaches full battery. This reduces ‘ghost drain,’ prolongs battery life in handheld devices, and could cut a huge chunk out of your annual energy bills.
A Brilliant Solution
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For those who’d rather stick with their old, un-integrated home, Carnes Audio sells and installs LED lights than can be controlled via mobile app. Costing about $115 per switch, these energy efficient lights will allow homeowners to switch lights on and off during vacation without needing to leave a bulb lit the whole time they are gone.
AirRenew released a new type of gypsum board last year that filters and actively removes harmful compounds from the air for up to 75 years. Expect to see more big innovations in building materials like this as the years wear on.
Interestingly, many car companies are also beginning to hop on the Smart Home bandwagon. The future––the near future, anyway––of Smart Homes is integration with the aim of sustainability. The more our technologies work together, the more efficient they become. Many automobile manufactures envision opening the garage door, unlocking the front door, switching on the thermostat, and turning on the lights while pulling into the driveway. We may soon get dashboard alerts when we leave for work without switching off the hall light or turning down the thermostat. It may be a long time yet before we get those flying cars people have been talking about since the start of the century, but full integration between your gadgets and your home is already well underway, and it’s not likely to abate any time soon.