Remember those simple days when having a Clapper that turned the lights on and off was considered the height of sophisticated technology? That was way back in 1985, and home tech has come a long way since then. New, state-of-the-art devices – everything from voice-activated home management systems to fridges that take note of what groceries you need – not only make our lives easier, but can also make our homes more suited to multi-generational living as they streamline tasks, provide security, manage the environment and offer a vast array of entertainment options.
Home technology has certainly made our lives more comfortable. The advent of wi-fi has given us options for how we design our home, not just who’s watching what on Netflix. “Wireless technologies have freed up people in terms of locations within the house,” says architect Jennifer Crawford of Our New Home Coach. “Studies are no longer essential rooms unless someone is running a business or office from home and they need a dedicated space to do so.” Computer nooks can now be tucked into informal areas or even kitchens with extra bench space, allowing kids to do homework while being casually supervised. “Technology has provided a level of flexibility for how people wish to use the various spaces in their home,” says Jennifer.
Access all areas
Of course, the foundation of any home technology is being connected to the internet. “With more appliances becoming internet enabled, the essential technology will be home wi-fi that is secure and has the ability to cover the whole footprint of the house,” says senior marketing manager Brad Reed of home appliances at LG Electronics. So that means each connected device, whether it’s located in a living room, a bedroom or a garage, has a strong, uninterrupted connection. “Look for wi-fi-enabled home appliances or intelligent software to help troubleshoot problems,” says Brad.
The basis of home technology or automation is that many functions, such as lighting, sound, heating/cooling and security, can be controlled by one device, which is most often accessed through an app on your smartphone or tablet. If you’re building from scratch, you can include custom home integration from the start, personalising it exactly to your requirements with the help of a home automation expert. If you’re not starting from the ground up, there are a number of brands that have launched products to fill this role, including Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Amazon’s Alexa, all of which are available now or will be soon. These voice-activated devices allow you to switch lights on and off, control music and command other appliances within the home. Many manufacturers such as LG TV are now working with internet giants Google, Apple and Amazon to ensure that their appliances are compatible with these systems. Amazon’s Alexa also has other ‘skills’ including ordering pizza online, telling you today’s weather and even delivering a positive message from Oprah. Gone are the days when study areas were confined to one spot. Wi-fi-enabled technology allows us to work anywhere we like in the house. New innovations extend to the kitchen as well. Intuitive smart appliances take the stress out of cooking and cleaning.
The kitchen – the centre of many homes – has seen a huge leap in smart technology, with appliances like slow cookers becoming bluetooth enabled (start it cooking by using your smartphone while you’re at work) to fridges that help manage your groceries. LG’s soon-to-be-launched Instaview model includes a touch screen on the door that lets you browse the web, leave messages for family, keep track of what’s inside the fridge and, as it’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, is voice activated as well. Kitchen cabinetry is also helping make homes a bit more multi-generation friendly with systems that make opening cabinets easier for family members who are perhaps not as strong as they once were. Cabinetry company Blum has joinery that “provides an electrical or mechanical opening support and soft-closing motion technology,” says national marketing manager Kylie Peterson of Blum. Doors and drawers can be opened with the simple touch of a knee.
As you plan the technology in each room, think not only about the current needs of your home’s inhabitants but also the future needs of family members who may not live there yet. Home automation and technology – coupled with a foundation of good design – may not be able to alleviate physical limitations, but it can certainly make life easier and the world more accessible.
Family members of all ages can benefit from home technology – for example, a wireless sound system like Sonos means that a teenager can listen to music in their bedroom, while a grandparent is listening to a podcast in the kitchen and a parent is watching TV in the living room. Home automation for functions like light switches, heating and cooling and window coverings also means that the house is run in an energy-efficient manner, no matter who’s home or even if the place is empty. For both younger and older members of the family there’s also a safety aspect, as they no longer need to come home to a dark house where there’s a chance of tripping or a sense of unease.