We've all got a lot of smart tech sitting in our pockets, but what about around the house? Here we reveal the products set to take on all the jobs you hate.
Know about the latest trend in tech? While our smartphones grow ever smarter, the tech around them is quickly catching up – most notably the appliances in our homes. But when everything around the house becomes more connected, what new powers will each bit of kit unlock? And how will they make our lives easier?
To find out, we’ve been speaking to Vodafone’s innovations expert Patrick Harrison-Harvey. He’s seen the future, so he knows what your house will look like in 2016 and beyond…
Appliances speaking the same language
“A lot of tech companies want to learn more about you through collecting data,” says Patrick. “Smart devices in the home like the Amazon Echo can learn a lot by just sitting in your house, and eventually these devices will be able to tell who it is that’s talking, and know different people’s routines based on patterns of movement or sounds.”
Inanimate things collecting data from your movements might sound scary, but it’s actually really exciting. Patrick explains that when your tech knows more about you, the more it can do for you. And that’s what the ‘Internet of Things’ concept is all about…
“The Internet of Things is really competitive at the moment,” he tells us. “You’ve got things like Dropcam video monitors, Google’s Nest products and more recently the Revolv, which is a hub for everything in your home. Because all of these devices speak in different wireless protocols and languages, there’s becoming a need for a central device that can speak to all of your different devices.”
“So the idea with products like Revolv is that you have one app that controls the hub, and then the hub controls all your other connected products. That’s rather than the experience at the moment which is where you go into the thermostat app to do the temperature, and then the light app to activate your smart bulbs, etc. What we want is one really nicely designed, intuitive app that does it all. And that’s what things like the Amazon Echo project could turn into – in future it could be a voice activated system for the home.”
Patrick’s not just speculating here – he’s deeply ingrained in the ‘connected home’ way of life, so he knows what works, what still needs improving, and what’s coming next:
“So far in my connected home I’ve got Nest thermostat and smoke detectors, I’ve got Sonos for music, some Belkin WeMo switches and smart lighting in every room, but none of them are talking to each other. But I can use a third party service like ‘If This Then That’ to link them together, or to set rules and buttons on my smartwatch. I can create a button on my Android Wear watch to turn on the lights at home, or turn on the kettle. But theoretically, with a centralised hub, you could also link information from your fitness tracker – if it knows when you get out of bed, it will turn the kettle at the right time.”
Safe, secure and always learning
“That connected experience is coming,” Patrick says. He explains that these hubs will become more commonplace over the next year or so, and that they’ll soon connect to even more devices and sensors. All of which means that your home will become a much easier place to look after, be more secure, and do some of the jobs you hate doing yourself. In short, the home will be a smart device in and of itself…
“Revolv’s offering has sensors that tell you when things like cupboards and windows have been opened,” he reveals, “and sensors that detect moisture, so you can be alerted about leaks before they become a big problem.”
“No one’s won this race yet, and there’s no one standard for the tech, so you currently need something like these hubs that connect to everything.”
“No one’s won this race yet, and there’s no one standard for the tech, so you currently need something like these hubs that connect to everything. There’s a market out there for something to become the standard, and each of the companies involved want to build out their own ecosystems and make sure you have more of their products than anyone elses. And if the same company that makes your mobile devices makes your home appliances, the smartphones or tablet could very well become the hub for your home – it could be the hub that talks to everything.”
And that makes sense, because a lot of what’s coming next in this field will use location to make things even smarter:
“Samsung bought a company called SmartThings, which builds a hub with various other accessories, including a fob that you would put on your keys or pet collar that would help you find it using a location-based app.”
“Location is a big part of this story,” Patrick adds. “At the moment I can set up the smart lighting in my home to turn on when I come home and turn off when I leave for work. That’s great, but I can only set that up for me. It hasn’t got the logic of a family, which means that if I leave the house I’ll plunge my other half into darkness. So you need that second rule – the one that says that the lights should only turn off if everyone leaves the house. Ideally you would want a system that looks for these location-based fobs – which could be built into your phone – and only act if they’re all gone.
Only time will tell as to where it leads, but Patrick is convinced that the connected home’s evolution is only going to speed up:
“All the major players – Google, Apple, Samsung and others – are tooling themselves up with this stuff to futureproof their ‘smart home’ offerings,” he says in closing. “It’s the next untapped market, and it’s about to get a lot bigger.”
More futurology… Care to see what tomorrow’s smartwatches will look like? Check out our look into the future of wearables here.