They say that technology hasn’t yet delivered what it promised us. More time. More conveniences. More happiness. It’s bittersweet for most of us. The iphone in my pocket is often an enemy battling for my kid’s attention, while also an ally when waiting in a long line somewhere and they’re (we’re) depleted on patience.
This year at CES I was more convinced than ever, that 2016 is finally the year that technology starts to fulfill it’s commitments to us… at least in the terms of home life. I assure you we are now on the runway to the smart home and approaching take-off.
Amidst drowns, e-bikes and 3-D printers there was a plethora of items that catered to the domestic diva inside of me that has merely been too lazy to introduce itself. Perhaps the simplicity, convenience and availability (yes, I promise for most) of this domain has woken her up. Here are some of my favourites.
The pantry style fridge from Whirlpool. It’s one of those creations that you wonder why you didn’t come up with it yourself or why it took anyone so long to think of. Really? Adjustable shelves? A place for everything and everything in its place. No more juggling items to make room for that extra tall bottle of wine or that pizza box or cake. (Trust me, I do have a healthy lifestyle for the most part.) This is the most efficient use of space I’ve ever seen in a refrigerator. But that’s merely the beginning.
Sensor technology allows dual-cooling system, so that fresh and frozen foods can be stored at perfect temperatures. “Party Mode” that takes advantage of dual ice makers and reduces temperature to mitigate wasted energy from repeated opening and closing. So, you’re likely asking yourself, where’s the tech part? It’s in the Wifi that allows you to connect your fridge with your phone via their app to know if the filter needs to be replaced of worse, if the power fails and you need to remove perishable items asap. The fridge also aims to connect with a Nest thermostat to run at lower energy levels during off-peak times and save money. (Fridge told to be available in May 2016)
Another great fridge was Samsung’s Family Hub Fridge – recognizing that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s described as “the most ambitious appliance Samsung has ever launched.” A nearly 22″ touch screen panel with proximity detectors senses you are near and activates its illumination.
Everything is becoming multi-functional.
Whirlpool’s smart kitchen also had me dreaming that I’d finally start to get more creative in the kitchen (while guided by the Food Network), rather than the same five meals I make repeatedly and am reminded of. The backsplash (which is often a fairly unused surface – other than the odd wipe-down) finally gets more purposeful. With a virtual display it also becomes useful. My schedule, my baby monitor, my recipes… all before my eyes. Whirlpool illustrated an interactive backsplash and cooktop that connects to social networks, websites, and recipes without added devices or books.The countertop also becomes smarter. When something is placed on it, it starts to operate automatically and warms up items like coffee and baby formula. The countertop also becomes a self-serve checkout which scans the barcode of pantry items and displays the info (Nutrition & cooking/prep time)… where else other than your backsplash? And the fait a compli – if you scan an item that needs to be microwaved, such as microwave popcorn, automatically the microwave door will pop open. (Coming soon – don’t hold your breath for this year.)
Finally, on to another favourite domestic duty. Laundry. It’s hard to imagine getting excited about it, but it’s difficult to resist when you hear phrases like “Marathon Laundry” and “Tesla of Appliances” applied to this everyday chore.
Marathon Laundry is trying to disrupt the way we usually think and do things in our laundry rooms. It prompts you to ask yourself why we don’t have a separate dishwashing machine and dish drying machine. Hmmm. Interesting. Why shouldn’t we be as smart with our laundry. Most of us transfer loads from one machine to the next and don’t operate them simultaneously, so why not just have one?
Back to Whirlpool for a second. What I loved about their own washing machine on display at CES was it’s integration with Amazon Dash Replenishment. The same goes for their dishwasher and their fridge. So, not only are they trying to save water, energy and money… but the ever shrinking amount of time we all struggle to fill well. We no longer have to remember to buy dishwashing liquid/pods or laundry soap. Our appliances will do it for us. Amazon Dash connects users with brands. My washing machine will calculate how many loads I’ve done and predict when I’m going to run out, albeit never allowing me to, since it will order it for me on Amazon.
And I’ve saved the best for last, although it’s likely the furthest away from becoming a reality. Laundroid – the worlds first laundry folding bot. It works by using advanced image analysis and robotic tools that fold laundry after it’s placed in a drawer. Coming (not so) soon. But we can all hope – that mundane chore can one day be taken away from us.
There were some less frivolous and more common sense items as well.
More and more companies, like Honeywell are showing off great leak detection devices. Something that I predict will only become more prevalent in our homes. And if insurance companies are progressive such as this one in BC – they’ll reward people for incorporating smart, useful devices into their home that assist with preventative maintenance and avoid disaster.
Lightbulbs that both listen to your surroundings (and you) and enhance your surroundings (imagine music playing through your sockets). No more speakers required in your ceiling. for surround sound.
Doorbells that capture video and contact you on your mobile device allowing you to unlock your home for your dogwalker, via digital locks.
Of course these are all clever additions that can work in most homes. But things are slightly different in a condominium environment. Consider access – your front door isn’t only the one in your corridor once you’re off the elevator. It’s also in your community entrance – which is your first line of defence in terms of security. These in suite components are truly only a small part of the picture, when living vertically. The big picture requires a lot more intentional thought, effort and investment. It requires an infrastructure that connects the building in its entirety through a backbone that supports everything. And I just happen to know some builders that are working on it 😉 Stay tuned.
Feature Image Source: Techvibes