The Future of Smart Living: Smart Homes

Future-Home-Design-Dupli-CasaAt this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, one of the tech trends to watch was the concept of the Smart Home. Yes, in addition to 4K televisions, curved OLEDs, smart car technology and wearables, a new breed of in-home technology that extends far beyond the living room made some serious waves. And after numerous displays and presentations, it seems that future homes will involve connectivity and seamless automation.

To be fair, some smart home devices – such as connected light bulbs and thinking thermostats – have made their way into homes already. But by the end of 2014, a dizzying array of home devices are expected to appear, communicating across the Internet and your home network from every room in the house. It’s like the internet of things meets modern living, creating solutions that are right at your fingertips (via your smartphone)

smarthomeBut in many ways, the companies on the vanguard of this movement are still working on drawing the map and several questions still loom. For example, how will your connected refrigerator and your connected light bulbs talk to each other? Should the interface for the connected home always be the cell phone, or some other wirelessly connect device.

Such was the topic of debate at this year’s CES Smart Home Panel. The panel featured GE Home & Business Solutions Manager John Ouseph; Nest co-founder and VP of Engineering Matt Rogers; Revolv co-founder and Head of Marketing Mike Soucie; Philips’ Head of Technology, Connected Lighting George Yianni; Belkin Director of Product Management Ohad Zeira, and CNET Executive Editor Rich Brown.

samsunglumenSpecific technologies that were showcased this year that combined connectivity and smart living included the Samsung Lumen Smart Home Control Panel. This device is basically a way to control all the devices in your home, including the lighting, climate control, and sound and entertainment systems. It also networks with all your wireless devices (especially if their made by Samsung!) to run your home even when your not inside it.

Ultimately, Samsung hopes to release a souped-up version of this technology that can be integrated to any device in the home. Basically, it would be connected to everything from the washer and dryer to the refrigerator and even household robots, letting you know when the dishes are done, the clothes need to be flipped, the best before dates are about to expire, and the last time you house was vacuumed.


As already noted, intrinsic to the Smart Home concept is the idea of integration to smartphones and other devices. Hence, Samsung was sure to develop a Smart Home app that would allow people to connect to all the smart devices via WiFi, even when out of the home. For example, people who forget to turn off the lights and the appliances can do so even from the road or the office.

These features can be activated by voice, and several systems can be controlled at once through specific commands (i.e. “going to bed” turns the lights off and the temperature down). Cameras also monitor the home and give the user the ability to survey other rooms in the house, keeping a remote eye on things while away or in another room. And users can even answer the phone when in another room.

Check out the video of the Smart Home demonstration below:


Other companies made presentations as well. For instance, LG previewed their own software that would allow people to connect and communicate with their home. It’s known as HomeChat, an app based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) that lets users send texts to their compatible LG appliances. It works on Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Nokia Asha, and Windows Phone devices as well as OS X and Windows computers.

This represents a big improvement over last year’s Smart ThinQ, a set of similar application that were debuted at CES 2013. According to many tech reviewers, the biggest problem with these particular apps was the fact that each one was developed for a specific appliance. Not so with the HomeChat, which allows for wireless control over every integrated device in the home.

LGHomeChatAura, a re-imagined alarm clock that monitors your sleep patterns to promote rest and well-being. Unlike previous sleep monitoring devices, which monitor sleep but do not intervene to improve it, the Aura is fitted a mattress sensor that monitors your movements in the night, as well as a series of multi-colored LED light that “hack” your circadian rhythms.

In the morning, its light glows blue like daytime light, signaling you to wake up when it’s optimal, based upon your stirrings. At night, the LED glows orange and red like a sunset and turn itself off when you fall asleep. The designers hopes that this mix of cool and warm light can fill in where the seasons fall short, and coax your body into restful homeostasis.

aura_nightlightMeanwhile, the Aura will send your nightly sleep report to the cloud via Wi-Fi, and you can check in on your own rest via the accompanying smartphone app. The entire body is also touch-sensitive, its core LED – which are generally bright and piercing – is cleverly projected into an open air orb, diffusing the light while evoking the shape of the sun. And to deactivate the alarm, people need only trigger the sensor by getting out of bed.

Then there was Mother, a robotic wellness monitor produced by French inventor Rafi Haladjian. This small, Russian-doll shaped device is basically an internet base station with four sensors packs that track 15 different parts of your life. It is small enough to fit in your pocket to track your steps, affix to your door to act as a security alarm, and stick to your coffee maker to track how much you’re drinking and when you need more beans.

mother_robotAnd though the name may sound silly or tongue-in-cheek, it is central to Haladjian’s vision of what the “Internet of things” holds for us. More and more, smart and sensor-laden devices are manifesting as wellness accessories, ranging from fitness bands to wireless BP and heart rate monitors. But the problem is, all of these devices require their own app to operate. And the proliferation of devices is leading to a whole lot of digital clutter.

