In an age of driverless cars, artificial intelligence and facial recognition systems, it was only a matter of time before technology changed the way we interact in – and with – our homes.
With many of us adopting the latest hacks to make our lives run more efficiently, some are integrating new technologies into their homes to save time, reduce energy usage and tailor their home to suit their personality and preferences.
The introduction of voice-controlled smart speakers, such as Google Home, intelligent lighting systems and cloud-based home security systems means a world without blind cords, light switches and metal keys could soon be a reality.
As director of home automation company GreenStar Technologies, Marc Fulker understands how emerging technology is changing the way we live. He believes the biggest shift has been the level of integration we’re able to achieve in our homes.
“Although some of this technology has existed for a while, the way we integrate it into our homes through smartphones, tablets and voice control has changed dramatically,” says Marc. “In bigger houses you can now press one button and everything turns off. As you leave home, you can arm the alarm, and a part of the function of arming that alarm is to automatically put all the blinds down and turn the lights and air conditioning off in every room so you’re not wasting power.”
Instead of turning homes into robotic, impersonal places, Marc contends that automation can make homes more personal.
“This technology gives people a unique way of coming into the house,” he contends. “So when I come home, I turn off the alarm using my code and it opens the front door, puts the blinds up and might turn on the TV to Fox Sports. For someone else, they might have programmed the system to automatically play their favourite music.”
Far from turning homes into futuristic spaces devoid of character, technology has the ability to enhance the look and feel of a home. From skylights that open at the touch of an app to voice-activated cordless blinds that retract into the ceiling, technology and design go hand in hand.
Interior designer Bridget Ryan from South Melbourne’s Nexus Designs believes technology has the ability to open up homes to create functional, beautiful spaces.
“Technology is not as unsightly at it once was,” she says. “Anything that cleans up a space is always of benefit from a design perspective, and as technology evolves it’s becoming better at hiding things. So you can use plenty of technology throughout the home, but have the routers, servers and cords hidden. Many people choose to have all that in one cupboard or a location that acts as a charging station instead of being dispersed throughout their home.”
With inner-city housing becoming more compact and more of the population choosing to work from home, technology has helped architects and interior designers become more astute at using space wisely.
“Evolving technology allows us to live more simply and efficiently, as we don’t need to dedicate areas for different tasks,” says Bridget. “I think that thoughtfully integrated technology combined with portable, lightweight hardware can make our homes more responsive to how we live and our daily patterns of activity.
“Many of Nexus Designs’ clients don’t always want to work from a designated study area – they’d prefer to use multiple areas around the home like the kitchen table or living room. Cordless technology with Bluetooth capabilities allows so much more flexibility and opens up spaces in the home for multiple uses.”
From refrigerators that allow you to remotely adjust temperature settings via a smartphone app to Wi-Fi–enabled microwaves that notify you when your meal is cooked, many appliances harness the latest technology to enhance the user experience.
A common fixture in many homes, the humble television is also transforming. Elevating their purpose beyond delivering the usual Netflix binge, next-generation televisions are now a design feature of many living rooms.
“The Frame TVs from Samsung allow you to display a piece of art on what would normally be just a black screen,” says Marc. “When it’s off, it looks like a picture, but when it’s on it’s a functioning TV. Rather than walking into a living room and just seeing a black TV on the wall, you can display either a picture of the family or a holiday photo. It creates more warmth in the room.”
A television moonlighting as a piece of art may be a relatively new concept, but it shows the direction in which our homes are heading. Far from being a fad, smart homes are here to stay.