Many fear technology is dividing us. With a portal to millions of people resting in our pockets, some worry we’re less physically present than ever. Thankfully, the advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT) will unquestionably pull us back together, giving us more time to spend with family and less on household chores.
IoT has the capacity to eliminate menial tasks in the home that take time and offer little intrinsic value. Between cooking, laundry, cleaning, and entertainment, many opportunities exist for IoT to add connectivity and intelligence to our households, leaving us with the freedom and energy to explore and spend time with those we love.
Today’s Connected Home
While there’s no point for the toaster to tweet when the toast is finished, interconnected technologies will eliminate distractions from the real work in our lives. Already, these smart technologies have made their way into our daily routines:
On first glance, the Amazon Dash Button is just a small plastic button stuck to a cabinet or laundry machine in your home. But this small device springs into action the minute you run out of detergent. Give it a click, and Dash orders the detergent of your preference, which will arrive at your door a few days later. It’s simple, intuitive, and means you won’t need to drop everything to buy more soap in the middle of a rinse cycle. Dash buttons are available for products from Kraft Mac & Cheese to Gatorade to Huggies, ensuring your cabinets are always stocked with household staples.
The discrete appearance of Smart Lighting might lead one to assume its functions are limited. However, this device can be used to manage the ambiance, music, movies, and shades in your home using motion sensors. The smart and sleek device learns your preferences over time, can save money on electric bills, and will enhance security by creating the appearance of occupancy while you’re away. No more fumbling with the lighting, shades, and music before a get-together (or after the party’s over).
For those who aren’t expert gardeners but want to enjoy growing food at home, Edyn — the connected garden — is a lifesaver. The solar-powered sensor takes the guesswork out of gardening. Edyn automatically waters the garden; measures fertilizer, soil, and temperature; and provides guidance to the would-be gardener via a Wi-Fi connection. Edyn takes care of your garden so you can enjoy fresh food with less stress.
The Future of Household IoT
Our homes are more connected than ever, but today’s innovations will be tomorrow’s old news. Look for these IoT innovations in the coming decade, and get excited for stress-free living:
Sustainable waste management
Lots of households spend time every day separating trash and recycling. It’s confusing, rather off-putting, and can pile up if you’re not careful.
Instead, imagine a trash can that automatically sorts garbage into trash, recycling, and compost. It would compact the refuse, and then request garbage pickup when the hoppers are full. Then, it would send a reminder to your phone before the truck comes for your neatly packaged trash or recycling bundle.
If we were to add low-cost radio frequency identification tags to products, the trash system could detect and separate hazardous waste like batteries and compact fluorescent bulbs from recyclable materials like plastics and aluminum. Can you imagine a world where we’re protecting the environment, and no one has to stress about the trash? That’s a future we can all get on board with.
Face it — nobody likes to do laundry. Between sorting, washing, drying, and folding, it’s an exhausting and mindless chore many avoid until the last minute. In a few years, expect to see the first smart laundry machines. These IoT devices would mastermind the crucial chore by taking clothes tossed into a basket and magically delivering cleaned, dried, sorted, and folded laundry.
A smart laundry machine would work behind the scenes by sorting clothes into like colors and conserving water by starting a load only when it’s full. It would automatically transfer washed clothes to an attached dryer, and it’d know exactly when the clothes were dry. Best of all, smart laundry would fold your laundered garments in a hamper instead of leaving them in a jumbled pile. Smart laundry is a natural next step for IoT, and it would be a big headache removed from our lives.
Intelligent water and air
Water and air filters need to be replaced semi-regularly in order to effectively filter harmful toxins, allergens, metals, and dust. IoT-connected filters could assist here by tracking the length of time a filter has been used and by measuring the relative cleanliness of the processed air and water. When it’s time to make the switch, smart water and air could order the filters and notify you when and how to install them. Tomorrow’s connected filters are the next step toward a stress-free and toxin-free home.
Sure, we already have package trackers, but there’s been little innovation surrounding the point of delivery (where it affects households most). A connected mailbox would send a message to your phone when new mail has been delivered or mail to send has been picked up. Digital identification codes could provide security, ensuring the mailbox only opens for a mail carrier with the corresponding identification tag. The box could be easily programmed to not accept mail while you’re away, and it could notify the police if it’s broken into or tampered with. Get ready to rest a little easier with the technologies coming to your mailbox.
The kitchen will be a hotbed for household IoT, and IKEA has already created a prototype of tomorrow’s connected countertop.
Smart countertops would be a do-it-all food prep surface, eliminating the need for a separate range and even cookbooks. By placing food on the countertop, the surface would measure calories and nutrients (and even suggest meal options). It would also weigh ingredients and offer a read out of a recipe on the countertop itself. Of course, the countertop would utilize induction cooling to preserve and chill food and induction heating to cook it.
For even smoother cooking, the countertop would communicate with the fridge, immediately notifying you of missing ingredients. Then, using either your phone or your fridge, you would order the ingredients, which would show up at your door within the hour.
IoT’s Security Challenges
IoT promises to make our homes more intuitive and stress-free, but it also presents new risks. Allowing more IoT products into the household means dozens of new access points, giving hackers new opportunities to steal identities and personal information. With experts predicting that we’ll top 40 billion connected wireless devices by 2020, security must be a top concern for technology’s creators and users alike.
Thankfully, players from the U.S. government and Stanford University have stepped up IoT security research and development. And if the U.S. government and leading academics could collaborate to put a man on the moon in less than a decade, IoT security shouldn’t be a stumbling block. We’ll need to work together to address the security challenges IoT technologies present, but the improvements to our quality of life will be well worth it. Tomorrow’s technologies won’t just bring connected households; they’ll make us more connected and united.