The future (of our homes) is now.
With the staggering speed of scientific developments in the last decades, technology has been an almost natural, indispensable part of our daily life. A vast source of knowledge is now at our fingertips. We can reach anything or anyone with a tap on our phone, make payments with a quick scan of a chip, or even have our cars park themselves. Many of our devices recognize us from our voices, image or fingerprints.
As a result, we have become accustomed to technology aiding us in many aspects of our lives. And slowly, this phenom is entering into the very fabric of our households.
Say hello to the smart home.
What Is a Smart Home?
A smart home is, basically, the house of the 21st century. It is equipped with a digital network that connects the electrical systems in the house, allowing the control and automation of lighting, temperature, ventilation, security, various home appliances, and in some cases, even the layout of the rooms.
Connected via electricity and Wi-Fi, the system anticipates the user’s needs according to a pre-determined set of parameters without further intervention on behalf of the individual. Domotics are picking up steam for one very obvious reason: we use technology more and more everyday to improve our quality of life and facilitate the problems we might encounter. And the smart home deals with a variety of details, from small chores (like turning off lights, starting a new load of laundry, or watering the plants) to the larger issues (like energy and water consumption).
The whole system is very accessible and easy to control, given that everything can be through specially developed apps on our smartphones or tablets.
Architectural design is also starting to anticipate the requirements of a more digital life: data connections are now introduced not only to the main areas, but also to secondary spaces such as the kitchen and the bathrooms.
A House With a Life of Its Own
Imagine the building as a living thing.
It recognizes its inhabitants. It follows their routines, anticipates their needs, and adapts the environment within to suit them.
This is what home automation, or domotics, aims to achieve.
A building, and more particularly a dwelling, should be designed in response to the human body. With the help of domotics, architecture is able to transform itself in real time, with greater flexibility, to each individual.
Chores and small inconveniences are eliminated with the quiet intervention of technology, creating a more personalized, responsive environment that allows the inhabitants to focus on living.
“Since the Antiquity, architecture has seen many transformations and changes, but throughout all these changes, its higher objective has stayed the same: to build a space where people can live, think and create.” – Tadao Ando, Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando
Over time, we are finding more complex, technologic solutions to our daily problems. What could possibly go wrong?
The Cost of Smart Living
In our digital age, the efficiency of technology is harshly, and rightfully, weighed against the disadvantages it brings. So how does that translate to the smart homes?
We see news of hacked systems and security leaks with alarming frequency. This issue, of course, is also present with the home automation systems. The advances in IoT (Internet of Things) devices bring with them a lot of vulnerabilities for the users, affecting their privacy. Digitizing the minute details of your household might also mean unknowingly and unwillingly sharing them with third parties.
On a more personal level, partially or fully automated spaces can also have negative effects on the human psyche. Relinquishing the control of our environment can be intimidating, impersonal, cold. It creates a rift in the connection we feel individually to our homes. The same applies on a larger scale, in the carefully designed smart cities as well.
“The smart city concept is filling people with a bit more fear than it used to because you can design these beautiful algorithms that keep things humming, keep the traffic flowing, keep your house at the perfect temperature, but somebody is setting the algorithm, somebody is deciding the optimal setting… and it’s not you.” – Colin Ellard, Places of the Heart
On an environmental level, domotics might not be the cost-effective green solution it is advertised to be. According to a study published I the journal Science Direct, in the span of 5 years, the smart home devices consume more energy to function than they manage to save. Therefore, it is possible that these systems might be a contributing factor to global warming rather than a solution.
However, with such a powerful and efficient tool at our fingertips, domotics appears to be a rising trend in architecture. With the necessary security adjustments and a smoother interface, it just might be the new normal.
The Future of the Future Home
And of course, the possibilities don’t end there. As the technology evolves, so will the spaces we occupy. Perhaps, the next step in the digitized environments is the complete integration of responsive design.
Responsive design is an evolved version of the automated house, adjusting the sensory factors in the environment according to your level of comfort and how you are feeling at that moment. It is a faster, more personal way of connecting the individual to the space they occupy, without the well-defined and coded guidelines that domotics require today.
The evolution of homes has always been a captivating look into the evolution of our society. And with the ever-continuing rise of the technological age, we approach the inevitable digitization of our dwellings that perhaps carry us into an exciting and efficient future.
“They show us how we, too, might straddle eras and countries, holding on to our precedents and regions while drawing on the modern and the universal.” – Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
For more information:
Smart Homes Are the Future of Residential Architecture (External link)
When Buildings React: An Interview with MIT Media Lab’s Joseph Paraido (External link)