As Haladjian said in a recent interview with Co.Design:

Lots of things that were manageable when the number of smart devices was scarce, become unbearable when you push the limit past 10. You won’t be willing to change 50 batteries every couple of weeks. You won’t be willing to push the sync button every day. And you can’t bear to have 50 devices sending you notifications when something happens to them!

keekerAnd last, but not least, there was the Keecker – a robotic video projector that may just be the future of video entertainment. Not only is this robot able to wheel around the house like a Roomba, it can also sync with smartphones and display anything on your smart devices – from email, to photos, to videos. And it got a battery charge that lasts a week, so no cords are needed.

Designed by Pierre Lebeau, a former product manager at Google, the robot is programmed to follow its human owner from room to room like a little butler (via the smartphone app). It’s purpose is to create an immersive media environment by freeing the screen from its fixed spots and projecting them wherever their is enough surface space.


In this respect, its not unlike the Omnitouch or other projection smartscreens, which utilizes projectors and motion capture technology to allow people to turn any surface into a screen. The design even includes features found in other smart home devices – like the Nest smoke detector or the Spotter – which allow for the measuring of a home’s CO2 levels and temperature, or alerting users to unusual activity when they aren’t home.

Lebeau and his company will soon launching a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance bringing the technology to the open market. And though it has yet to launch, the cost of the robot is expected to be between $4000 and $5000.

Sources: cnet.com, (2), (3), (4), fastcodesign, (2), (3), (4)

The Future is Here: Smart Roads for Smart Cars

smart-highwaysWhen it comes to the future of transportation, it is clear that clean energy, automated systems and robot cars will all figure pretty prominently in the mix. But how will this effect our system of roadways and travel infrastructure? This is a question that is often raised whenever futuristic concepts for cars and transportation are showcased. Clearly, they deserve to be modernized as well, with something cleaner and smarter taking their place.

So argues Dutch design firm Studio Roosegaarde, whose ‘smart highway’ concept is set to be unveiled in the Netherlands in 2013. The design involves motion sensors that detect oncoming vehicles and light the way for them, then shut down to reduce energy consumption. Lane markings will use glow-in-the-dark paint to minimize the need for lighting, and another temperature-sensitive paint will be used to show ice warnings when the surface is unusually cold.

smarthighway1The highway also established for priority lanes that will accommodate electrical cars. Studio Roosegard hopes that these will one day l feature induction loops buried beneath the tarmac, which will allow electric car owners to literally charge their cars as they drive. While this concept is not-yet cost effective, the motion sensors and luminescent lane markers will be field tested next year along a 200 meter section of road.

The addition of these features along major highways is expected to reduce incidents of accidents, as well as save energy costs by reducing the reliance on streetlights. In addition, the road markings are expected to have longer-term applications, such as being integrated into a robot vehicle’s intelligent monitoring systems. As automated systems and internal computers become more common, smart highways and smart cars are likely to become integrated through their shared systems.

smarthighwaySustainable architecture advocate Rachel Armstrong sees all this as becoming part of a future where highways are truly multifunctional:

Not only will they light the way, but they will update geo-databases, informing us of traffic accidents, for example.

What’s more, drivers may even have the option of extricating themselves from the driving process and allowing a “self-drive” or autopilot feature to take over, where the vehicle will link up to the highways own navigation charts and find the optimal route to a destination. And, hold on to your hats, this could also become part of a national “drive safe” campaign, where driver’s are required to turn on the autodrive feature if they are past the legal blood-alcohol limit.

robotaxi_sanjoseIn short, smart highways are a proposal that only embraces clean energy and seeks to increase road safety, but seeks to integrate our roadways with emerging transportation technology. It will be very interesting to see what comes of this, especially when you consider the appeal of light rail and self-driving pod cars. For all we know, the future could consist of entirely automated transportation where no one drives anymore and traffic accidents are a thing of the past.

Nice, but think of the damage to the entertainment industry. With driving a thing of the past, what’s to become of car chases? Won’t someone please think of the car chases! Ah well, check out this video of the concept below:


Source:
forumforthefuture.org

 

Microsoft Concept Video: The Future of Smartphones and Computers

futurvision5-550x321Ah, I imagine people are getting tired of these. But permit just one more! In the midst of so many new products and developments in the fields of smartphones, tablets, augmented reality, and wireless technology, Microsoft was sure to add its two cents. Releasing this concept video back in 2011, shortly after the Consumer Electronics Show, amidst all the buzz over flexible screens and paper-thin displays, Microsoft produced this short entitled “Productivity Future Vision”.

In addition to showcasing their Window Phone (shameless!), the video also features display glasses, “smart” windows, self-driving cars, 3D display technology, virtual interfacing, paper-thin and flexible display tablets, touchscreens, teleconferencing, and a ton of internet browsing and wireless connectivity. All of the technologies featured are those that are currently under development, so the video is apt in addition to being visually appealing.

But of course, the real purpose of this video is to demonstrating to the world that Microsoft can bring these technologies and build the future of business, travel, education and play. Or at the very least, they seeks to lay their claim to a good portion of it. It’s Microsoft, people, they didn’t get to being a mega-corporation by writing checks or playing nice.

And based on this video, what can be said about the future? All in all, it looks a lot like today, only with a lot more bells and whistles!