A smart home is the next big thing in making our houses work harder for us to save time and energy – not just our own physical output too! There are big savings to be made by introducing devices that can automate appliances and to heat, cool and use resources more efficiently in our homes.
It’s early days though and whilst Australians tend to be great adopters of technology, there are many countries who are ahead of us in the smart home game and the available infrastructure to support all of this new technology remains an issue. “We're still [about a year] behind the rest of the world in this technology,” says Gizmodo Deputy Editor Teagan Jones when speaking at the recent IKEA Demographic Design Day. “We're catching up though…”
What to adapt and what to ignore is one of the challenges we face as products come on to the market. The important thing is that smart devices enhance, rather than hinder our lives. “It's more a relationship with technology - where it can anticipate your needs,” says IKEA Australia Head of Interior Design, Tiffany Buckins. “It is important that technology has a purpose and value and that it connects back to the real activities you have in your home, not a barrier, but allows us to connect with your loved ones.”
“What's important about technology is to consider whether or not its needed.”Andreas Fredriksson Designer IKEA Sweden
With everything from a voice-controlled oven to a TV that doubles as art, countless problems arise as we set out to choose what will work best in our home. HB Editor-in-chief Wendy Moore reveals the latest innovations in the smart kitchen and how she sees them working in our homes.
“There are some obvious advantages to bringing connectivity into the kitchen,” says Wendy. “Like knowing what is on and what is off when you leave the house. It’s having greater control, and having it remotely, over what’s going on in your kitchen. It’s useful for slow-cooked food – you can put something in the slow cooker and go to work, and then turn it off again remotely at 4pm.”
“It’s also about getting time back. A few years ago the idea of having a fridge connected to the internet seemed ridiculous, and now you can check whether or not you have milk in the fridge via an app on your smartphone, or order your groceries from the fridge door so you don’t even have to leave the house.”
“You want to know you’re spending money with a brand that is going to be around in two to five years when you want to upgrade, or to help if any problems arise.”Wendy Moore
“I am surprised at how much I am leaning towards an internet-enabled fridge,” says Wendy of what’s on her smart home wishlist. “I also like the idea of having appliances that I can control from my phone; there is definitely appeal in that. But, as someone who loves baking, an oven with really even and accurate temperature control is important for me.”
Problems that arise in adopting the smart home trend
Problem 1: Fragmentation
Be careful when choosing devices that the options available are what you really need. Many homes may soon be littered with ‘smart’ devices that sit around unused or with functions that are dormant due to doubling up on other devices, or confusion about the most effective way to use it.
Solution: Invest in a central system, or “brain” that can run all of your devices and choose other smart devices and accessories that are compatible with this platform.
Problem 2: Ease of use
Your smart devices should be easily operated to make your life better and adapt seamlessly as part of your lifestyle needs.
Solution: Seek out devices that make you MORE self-reliant, not less. It should be helpful, challenge you or offer new experiences to be worthwhile.
Problem 3: More expensive
The cost of smart devices and complementary components is higher than normal appliances. For example, whilst the idea of an entire home full of smart light globes may be attractive, it’s also expensive to replace all of your lights and lamps with smart globes.
Solution: Consider what you need vs what you want. Be selective as to which appliances and gadgets to include in your smart programs and which ones to simply flick the switch for yourself.
Problem 4: Security
Smart security is an issue with the possibility of your entire home and contents being beamed over the internet via a remote security system or smart appliance app.
Solution: Most systems will use your wifi so ensure your password is secure and that everything has its own password – this may seem tedious but the saying “better safe than sorry” certainly applies here.