The ever-evolving Internet of Things (IoT) is, in many ways, becoming more familiar as people adopt technologies in a connected world, from wearables that monitor health to entire systems that monitor homes. The transition is still coming with a few surprises though, as one recent online discussion about smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo has demonstrated. No one’s ever had to figure out before what kind of etiquette is needed if – as was the case – someone brings the IoT-linked devices home to spaces shared with roommates or family members who see them as uncomfortably intrusive.
“Alexa, why don’t my roommates like you?” sparked a robust debate about in-home IoT that’s changing the ways we live. So has a folder full of conversations about how to co-parent your child alongside the smart devices at home – some kids have never known a different life – or how Alexa is influencing the children’s manners, turning them into imperious little monsters and changing how they’re brought up.
What these examples show is that the changes IoT brings to our homes aren’t simply a matter of loading a new app for more functionality, because they mean seismic lifestyle shifts. That’s true for the housing industry too, which is beginning to see IoT as the norm. Here are five housing trends to look for in 2018:
Devices do more
As the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off in Las Vegas, people see a new wave of smart-home devices: climate control, entertainment and security systems, yes, but also appliances and window treatments and irrigation systems. More than 80 million devices went into service in 2016, with 130 million anticipated for 2017 – and in 2018, there’s room for even more things like Cutii, a robot meant to help aging-in-place seniors, beds that prevent snoring, and Wi-Fi connected pillows. The explosion in devices is increasing consumer expectations for the houses they buy and apartments they rent, with a majority of both millennials and retiring boomers saying they’ll pay more for smart home technology.
Given the marketplace, it’s no wonder builders are designing and in some cases retrofitting units with IoT-linked devices. People want seamlessly integrated systems – but that means they want integrated IoT experiences too, and that’s been a weak point in the IoT revolution. Fortunately, more companies and organizations like London-based Hypercat Alliance are working toward universal standardization for developing smart devices, and for extending that simplicity to the consumer. We’re not there yet, but that large-scale approach to smart houses, built in smart neighborhoods in smarter cities, is on the way.
At River Clyde Homes in Scotland, they put the whole neighborhood to the IoT test. The high-rise residential facility was fitted out with new sensors to evaluate heating and cooling, to ensure occupants are getting optimal climate control while avoiding wasted energy – all while guaranteeing that there’s no unintended risk to the elderly or infirm. There are sensors on the windows to warn against the potential for high-rise falls, and they alert staff if a broken restrictor is putting a child in harm’s way. Carbon monoxide sensors send text messages directly to maintenance staff to limit potentially life-threatening exposures, and the smart systems continually monitor elevators, doors, and other elements.
Even water tanks were monitored for temperature, to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, an often-fatal illness many people don’t realize can happen not only in public spaces but in single-family residential homes, too. The new year will bring new tools for family homes, but also – as for the 666 units in this experiment – for apartment buildings, offices, and entire communities. At CES, Bosch is showing off smart electricity mini-grids for office buildings, early flood detection systems, even the Vivitar personal safety app for the trip home.
Small smart homes
While tiny homes may not be for everyone, more sustainable living is – and that generally means smaller and smarter spaces, including cottage or alleyway homes to accommodate elders who want to remain in the community and live safely near family. Kasita, a startup in Austin, TX, has been working on a 352-square-foot house that is wicked smart. A model unit includes 60 smart-home devices that are programmed to talk to each other, thereby avoiding the integration problem from the beginning. What Kasita is doing for the “tiny” home is impressive, and it’s the direction toward which home construction is moving fast.
With all that data, naturally, comes the connection to city services, insurance companies, and related businesses and services that come with owning a house. The increasing level of sophistication in the smart house is exciting, but the real smart-house trend is how it connects to the wider community. The IoT at home – by definition, really – is designed to connect with a much wider world, and that means the parking spaces and bus routes and grocery deliveries and utility providers outside the door. Yes, it’s a new world that’s raising important questions about how we live in it, but that’s precisely because of the connected reality smart devices are creating. As the smart home evolves, it’s defining not only the housing industry but also the neighborhoods and cities that we’re building, and that’s worth watching in 2018.
Tim Bakke is Director of Publishing for ThePlanCollection.com. With more than 30 years of publishing experience in magazines, books, and Web, Tim regularly writes about house plans, home design, new home construction, home remodeling, and achieving your dream home.