Everything's Connected : The Smart Home

Everything is connected. Or it will be, soon. Not just at work, where a fingerprint sensor at the front door may tell your desktop to power up as you make your way upstairs, but the connections in our home is where the most innovative, and perhaps important connections are taking place.

The connected home has been imagined for well over a hundred years. Late in the 19th century Nikola Tesla toyed with the idea of automation and the plethora of home-appliances in the 1920s began to set the scene for how we’d come to crave time and effort saving innovation in our kitchens. It was the 1990s though that really laid the foundation of the Smart Home as we know it now. The INTEGER MillenniumHouse was a project conceived, mostly by architects, and built in 1998 in Watford in the South of England.Constructed at the Building Research Establishment, a former government body, it was intended as a model for experimentation and education. The house featured innovations in building and design, it had an amount of building intelligence and was created first and foremost as a way of highlighting sustainable construction method.

Andy O’Donoghue, The Gadget Buzz interviews Tony Fadell, Nest Founder

It was rejuvenated in 2013 by the BRE and British Gas and the upgrade included a ‘whole house living system’ that implemented presence sensors to control heating, ventilation, lights and security. New building techniques added a number of solar systems and included smart glass – so some windows provided shade as well as generating electricity by means of a photovoltaic array within the double glazing.

A few years before the INTEGER Millennium House was re-modeled and renamed The Smart Home, an important thing happened in the narrative of the smart or connected home. Nest Labs was founded by Matt Rogers and Tony Fadell bringing together a team of engineers and innovators who would soon after announce the Nest Learning Thermostat. In an industry that perhaps have been dominated by house-hold names like Honeywell and General Electric, a Silicon Valley start-up once again disrupted a traditional industry. Nest’s Learning Thermostat is programmable and learning and via Wi-Fi integrates in to the consumers life with an easy to use app on smart-phones. It optimises heating for comfort and conservation. It’s interesting to note that at the root of the ideals for the INTEGER Millennium House, was the desire for more widespread conservation, with the entire project born out of a Green Energy lecture in 1996.

Connected Home on The 7 O’Clock Show / The Gadget Buzz

Companies like Nest, DLink,Vera focus on one or more of four key areas, security, climate, energy and lighting but it’s the integration of devices from various manufacturers and the ecosystem for the home that promises most. The ‘Works with Nest’ program allows your Nest thermostat to be activated by a smart door lock by Kevo and the lock knows who’s who and the Nest sets the temperature based on who’s home. Your car can ‘call ahead’ and get the heat on before you’re home or your LG washing machine can be notified by your Nest that you’re away and won’t let your washing soil. Nest use software called Firebase, which were also acquired by Google to make this possible and Nest allows other hardware or software makers to connect to it’s ecosystem.

Right now, this industry is all about automation – turning things on, off and customizing the experience for whoever’s home, but the next step is a big one and will likelybring us homes that are more conscious, of our health and well-being. We’ll see homes that begin to use the analysis of our days, habits and health to create better living experiences, but we’ll also see global ‘big’ data used to help predict macro details for the home like the best temperature for a sixty year old resident during June, who lives at 1,000 feet above sea level. Our digital world is full of useful, but often unused data. Companies like Apple and Google can collect and analyse this data in an increasingly efficient way and with this data smart-home firms will not only be saving us from repetitive switch-flicking but our homes will be doing some of the thinking for us, helping us to focus on life as the technology focuses on improving the quality of that life.

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