Home automation is becoming an ever-increasing part of our daily lives with each passing year. In order to predict the future trends in home automation we can look to the past for some clues on where we’re going. The Jetsons was an animated sitcom created by Hanna-Barbera 50 years ago. It’s depiction of home automation technology probably sparked lots of today’s innovators to create what they saw on TV as children. Let’s look at with the Jetsons used in their home and then compare it to what’s on the home automation market today. Please keep in mind that this is just a snippet of what’s available.
Automated home cleaning robots
The Jetsons were blessed with Rosie, a robot who basically did everything. She cooked, she cleaned, and she took care of the children. While we may not have anything on the scale of a Rosie, there are some interesting robotic cleaning options available today.
iRobot Roomba is an automated vacuum cleaner that has been on the market for a few years. You can expect to pay around $700 for a top of the line iRobot Roomba, but it will clean any surface in the home, including under furniture, as well as spot cleaning extra dirty areas to ensure cleanliness. This little robotic vacuum cleaner is on a mission to cover every surface of a room before moving on.
Don’t worry about charging the batteries because this robot will find its way back to the charger on its own. It will thoroughly clean every room before moving onto the next. Eliminate allergy causing dust and dirt without lifting a finger. You simply turn it on and it does all the work for you, it even tells you when it’s full of dirt and ready to be emptied. This benefits those who splurge with this purchase because they never have to worry about vacuuming any surface of their home again.
Temperature control and lighting
If you’ve ever watched an episode of the Jetsons you’ve probably never noticed them turning off/on a light switch, or were caught messing with a clunky thermostat to get an optimal temperature. They either pushed a button to change sophisticated environmental features or everything was preset. The home environment in which the Jetsons lived was automatically controlled through systems, and today there are products on the market that are going in the same direction.
Nest is a smart thermostat that can sense when you’re awake or moving around in the home and adjust the temperature to your pre-desired settings automatically. This little device will run you about $250, but is able to make up that difference in saving you money on your monthly utilities after learning to optimally control your home environment. After about a week of learning your schedule Nest essentially becomes self controlling. Nest controls the thermostat the way it should be controlled, which actually require hundreds of adjustments everyday to be as effective and cost saving as possible. No matter how hard you try to keep your thermostat adjusted in such a way it’s too many changes to realistically do. Nest does the hard work for you.
When it comes to lighting there are smart products on the market nowadays too. Phillips sells smart bulbs under the label Hue. These connected lights are functional bulbs that can be programed and controlled to best suit any desired environment, like waking up, reading, or relaxing before bed. Hue has settings for all of these. Hue is sold exclusively through the Apple store and a starter pack of three bulbs will run you $200, which is a bit pricey for the luxury.
There are other controllable LED lighting products on the market which mimic Hue’s features and may be worth a closer look. LED technology uses approximately 1/6th of the energy of what traditional incandescent bulbs use, so like it or not the future of home lighting will be automated and non-incandescent. And as mentioned previously these bulbs have a full color spectrum so you don’t need to worry about spending money on florescence and not getting used to the colors produced. With these LED lights you can save money and have optimal lighting conditions.
The Jetsons had it easy when it came to preparing, eating, and even cleaning up after meals. Whatever they wanted to eat was available on demand with the push of a button, and while they sat at the table an automatic fork or spoon actually shoveled everything into their mouths. When they cleaned up a hole in the table opened and the mess magically whizzed in. It was a truly automated process.
There’s nothing on the market that matches The Jetsons level of sophistication when it comes to meals, but there are products on the market today which are starting to mimic some of the food management concepts. LG has released the Smart Refrigerator at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2013. This refrigerator is designed to talk to your home Wi-Fi and other smart devices. It’s smart grid ready for the individuals who have that option in their area. A smart grid is simple, it is a way for an appliance to communicate with the “grid” and save money by not performing certain energy taxing functions at peak hours.
As food is purchased at the store and then placed inside, this refrigerator will inventory everything. It tracks expiration dates so you can keep up with making sure all your food gets eaten on time. It also syncs with your phone and can create mobile grocery lists on demand. No more guessing what’s in the fridge while you’re at the store, like trying to remember just how many eggs you still have. If you’re looking for some creative suggestions on what to eat for dinner based on your refrigerator contents, this will do just that. If you need ingredients for the recipes you want to make you will also get it on demand and have access to that information from anywhere.
Still a ways off
A truly automated home, where all of the systems and appliances communicate seamlessly with each other and work independently of human input, is still a dream on the horizon for ordinary citizens. The technology is definitely here, but consumers are slow to adopt new home automation processes. As the gadgets and gizmos get more airtime, and consumers understand how these products can benefit them, adoption rates will steadily increase over the coming years. Perhaps it begins with automating one part of your home, like a smart thermostat, and then the benefits are realized and expanded on. With all these new home automation toys, one can’t help but wonder how important good home insurance will be in the near future!