Smart homes getting smarter: How interior designers must adapt
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
If you are not familiar with the term "the Internet of things," it is time to add it to your vocabulary. As became apparent during this year's Consumer Electronics Show, it won't be long before coordinating "the Internet of things" will be another task for designers to add to their project management plan.
With more and more gadgets incorporating computer chips and Bluetooth or other wireless technologies, they now can communicate with various mobile devices and each other. Hence, "the Internet of things" is a network made up not only of computers and servers, but also of products of all sorts, from automobiles and security systems to wristwatches and household appliances.
While gadgets that alert their owners are nothing new, the next generation of products takes connectivity to a new level, tapping the growing popularity of social media and digital services to offer a host of new features, from reporting the news and weather to streaming your favorite music.
Driving much of this innovation is the widespread adoption of smartphones and mobile applications. According to recent figures from Nielsen, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, with Apple and Android making up more than 90 percent of the market.
No wonder, then, that the big trend in home appliances at this year's CES was connectivity via a smartphone app. From ranges and refrigerators to washers and dryers, consumers can now remotely access, monitor and control many of the appliances in their home.
Last year, reports Nielsen, 22 million Americans visited food and cooking websites and other online media. In the not-too-distant future, they will be able to do so directly through their range or cooktop.
For the chef who has everything, Dacor previewed an upgrade to its Discovery iQ gourmet range that integrates an Android-operated tablet into its interface. Cooks seeking a bit of guidance can use the tablet to download recipes, cooking tips and instructional podcasts. The latest model, due out this summer, can connect to a mobile device via an Android or Apple app, providing remote preheating and monitoring of cooking time and temperature.
Whirlpool demoed a concept prototype of an interactive touchscreen cooktop that, in addition to showing recipes, can plan and schedule a meal, and even remind the host of guests' dietary likes, dislikes and restrictions.
Even the humble slow cooker has come of age, with Belkin introducing a model that uses its WeMo app for iOS or Android to remotely turn the appliance on or off, adjust the temperature, change the time settings and send alerts when the cooker has been left on for too long.
The day when nearly every electronic product in the home will be able to be controlled remotely is not far off. Whirlpool already offers a line of smart appliances that can be accessed through its "6thSense" Apple app. Owners can check on how much energy the appliances are using, start and stop loads of laundry, modify the temperature in the refrigerator and receive alerts if the power goes out or reminders to empty the dishwasher.
Samsung and LG also announced their own all-in-one apps that let consumers manage all their Samsung or LG appliances using their smartphone. With the LG service, called Home Chat, consumers can send a text message to their appliance — such as, “Do I need milk?” or “Are the clothes dry yet?” — and the appliance will text back the answer.
No matter how much they may complain about being slaves to their smartphones, your clients are going to want these technological innovations. And of course, they are going to want you to make them all work harmoniously and seamlessly.
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