Technology Review: What’s New and What’s Next in Home Automation

by joshe on July 31, 2012

Sunset in Solar Panel
Technology is one of the best and worst things about living in the year 2012. It can keep us connected to people thousands of miles away, but it can also increase the distance between those living under the same roof (anyone who’s ever been texted by their teenage son or daughter from across the house knows what I’m talking about).

Home technology is no different. It can turn our house into an “intelligent home” or it can make us feel overwhelmed looking at so many different screens. As usual, somewhere in the middle is a happy balance. With that in mind, let’s look at some emerging technologies in the areas of home automation, entertainment, and energy savers that provide a more comfortable balance between technophobe and technophile.

The Connected House

Smart home technology is increasingly focused on the idea of “the connected house,” a kind of home automation that makes it easier for us to control the various systems of the house remotely and with more fluidity. Wi-Fi-controlled thermostats like NEST, not only allow you to adjust heating and cooling when you’re away from home; they also learn and adapt to your living patterns through artificial intelligence. Google wants to take home automation even  further with its Android @ Home project, which considers every appliance in your home a potential application for your phone, starting with an LED light bulb that can be controlled from afar by an Android-powered smartphone

Big Entertainment, Little Boxes

Home technology is a constant process of condensing multiple functions into single devices, and that certainly applies to the plethora of entertainment options beings packed onto TV screens. Major manufacturers are producing internet-connected TVs that serve as family hubs for web browsing, online gaming, Skype/webcam chats, digital music, movies… and the occasional TV program. In 2012 Google introduced the Nexus Q, a sphere-shaped device that links to televisions and stereo speakers to deliver all the music, movies, and shows that Google Play has to offer. Future home technology has even invaded the bathroom mirror; the CyberTecture Mirror is a touch screen that delivers web content while we gaze, perhaps confusedly, at our own reflection.

Technology Meets Clean Energy

The description “intelligent home design” implies that home technology can be more than just whimsical remote-controlled diversions — it can also help make our homes more energy efficient and less harmful to the environment. This is becoming a reality, thanks to the bright minds in the field of building science. Technologies like Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIP) are transforming various parts of the house structure – window glass, siding, roof tiles – into solar-powered generators of clean energy. Solar devices are assuming other unlikely forms, such as Solar Ivy, the small PV panels that mimic the look of wall-climbing ivy. Like the previously mentioned NEST thermostat, there are smart, self-adjusting temperature controls that keep us comfortable while using a minimum amount of energy. Grey water systems recycle water from laundry, showers and baths for landscaping use. Today, homeowners have the option of installing a rooftop mini wind turbine, a contraption that can help supplement electricity use at the slightest breeze.

From playful entertainment to serious energy production, home technologies are an evolving element in a crowded tech marketplace. If we can incorporate technology as useful tools we can enjoy all the options at our fingertips while making smart environmental choices at the same time.

Stay tuned for the latest home automation news at Sheahomes.com

About the author

: Josh Englander is a novelist and the founder of DesignLens, an online architectural publication that explores residential design and land planning concepts in America.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jefferson April 16, 2013 at 6:25 am

Connected TVs are becoming something that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Right now, they are really still developing. I can go out and pick one up today, but the whole platform still needs a lot of work. This year there is a lot happening with integration from smart phones and home networks. Things are moving in the right direction, but over all there is still a good amount of frustration involved from what I have seen. Like all things, give it a few years and I’m sure we will wonder how we functioned without it.

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Meridith Doucette April 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Thanks for the informative feedback!

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