The Technologies Behind Your Future Smart Home
The Technologies Behind Your Future Smart Home
Beyond IoTs that are commonly used for work, such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and personal computers, people don’t often give much thought about how technology affects their day-to-day lives. However, in reality, every electrical design and technological advancement actually impacts different aspects of our lives greatly. For instance, electrical design can dictate the safety and functionality of your home appliances and IoTs, as well as the comfort that such devices could bring.
When it comes to smart homes, people have grown somewhat used to the idea that it usually just includes learning thermostats, smart sound systems, and security systems that can be controlled through smartphones in just a few clicks. That being said, when considering the broader concept of smart homes though, it may still be fair to say that we’re only in the early stages of evolution on this front. That is to say, smart homes are likely to get significantly better in the coming years, roping in more devices and simplifying more tasks.
As we look forward to an era with more advanced and more widespread smart home capabilities, it’s worthwhile to consider some of the technologies that will help to enable the changes. The following are four particularly significant examples that come to mind.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is by no means a single “technology” so much as an overarching technological concept. Regardless, however, it might just be the single most important factor in the coming expansion and improvement of smart home systems.
For those who may not have spent much time considering the specifics of the IoT, ZDNet has a beginner’s guide that serves as a comprehensive take on what IoT is and where it’s heading. It explains quite clearly that the Internet of Things refers to the “billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data.” This network of connected devices and sensors is essentially the core of smart homes (and other smart environments). It is, for example, what may enable an automatic garage door to close because it “knows” that you’ve just entered and locked your home.
What the IoT means for the future of smart homes is essentially more. Despite its widespread and highly influential nature, the IoT is still relatively new in the grand scheme of modern technology. As such, it is still growing, with new devices being made “smart” and IoT-capable all the time. This progress, in the years to come, will inevitably lead to even more thoroughly connected homes that can perform more intelligent tasks.
The notion of superior electronics is certainly a broad one and can speak in a way to the category we just covered. As stated above, an expanding IoT will lead to more connected devices, and many of those devices will be entirely new electronic products. In this category though, we’re referring specifically to the actual electronics within those devices, and more specifically the circuit boards that make them operate.
In the past, while circuit boards could be very sophisticated and capable of powering anything from an alarm clock to a high-end PC, they weren’t always particularly versatile in their physical construction. Bulkier and more rigid printed circuit boards (often referred to as PCBs) can be harder to build into certain products — and in particular some of the smaller sensors and minimalist devices that will come to comprise so much of our smart home networks.
In addition to this, older kinds of PCBs tend to be poor thermal conductors, resulting in devices that are not just prone to short-circuiting and overheating, but also have a relatively shorter lifetime. As a result, we’re going to begin seeing more devices that are making use of newer and more flexible PCBs entirely built on metal cores made of iron, copper and aluminum. Following guidelines for metal-core PCB design, manufacturers are able to create devices with better heat transmission and structural integrity. What this means in the context of our conversation is that smart home devices in the future would likely be more lightweight, long-lasting and more conductive, as well as being non-toxic and recyclable.
Like the IoT, artificial intelligence is a major technological concept that strictly speaking, involves numerous specific technologies. The applications of AI technologies now span across health care, transportation, farming, economics, and education among other aspects of modern life. But we also know how AI can end up being biased depending on the quality of data we feed them. From this, it’s fair to say that more advanced AI use cases are still under development. However, AI technologies are having an increasingly significant impact on smart home environments.
Right now, we already see AI being deployed in ways that are so subtle — and in a sense, already so ordinary — that people don’t necessarily notice. For instance, the smart thermostats that are already popular in early smart home environments actually do a fair amount of “learning” on their own. They’re capable of recording data and recognizing conditions so as to optimize energy usage and perfect our environments.
Imagine similar capabilities in a wider array of devices, and you’ll begin to get the picture regarding AI’s potential impact. Security systems will recognize and report on the smallest of vulnerabilities; home management systems will make suggestions for energy savings based on data collection, and entertainment systems will learn and cater to people’s preferences. Those are just a few examples, but all point to the growing influence of AI in smart homes in the years ahead.
Finally, there are also 5G networks to consider. We’re actually just beginning to see these networks rolling out (slowly but surely) in these early months of 2020. And while they’re expected to impact many aspects of modern life, their potential to jumpstart the evolution of smart homes may be particularly significant.
CNET discussed a “smart home makeover” in looking ahead to 5G networks’ potential, essentially noting that better wireless networks could help to alleviate confusion and connect more devices. The same article made clear that not all related companies are ready to “feed into the hype” quite yet, but the ultimate benefits are clear nonetheless: Faster, more reliable networks mean better connectivity, which is going to be a must if smart homes are to become as impressive as we expect.
As smart homes do evolve, we’re going to hear a lot about new products and systems we can equip our home environments with. These will effectively drive smart home functions. However, given the multitude of devices to choose from, turning your home into a smart one can be quite a daunting task. After all, poor design and arrangement of smart home devices can lead to connectivity problems and all sorts of malfunctions. That being said, it would be a good idea to look to an architect or an engineer for help when designing a smart home.