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By the time the Internet of Things takes over, home won’t just be where the heart is; it will be where the brain is, too.
Consider June, a provider of IoT-enabled ovens. By incorporating imaging features along with temperature sensors into the oven, June can identify the type of food being cooked and what the optimal temperature is to heat it at. While many non-IoT ovens have similar capabilities, June notifies chefs and home cooks when food is fully done; they don’t have to rely on a recipe-instructed timer to tell them. This means food comes out as desired and not as instructed.
If simply preparing food could be made easier, we could achieve so much more in IoT-enabled homes.
Two types of amazing
Home appliances that integrate into the IoT will eventually split into two groups: active engagement and passive utility.
1. Active Devices
These help us do things we can’t (yet) tell machines to do for us. For instance, some refrigerators already have cameras inside, so hungry consumers can know what’s in the fridge without opening the door. This doesn’t just eliminate the frustration of wondering whether new food appeared in the last five minutes — if you’re at the supermarket and can’t remember whether you need eggs, ask your smartphone to send a picture and find out!
Cameras like these will go a step further in the future, not only telling us when we’re out of milk, but also alerting us when the milk we do have is no longer safe for consumption. With nearly 50-million Americans suffering some form of foodborne illness every year, advances in the kitchen’s IoT could prevent trips to the hospital, in addition to providing everyday convenience.
2. Passive Devices
These piggyback off of existing IoT devices in the environmental and energy efficiency space. Devices like Nest will expand and communicate to control much more than the thermostat.
Companies like SageGlass promise to help save costs and improve quality of living through peripherals to central controls like Nest. Imagine electrochromatic windows capable of integrating indoor temperature readings from Nest with outdoor light and weather data for a more optimized indoor climate. In the future, you might not have to adjust your thermostat if your windows automatically regulate their opacity to accommodate your preferred temperature.
Early versions of these devices, like the June Intelligent Oven, already exist today.
For some reason, we still haven’t taken complete advantage of this technology that already exists. If we know what we can do, why aren’t we doing it yet?
Roadblocks and Challenges
In-home IoT technologies face two major obstacles before the smart home becomes the norm. These technologies need homes to live in, and consumers need the money to buy them.
Homeowners’ Budgets: The IoT appliances that do exist usually cost several thousand dollars, well above most people’s appliance budgets. Consumers often finance these large purchases over time alongside new home purchases, so when something new hits the market, only the wealthy (and those already in the process of buying homes) can typically afford it.
Homeownership rates are at their lowest levels since 1993 in the aftermath of the Great Recession. People who don’t own houses aren’t likely to purchase IoT solutions to keep in drawers, and landlords tend to install bottom-shelf appliances to keep costs low, meaning more modern solutions usually don’t factor in.
Manufacturers’ Unique Selling Points: The technology is already moving forward, but to increase the speed of its adoption, we need to create an environment that encourages people to buy it.
Individuals and members of the technology sector can’t do much to increase homeowner rates, but today’s preference for renting is more thanks to a cyclical change in the economy. Homeowners will return, and when they do, they will want the technology that makes their homes better.
To give homeowners what they want, creators of IoT devices need to better rationalize the benefits of their products over cheaper, “non-smart” devices. These creators should stop pointing at what their products can do today and start making larger value propositions. Buyers don’t just want to buy neat new gadgets; they want to buy building blocks for their smart homes — things that will become part of a larger network over time to make their lives easier.
That larger network — the IoT in the smart home — promises to change the way we think about our houses. Your alarm clock will tell your coffee machine and hot water heater that it’s time to start the day. Your windows will know the difference between summer and winter, sunshine and rain.
When everything communicates with everything else, the possibilities become limitless. The first of those innovations have already arrived, but the best are yet to come.