In the 1960s futuristic, animated TV show The Jetsons, homemaker Jane Jetson and the family robot, Rosie, enjoy numerous push-button, Space Age-envisioned conveniences to run the household. In the first episode of season one, Jane serves up breakfast for her 6-year-old son, Elroy, by pressing buttons on a kiosk-like device, ordering cereal, milk, and eggs. Once the breakfast order is placed, the food surfaces from a hole in the kitchen table and Elroy dives right in. Meanwhile, Rosie the Robot activates elaborate contraptions and out-of-this-world devices for cleaning, doing laundry, and ironing.
Today, the Jetsons world of smart home technology seems closer to reality than 1960s science fiction. While Rosie the Robot isn’t a fixture in anybody’s home, Roomba robot vacuums by Bedford-based iRobot have become a popular household device for navigating clutter and keeping floors clean.
Wireless lighting is also on the rise, with technology like smart lighting control systems by Cambridge-based Lutron Electronics allowing occupants to control dimmers and window shades remotely from a smartphone or tablet, and create different moods—relaxing, bright, entertaining—throughout the house.
Like the Jetsons, today’s families are familiar with using voice interfaces and handheld devices/apps to control everything in their home from the security system to the entertainment system to heat and air conditioning, and more.
The Boom Is Just Getting Started
Personalization: The future of smart home tech
Anyone who has recently visited their local consumer electronics retailers knows that the market for smart home technology is booming and moving well beyond voice-activated devices such as Amazon Echo or Google home devices. Indeed, a recent report estimated that the global smart home market will grow to $53 billion by 2022 (from $24 billion in 2016).
The proliferation and variety of smart home devices is giving people more control, cost savings (especially around energy consumption), remote access, and enhanced peace of mind. The technology is also changing the way new homes get designed, as architects and developers meet market demands by integrating smart home technology into new designs and residential developments.
Sotirios Kotsopoulos, a researcher at the MIT Design Lab, who has completed multiple projects to integrate smart home has been quoted in The Boston Globe that:
“The greatest economic impact will be in chore automation,” Kotsopoulos says, “which can cut an estimated 100 hours of labor per year for the typical household.”
The next-largest impact, he notes, would come from energy management followed by security. As for the overall impact in dollars, Kotsopoulos, who holds a Ph.D. in Design and Computation from MIT, cites a report from global consultants McKinsey and Company that says the economic impact of smart home technology will grow to $200 to 350 billion per year in 2025.
Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are even enabling devices and smart home systems to personalize settings for occupants across scenarios without human input.
“The smart home is gradually developing into a form of an artificial intelligence service that operates in an autonomous manner, by self-understanding [learning] the behaviors of the residents and servicing them without the need for explicit input,” Kotsopoulos says.
Imagine coming home from work, entering your front door, and hearing the soothing strains of your favorite James Taylor tune — all because your “caring” home was tracking your patterns from a wearable fitbit-type device, sensed you’d had a rough week and needed a calming atmosphere, and pulled a song from your curated James Taylor playlist via your AI-enabled home entertainment system.
This sort of smart, personalized home platform could be the norm before we know it, combining various technologies such as computer vision, object and facial recognition, machine learning, algorithms, wearables/sensors, and (of course) robust system and data security.
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