"In the kitchen, the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunny side up, sixteen pieces of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk. The bath filled with clear hot water. The dinner dishes manipulated like magic tricks, and in the study a click. In the metal stand opposite the hearth where a fire now blazed up warmly, a cigar popped out, half an inch of soft grey ash on it, smoking, waiting. The beds warmed their hidden circuits, for nights were cool here." Excerpts from Ray Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains (1950).
Sixty-five years ago, Ray Bradbury visualized a smart home. Today, the concept has taken hold and we will see advancements in homes that will make our lives easier. Just as we now see smart cars that can avoid accidents. The vision of a fully programmed and connected home has attracted innovators in the United States and even more so in China. We will see homes where every device is controlled by a hand held device, such as a smart phone, or be fully automatic.
What will your home look like in the near future? Today, our homes are already becoming smart homes with smart thermostats and smart security systems, but we will see homes that become aware of our habits and movements, using information from many connected sensors to transform our life forever.
Let's start in the bedroom. Beds will come with integrated monitoring technology. The bed will inform you how long you were laying down, how much you moved, how deep you slept, your heart rate and breathing patterns. It will also calculate which mattress settings best suit your body type and needs.
Slowly, a soft light imitating the sunrise will brighten the room, followed by a voice urging you to rise and shine as another day begins. At the same time, the room sets the temperature that you prefer when rising.
Totally refreshed, you head to the shower, which will recognize your body mass, and automatically turn on your favorite water temperature. While shaving or applying make-up, a TV screen will automatically appear in the mirror, bringing you up-to-date with the news, weather and traffic conditions.
From the bathroom to the closet, your home will suggest clothing for the day, depending on weather, work or activities scheduled for the day. Your closet will become your butler.
It's always a chore to get the kids to brush properly. So, we will see a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush that will give feedback through a mobile app to let you know if the kids are scrubbing their teeth properly. This toothbrush will let you know if you're pressing too hard, or if you need to work on a certain area as recommended by your dentist.
You won't have to paint the kid's room, at least not one wall, which will be a giant screen, filling the wall and bringing the outdoors in or taking the children on an educational safari. Even if you live in the middle of a major metropolitan area, the kids can watch the waves roll in on a beach as the sun sets, as though they were there.
Off in the distance at a pre-set time, a clock will chime out, "7:00 am, time for breakfast." Entering the kitchen, the smart microwave oven will tell you what to eat, as well as provide the recipe and preparation help. It ties in to your fitness devices and apps to keep your dietary intake balanced, depending upon your activity and body needs.
Meanwhile, smart containers in the refrigerator will know which ingredients are sitting in your fridge, alert you when they're about to spoil, and tell you what you can make for dinner with the existing ingredients. Your kitchen can auto-replenish your groceries by ordering online, saving you a trip to the store.
As you walk through your home, a small device worn around the wrist or integrated into your clothing will authenticate your identity by pairing itself to your specific heartbeat, allowing your home to automatically adjust the lighting, room temperature and play music based on personalized preferences. You will be able to change your choices just by talking, as the entertainment system will recognize your voice. . . "Hal, turn on the TV, channel 10."
Worried about your health? The home computer will monitor your health through tiny, invisible, wireless wearable computing devices.
You will be able to attach a GPS tracker to everything that you own so that you can find that widget no matter where you placed it. That would be great in helping me find my tools.
While away from home, users want to keep an eye on things while they're away, whether that's knowing if there is something wrong or if the kids aren't getting ready for school in time. It's also a popular solution for elderly care and looking in on aging parents.
By using geofencing technology, your house will sense that you're on your way home, and it will get ready for your arrival — the thermostat will warm things up, the garage door will open as you pull up, your smart phone will automatically unlock the door, and your favorite music will start to play when you walk in. If you forget to close the door, your phone will alert you.
The possibilities are endless, but one of the hurdles preventing the smart home industry from taking off is that the average consumer hasn’t yet fully accepted the technology because of a lack of understanding how smart home technology would improve a person's lifestyle. We should see a change as the public is better educated. The United States is usually the leader in technology, but in smart homes, the Chinese are making great strides.
The companies that will lead in this technology are those that develop an entire ecosystem of user experiences, enabling the convergence of an entire array of smart home devices. Chinese electronics companies have built an incredible production advantage over the U.S. because of their engineering, manufacturing and large scale production methods.
Right now, we have a full array of smart devices, but there is no interlocking platform to tie them seamlessly together. Because of China's emphasis on technology, thousands of engineers are graduating each year, allowing Chinese companies to acquire new products at an unparalleled pace. China has a competitive advantage that U.S. manufacturers can't match, because China has an established and superior supply chain. As an example, Chinese companies shipped 100 million TVs from 2012-2014.
One Chinese manufacturer has an assortment of TVs that can connect to all of their consumer products. Chinese companies now have the financial resources, because of their growing middle class, to finance new innovation in the smart home technology.
U.S. companies must address this threat and develop their own platform, integrating our own smart home products. U.S. companies must stay true to the U.S. consumer's experience with adaptation and product satisfaction that delivers an exceptional user experience.
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Len Calderone – Contributing Editor
He also writes short stores that always have a surprise ending. These can be found at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Megalen.