The Home Of The Future, Today


Smartphones aren’t cool anymore. Very soon we’ll be talking about the smart home; the internet of things

Like it or not, tech is taking over everything in our lives. But! We don’t always have to think about an apocalyptic future a la Skynet – how about the cool stuff that you see in the Jetsons? And you’ll be pleased to know that we can already get a taste of the future, today.

As technology advances and gets more affordable, the ideal smart home gets closer to becoming a reality. You can easily get smart appliances or set up a simple yet cool automated system (e.g. lights that turn on by themselves) at home without breaking the bank.

While these automated systems that you can set up on your own are far from JARVIS­level (unless you’re a tech geek), there are quite a number of creative things you can achieve with these connected devices.

 

Lights

Turning your lights on and off can’t be any easier right? Guess again. How about turning them on and off with a voice command, or automatically when you leave the house? Some, like the Philips Hue series, offer additional useful features like automated dimming capabilities, or something whimsical like changing colours to suit the mood.

 

Locks

If keys are the bane of your life, you might want to think about smart locks. As it is you can get one that unlocks by reading your thumbprint, or by entering a passcode. But why stop there when you can take it up a notch: unlock your door from anywhere around the world for your friends and family, or set up your door to lock itself when you leave the house, or have it unlock automatically when a specific person arrives at your doorstep.

 

Security and Monitoring Network

Cameras are extremely helpful gadgets to have around the house. You can set them up to be used as security cameras, or as a way to monitor infants, children, and the elderly at home. Or maybe you just want to see what your rascally dog with ‘not-me eyes’ gets up to when you’re not around.

 

Sensors

Sensors are really useful for initiating an action. For example a motion sensor can be used as an automatic trigger to turn on your lights if you walk into your study. Temperature sensors can be used to turn on a fan if the weather gets too hot, while light sensors can be used to trigger the lights in the house to light up when the sun comes down.

 

One hub to rule them all

So what makes all these connected devices tick. The answer is a smart hub. It’s the keystone here as it accepts triggers from sensors, and sends out pre-­arranged commands to devices. Typically, you would interact with the hub via your smartphone.

  • Samsung SmartThings Hub One of Samsung’s biggest announcements this year. Samsung makes almost everything from vacuum cleaners to televisions and all points in between. The tantalising prospect is that some day you can actually link everything together – imagine coming home to food that’s already cooked thanks to your Hub kicking off the process by finding out that you’re on your way home. As of now they support nearly 200 smart home products.
  • Wink Connected Home Hub Wink’s solution supports a large number of protocols (i.e. potentially more flexible); plus it’s not too pricey. The more intrepid people may find the flexibility very appealing.
  • WeMo WeMo uses Wi­Fi for communication between devices.The devices consume more power, which isn’t good, but there are many cool out­of­the­box stuff in the market right now like coffee machines and slow cookers, which is awesome.
  • IFTTT Stands for ‘If this, then that’. Possibly one of the cleverest apps ever made, this smartphone app can automate some processes that you can’t do with your hub alone. For example, you can use ‘recipes’ to turn on your coffee machine when the sun rises, or when your smart band detects that you have woken up.

 

Voice of the future

Services like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana, takes internet search and artificial intelligence to the next level – these are virtual personal assistants. And now, we’re starting to give them voice commands to make things happen. It’s not uncommon in tech for features and gadgets to combine and become something bigger than the sum of its parts; and voice­ controlled tech gadgets have got to be the coolest things right now.

Amazon Echo The Echo looks just like any other an unassuming wireless speaker. But, it has a Siri­-like digital assistant called Alexa ‘living’ inside. Furthermore Echo has some interesting tech to enable it hear your commands even from across the room. While it’s not the first of its kind, Amazon’s reach has brought the concept of the home digital assistant to the forefront.

Right now, you can buy compatible lights and switches and control them with Alexa; ask Alexa about the weather and the traffic as you are changing; before you leave the house, ask Alexa to turn off your lights and appliances. It will be a watershed moment in your life – your poor man’s JARVIS, if you will – because it kind of feels like living in the future, today. And there’ll be more features to come.

Ivee At time of writing, Ivee is in the midst of its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. It has turned heads because of its irresistible price: it costs only USD$99. Much like what Alexa does on the Echo, it will answer questions, check the weather and traffic, stream music, as well as control other smart devices at home. It can also help you request on-­demand services like Uber.

Cubic Cubic’s focus is on AI: an AI with personality, says its makers, and its responses are laced with humour. Apparently it ‘gets’ references, so for example if you enjoy spouting Seinfeld lingo, Cubic will respond in kind. Due for a November launch, we’ll soon see if it’s as clever as it’s made out to be. With a fairly impressive list of supported services, there’s always a silver lining even if the jokes fall flat.

 

Robotbase Personal Robot If your tolerance for creepiness is rather high, personal robot may be something right up your alley; imagine a tablet mounted on a stick on top of a robot vacuum. Ironically it doesn’t vacuum, so go figure. The fact that it can move autonomously around the house without assistance, makes it a perfect personal assistant. In theory, of course. You can ask her questions, get her to control all your connected devices, update you on what’s going on in the house when you’re away, double up as a storyteller to your kids, and so on. Why do we need humans any more?

 

In the meantime ...

You always need some cool devices with a wow factor to convince yourself that a smart home is worth the effort. While these already­ smart devices aren’t integrated into home automation systems yet, you know it’s only a matter of time.

 

Klug Designed and built in Singapore, Klug saves you money by adapting your air conditioner according to the surrounding temperature. Its makers claim that savings of up to 15% on your electrical bill is possible. It communicates with all major brands and works right out of the box with all air conditioners that support a remote control.

Mellow A smart, Smartphone ­controlled sous­vide machine that also looks elegant on your kitchen table. It’s capable of very precise temperature control to achieve results previously only attainable at high ­end eateries. Mellow can also refrigerate your food, so you can load up the ingredients first and have it cook to perfection as you make your way home in anticipation.

 

Smarter Coffee It grinds coffee beans, boils the water, and brews you a cup of coffee to your taste – before you wake up. Not only that, it will send you an alert on your phone to urge you out of bed. It also works with IFTTT and can recommend a stronger brew if your smart band notices that you didn’t sleep well last night...

 

 

By Justin Choo / November 24, 2015 1:16PM GMT+8

 

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