The Home of the Future has been a dazzling dream for decades.
And, until now, it really hasn't worked out well. Automated homes and futuristic kitchens have been a staple of the World's Fair since the 1920s, but it's a good bet that you don't have shelves that sink into countertops at the push of a button or a voice-activated oven at home. In the 90s, the Internet-enabled refrigerator and appliances like 3Com's Audrey for surfing the web from a countertop came and went quickly.
But look at the situation today. Smart thermostats are becoming a hot product in many markets. Programmable LED lights are getting fairly high marks from reviewers. And it's not weird to want to quick an easy way to access the Internet in the kitchen anymore.
What changed? There are three factors that are driving this:
- Moore's Law
Despite fears that Moore's Law would slow down or die, semiconductor manufacturers have continued to steadily increase the performance of their products while driving down the size and cost. Simply put, it's now cheap and easy to design advanced technology into existing products. The expanding capabilities of embedded systems will become one of the most exciting spaces for software developers.
- The Cloud and Pervasive Networking
The Internet of Things would collapse under its own weight if operated like the Internet as we know it today. Imagine if everything in your home acted like your cell phone, sending and receiving data on its own at a somewhat regular clip. The data, the cost and infrastructure required would be overwhelming. Cloud services act as a buffer, minimizing hardware and bandwidth while providing equal levels of quality of service. Home Wi-Fi gateways will also play a crucial role in aggregating data and streamlining commands.
- Touch Screens
This is the "a ha!" factor and one that, we think, really accelerates the demand for home automation. In the past five years, consumers worldwide have become accustomed to managing their daily life through their tablets and smartphones. What started as a handset for receiving messages and making phone calls is a music player, calendar, commerce platform and book. We now carry these devices with us wherever we go.
Suddenly, home automation isn't so weird and futuristic. It is a matter of opening an app and turning down the thermostat from 200 miles away. You leave a room and the lights dim to save you energy thanks to a link between your phone and the bulbs. Three years from now, people aren't going to be amazed by this: they are going to be disappointed when it doesn't happen. Behavioral shifts are difficult to achieve, but they are powerful once they take root. Like them or hate them, mobile technology has had an irreversible impact on people.
When people look back at the "Home of the Future 2013" a generation from now, they aren't going to laugh about the things that didn't come true. They are going to laugh and wonder why it took so long.