Does a house that can lock itself, turn on lights and music and help with the cooking seem like science fiction? Think again!
Do you remember those amazing films from your childhood, in which eccentric inventors would wake up in their augmented homes and go through their entire daily routine without having to lift a finger?
From the complicated breakfast-making machine in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Wallace and Gromit’s eponymous Wrong Trousers, pop culture is full of childish wonder at the idea of an intelligent home that makes life simpler. Nowadays, however, the fantasy is rapidly becoming an affordable reality.
Thanks to the internet and a plethora of newly available devices and apps, it’s possible to set up every room in your house with a host of smart appliances, which you can control remotely via your phone and tablet and leave to get on with their jobs.
As the future becomes the present and our homes become increasingly able to take care of themselves, we take a closer look at what a day in the life of a truly connected home might look like - and how you can get ahead of the trend by setting one up!
Gone are the days of a raucous alarm clock rousing you from sleep. Far more natural is the option of waking up to a gently increasing glow of light - your own personal sunrise direct from your own light fitting. Smart lights such as the Phillips Hue and the LIFX allow you to control timings and brightness direct from your smartphone, so you can set a pleasant visual alarm to bring you softly into the real world.
Pulling yourself out of bed is no great feat either, as your smart heating system has already heated the room to an ambient temperature in readiness. A feel-good shower is awaiting your courtesy of the Waterpebble, an eco-friendly device that monitors how much water you use and offers gentle yet effective cues to help you cut down on your shower time.
The party’s not over once you’re squeaky clean, because guess what? Your coffee maker knows exactly what time you like your breakfast, and the delicious smell of roasting beans is already wafting through the house as you enter the kitchen. Machines such as Smarter Coffee allow you to adjust the time, temperature, strength and amount of the black stuff from your phone, ensuring that you’re alert and ready to start the day.
While you sip your coffee and flip through the news headlines, you may find yourself shouting out the name of your favourite song. Have you gone mad? Certainly not. This is simply a cue for Siri, Cortana or Alexa to sort through your music library and find the perfect song to start your day.
These AI systems, made by Apple, Microsoft and Amazon respectively, can tap into your phone, laptop or cloud storage at a spoken command, and broadcast media through smart wifi speakers such as Sonos.
Relax at work
It’s time to head to work now, but there’s no need to worry about the house while you’re out. Everything’s taken care of. From a SmartSense sensor, which instantly sends a notification to your phone if any unexpected movement is detected in your house, to a system that allows you to remotely lock any doors that you may have left on the latch, your home automation network has it covered.
You don’t even have to worry about watering the garden, as an app-enabled sprinkler system will take care of that for you while you’re out, as well as monitoring sunlight, temperature, soil levels and moisture and sending reports to your phone.
Arrive home in comfort
A quick tap of an app on your drive home means that when you pull onto your driveway, the garage door will open, the front door will unlock, the lights in the hall will turn on, and you’ll be greeted with an ideal temperature.
If you’ve left a crock pot on your smart hob, you can even remotely command it to heat your dinner up for you, so you can grab a bowl of delicious soup and flop down in front of the TV at the end of a long day.
Dinner and a movie
If you’re up for some more creative cooking, your connected home can help you with that as well! From smart fridges, which help you find recipes, jot down notes, and let your family know it’s dinner time, to gadgets like the Drop Kitchen Scale which doubles as an interactive recipe book, your kitchen is your new best friend when it comes to putting dinner on the table. Just look out for the foodie fingerprints you’re getting on all your touch screens!
As with your music library, your home network will be able to instantly sift through your own collection of films to find your ideal entertainment. Alternatively, it should be able to tap into Netflix and have the latest episode of your favourite show loaded and ready for you on command.
Once you’re snuggled down under the covers, simply let Siri, Cortana or Alexa know that you’re going to bed, and your home automation network will ensure that the doors are locked, the lights are turned off around the house, and the thermostat is turned down.
Meanwhile, if sleepless children or socially addicted teens are tapping into social media or watching Youtube videos when they should be catching up on sleep, accessories such as the August lock can inform you with a phone notification which room the internet is being accessed from after hours, giving you the option to lock internet access for that room only and ensure that the whole household gets some rest!
So what’s the catch?
There’s no doubt that the so-called Internet of Things will soon be simplifying life in whole new ways, but there are a few things to be ironed out first.
One issue that consumers are caught out by is just how many apps are necessary to control all of the smart gadgets that they buy for their homes. To counter this, developments in smart home platforms such as Apple’s HomeKit and Samsung’s Smart Things have started to offer more centralised systems, letting users control devices all around the house via a single comprehensive app.
Another issue is cost. While the increasing prevalence of IoT technology is driving down prices, investing in an entire smart home setup is still outside many homeowners’ budgets. Fortunately creating a perfectly personalised home is something that can be done gradually, with new gadgets being added whenever budget allows.
Thirdly, the perfect connected home calls for a significantly powerful internet connection. Without a reliable broadband service to keep all systems in check, a smart home can quickly become a stupid one.