Millennials will likely remember the 1999 Disney Channel classic, Smart House, which tells the tale of a family that moves into a cutting-edge fully-automated home run by maternal AI, Pat. When I first watched this movie, it seemed fantastic and too farfetched to ever be reality. Now, I use voice commands to tell my Xbox to play the latest episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt so I can watch it with a friend via video chat, and I know this world isn’t as implausible as I thought.
While we’re certainly getting closer technologically to complete connectivity, we’re still some years away from it all going mainstream. For the most part, the Internet of Things (IoT) is still largely uncharted territory, with the small sections we’ve discovered mostly occupied by early adopters, in this case the computer-oriented.
I’m fortunate enough to have a computer programmer for a boyfriend, who has rigged our apartment with the latest and greatest in cutting-edge technology. The catch was I couldn’t use the remote without a tutorial because, as evidenced above, much of the IoT-enabled technology available today isn’t simple.
Companies are working to address this need through the creation of disruptive, intuitive and highly user-friendly technologies that are changing the way we live. As a result, we’re seeing a dramatic shift within a number of industries such as home security, home comfort, and home entertainment.
One area where we’ve seen one of the greatest changes is home security. We’re moving toward simple, all-in-one solutions that can be controlled directly from our smartphones; giving us the power of being there from anywhere.
A leading example of this is Canary, which positions itself as “security made simple,” and it is. Buy it, download the app and it walks you through the WiFi-connection process. You also get all the benefits of a mobile app such as push notifications right to your device. Jumping on the bandwagon are big names like Samsung and AT&T, which offer their own suites of connected home products. Now only do they have significant name recognition and established customer support services, they are offering full package Home Monitoring Kits that are ideal for those looking for a one-stop-shop solution and products that will easily work together, with little set up required.
In addition to security systems, we’re seeing the rise of smart locks, which enable you to open your door using your smartphone and monitor who enters and leaves. A company leading the pack here is August, which boasts simple operations that include automatic locking behind you and unlocking as you approach.
Without a doubt the field of security is becoming increasingly entwined with the cloud and we’re sure to see more app-enabled products hitting the market in the years to come.
In addition to security, we’re seeing more products designed to provide an unprecedented level of comfort in our homes, including smart lighting systems such as the Philips Hue (although the price point of these is still keeping many would-be users at bay); intelligent, machine-learning temperature devices such as the Nest Thermostat;and highly communicative appliances that let you turn on washer/dryer cycles using your phone. LG, for instance, offers a HomeChat service that works with its Smart ThinQ Appliances and even incorporates readings from Nest to allow direction communication with all your appliances. They can even troubleshoot themselves by directly alerting the Call Center of any faults.
Last but certainly not least, is home entertainment, which is being redefined by Smart TVs that offer 3D HD, 4K and VR content, Bluetooth-enabled speakers and voice command-capable appliances. Personally, it was a tough decision to invest in a Smart TV, but the simplicity of it is amazing (and it’s ideal when I can’t figure out the remote to the other TV). With easy access to Netflix (and its full selection of 4K content), I’m able to thoroughly enjoy my TV-watching experience. I can even live tweet the shows I’m watching right from my TV.
Additional services in this area include products like Amazon Echo, which is described as the ultimate home assistant, giving you hands-free control of your favorite music services as well as your smart lights, thermostat and other appliances. What’s more, at under $200, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities. Bluetooth speakers like this one are becoming increasingly pervasive, enabling us to connect across our phones, TVs, speakers and even lights (with Bluetooth capable bulbs).
New on the scene is virtual reality. Oculus Rift still has a pretty steep price tag, with the Desktop bundle clocking in at more than $2,000. However, we’re seeing more and more competitors pop up, such as the Samsung Gear VR which can be yours for under $100, and a rise in the amount of content available for viewing from independent film makers dabbling in the space, video games and YouTube videos.
While we’re not completely connected just yet, numerous technologies are at play that are making our lives safer, simpler and more comfortable. Many still have a way to go before they are accessible to the everyday person, whether it’s due to complexity or price. But we’re getting closer each day, much to the surprise of my seven-year-old self-watching Smart House without so much as a smartphone.