31.10.17

Future technology trends for the home

smart home diagram over image representing IoT devices in the home

Peter Aylett casts an eye over the future tech trends on the horizon for the residential industry.

In the CEDIA Technology Council’s view, one core area of interest is sensors everywhere. So what does that mean and how will that impact the home integration business? Well, it’s all about the increasing number of sensors, both on our person and all around us, in the built environment. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), the modern home is seeing an exponential increase — from video sensing and the new science of audio analytics, to sensors embedded in fabric that measure our bio data and further to simple sensors that monitor temperature, water leaks, and occupancy. This breadth of sensing devices will lead to a world where, ultimately, the best user interface will be no user interface.

Predictive algorithms and machine learning are enabling this trend. Technology can predict our next move before we’ve even stopped to think about it. Based on sensors’ data capture, predictive analytics are analysing our spending patterns and likes and dislikes, as well as suggesting our next ‘friend’ on Facebook. In the smart home, this will evolve from mere automation to proactive assistance.

Lighting guides the way

Another important category to look for is lighting control, which is already a big driver that will only continue to grow in importance for our industry. From sleep habits and productivity to mental functions and general wellbeing, lighting is crucial to human development, so it’s no surprise that lighting is becoming more than just a flick of a switch.

Bio-adaptive lighting combines natural and artificial light to meet the needs of our body’s circadian rhythm. An example is changing the colour temperature of artificial light sources to ease you into sleep, or gently wake you in the morning. Or a light source brightens across a certain portion of the visible spectrum to assist eyesight. Moving beyond simple white bulbs, these systems are bound to mature and become the standard in home.

Speaking of light bulbs, connected luminaires will communicate with other devices and people in a building or city. With o-board electronics that allow them to integrate with data networks, a luminaire becomes much more than a light source, with technologies such as LiFi, serving as a means for collecting and distributing data and services.

The emergence of 5G

Data development will continue to drive innovation at a pace never seen before. The 5G network forms part of this expansion, as mobile high bandwidth connections make everything virtualised or stored on the cloud. It is conceivable that for many applications, 5G could replace a fixed internet connection with IPv6 driving the possible end of the LAN. You will soon be able to download movies in seconds, and interconnect different devices in the home, office, and on the move. This will lead to a seamless technology experience wherever you are as your data and operating system moves with you.

“It is conceivable that for many applications, 5G could replace a fixed internet connection with IPv6 driving the possible end of the LAN.”

This moves us to interoperability. There are still numerous devices from multiple suppliers, using different technologies to communicate, but only within their own ecosystem. Imagine a world where all these devices on different ecosystems connect together, reliably. The conversation continues around whether universal standards will ever happen, but for the near future, there is a massive opportunity for technology integrators to make sense of the currently confusing interoperability landscape for clients.

New forms of control expand possibilities

Voice control is becoming the ‘must have’ user interface, ultimately, changing the way we interact with our environment for good. With the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Home making headway, devices such as these are leading artificial intelligence (AI) into the real world with an increasing number of integrations and partnerships. Using the power of cloud-based computing, voice allows you to interact in a way previously not possible. 2017 was the year where voice recognition accuracy reached human parity, and 2018 will witness further developments.

To complement voice control, gesture recognition is an area to watch. Smart technology will interpret your movements, along with voice commands, so if you were to gesture towards a light and say ‘turn that off,’ hey presto, sensors will do the job for you.

“…gesture recognition is an area to watch.”

Intelligent glass will have the capacity to be used as a control interface, entertainment platform, art display, environmental control, and communications screen. In terms of home entertainment, flexible and movable surfaces for TV and video will soon appear in the home. With the ability to adjust its physical shape to the aspect ratio of whatever you’re watching, screens, countertop, walls, and even bathroom tiles become interactive surfaces. Full-wall video will turn any wall into an immersive and interactive experience. Think of a wall-sized iPhone with all your favourite apps built in. These large-scale displays will change the face of architecture and interior design forever, finally bringing the famous architect Le Corbusier’s vision of a house as ‘a machine for living in’ to life.

rendering of man wearing VR headset for gaming in living room of home

Virtual Reality (VR) is another exciting opportunity. As it matures and content is natively developed for a VR platform, it will be integrated into the home. VR taps into education, health consulting, business, and multi-player gaming; and audioscapes and projection mapping allow for mixed reality spaces. These mixed reality rooms will begin to compete with dedicated home cinemas, as clients seek entirely immersive, 360-degree experiences where you can not only hear and see your favourite movie, and engage all your senses at the same time. We’re likely to see a rise in augmented reality too, as digital information overlays aspects of our real-life experiences.

Human-centered design and new assistive technologies will allow for ageing in place and bring individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities the opportunity for much greater independence at home. These technologies will enable individuals to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or even help to manage someone with Alzheimers or dementia by limiting access to anything that could be dangerous. With an increasingly ageing population, we expect to see demand grow in the future into one of the biggest opportunities the industry has ever had.

In this future world, the home technology integrator is more valuable than ever for their knowledge, advice, and integration skills. Be prepared.

 

Peter Aylett is technical director of Archimedia and a member of the CEDIA Technology Council


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