Imagine a home which, like a living organism, lives, breathes and reacts to your every movement. Your bathroom cleans itself and clothes go from filthy to fresh in a matter of minutes. Wall art changes to suit your mood, while robo-butlers tend to your every need.
While this may sound like a scene from a Philip K. Dick novel, many experts predict that this is what the home of 2050 could look like. From our wardrobes to our wallpaper, future homes are likely to be more intelligent, more sustainable, and better tailored to our personalities and preferences.
Inspired by the Future of Cities exhibition at the Crystal, and with the guidance of Siemens technology expert, Joachim Kiauk, we cross the threshold and look around the smart home of 2050 – join us.
Our need for speed in the kitchen will be turbocharged in 2050. Consumables will be instantly cooled, cookery books will be built into our kitchen tables and we will no longer need to visit the supermarket for fresh fruits or vegetables.
While microwaves have been a cornerstone of the modern kitchen since the 1970s, in the future we should expect to see smart cooking appliances replace inefficient devices.
Take Ikea’s “Vision of the Kitchen” for example. This concept (in collaboration with IDEO and design students at Lund and Eindhoven University) shows how the future will focus on devices with multi-tasking capabilities.
Their “Table for Living” kitchen table looks and feels just like regular furniture. However, this table has a few noticeable differences: the technology consists of a camera and projector positioned above the table and induction coils underneath its surface. Networked together, they recognise objects, understand when new objects are added, and project a display to the user. Technology such as this could make traditional cookery books outdated and help to significantly reduce food waste.
The environmental benefits of organic farming will be a key driver for future food production.
Production alternatives such as the Kitchen Nano Garden will reduce the need to import from other countries (a major contributor to air pollution) and will mean fewer chemical fertilisers will be required (chemicals contaminate the ground).
The garden uses hydroponic containers which use LED lighting instead of sunlight to grow plants. Excess water from cooking or washing dishes is also recycled to provide nutrients to the produce.
Experts agree that energy efficiency will be key to building the refrigerators of the future. Bulky, electric-powered units will be a thing of the past, swiftly replaced by compact, eco-friendly alternatives.
The Bio Robot refrigerator, for instance, uses invisible infrared radiation (rather than electricity) as its main power source. This is made possible by the structure of the fridge, which has an odourless and non-sticky gel which makes up the inside. The radiation in the gel also aids the heating and cooling of consumables. Additionally, up to 90 per cent of the unit can be used at any one time, using four times less space than conventional refrigerators.
Siemens technology expert, Joachim Kiauk, explains why minimalism will be such a key proponent in the future:
“Minimalism is a trend that comes along with environmental awareness and the wish to minimise energy consumption. It will also be necessary as urbanisation increases, meaning there will be less space available for the growing population.
We have already seen evidence of minimisation in the current marketplace, with flat-screen TVs and super thin smartphones dominating their respective sectors. In the future there will be no cables – everything will be wireless. Underfloor heating will replace radiator systems. Remote controls will be made redundant with the emergence of voice controls. Pretty much everything will be run from the Cloud.”
By the year 2050, bathrooms will take on a mind of their own. Intelligent appliances will behave like tiny housekeepers, cleaning their own surfaces and making morning ablutions more like a trip to a salon than a bathroom.
Scrubbing thick limescale and soap scum is so 2017. The bathrooms of 2050 will be designed to clean themselves. This idea is currently being prototyped by Boeing, who are using this curious technology to clean their cabin toilets.
Touchless faucets, flushes and soap dispensers mean less interaction (and thus, less grime). Then, once the user leaves the bathroom, an ultraviolet light rids the room of bacteria (known as “UV sanitising”) by matching the resonant frequency of the molecular bonds of the microbes. The sanitising light even clears the room of any odours.
We could see smart mirrors become more commercially viable in 2050. These would act as our very own virtual beautician, doctor and newsreader, presenting us with a mix of unique health advice, social media updates and breaking news.
Panasonic’s design concept for smart mirrors, for instance, uses a hi-tech scanner to analyse and gather information about our skin. This includes information about any skin conditions, sunspots (which are invisible to the human eye), ageing spots and harmful moles.
On average, every time we shower we waste around 20-30 per cent of the water that comes out of the head.
Innovative shower systems, such as the one developed by Orbital Systems, look to limit water waste in the future by making use of re-purification technology. The closed-loop system recirculates hot water, thereby reducing energy consumption and saving more water than conventional showers. This smart shower is also linked to an app which alerts the user when the filters need to be changed.
The modern-day living room might seem minimalist now, but in the future, we will only depend on a smattering of household gadgets to do everything for us. Televisions will blend into the room’s décor and our homes will intuitively respond to our mood.
The entertainment centre of the future is likely to be much more integrated into our homes than the objects we hold dear today.
For instance, Panasonic’s upcoming television is no wider than three credit cards stacked together. It’s also chameleon-like, turning see-through when it is switched off. This works by utilising a high contrast light control film placed in between 2 sheets of glass, which when the voltage is applied changes from the screen mode to the transparent mode. According to Joachim Kiauk, every nook and cranny of our future homes will feature screens:
“Displays will be ubiquitous, covering every wall in our dwellings, providing personalised content chosen by digital personal assistants. Walls will display movies, collateral information, environmental information, information about public transportation systems etc.”
They will not only provide information and entertainment but will also serve to give homes a dynamic atmosphere by lighting scenarios matching to the time of day, the mood of the user, their health conditions, or by displaying the user’s favourite landscape, sunrise, sunset or snowfall like a wallpaper on a smartphone.”
But that’s not all. As we gradually phase out traditional television sets from our homes, VR headsets could dominate how we watch our favourite programmes. Dream VR, for instance, is the first virtual reality and 360-degree TV. The pioneers of this technology have attempted to create a television where you decide what to watch, where and when. The company’s two founders believe that the future of television should be lived, felt and shared using only your eyes, and that there will be more of a focus on personalisation and in-program purchasing.
Companies such as EmoSPARK are already making great strides in Artificial Intelligence for the home. This small console has a chip installed called an “Emotional Processing Unit” which uses face-tracking technology and content analysis to gauge users likes and dislikes. Over time, the device develops its own personality, built on the user’s interests and the interactions it has with people in their home. According to its creator, Patrick Levy Rosenthal, its emotional learning will “never end”.
The creators of MoXi believe that the internet of things (IoT) has one fatal flaw: it requires a third device of some sort. Whether this is a special tag, fob or phone, MoXi believes they can strip out all hardware in the home and replace it with a centralised system called “indoor positioning”.
Once MoXi’s battery-powered sensors are set on the walls of the home, they connect wirelessly to co-ordinators in the rooms. In turn, the device analyses a spectrum of unique data, including the exact location of family members and their day-to-day habits around the home. This means other household appliances which are connected to Moxi can then tailor themselves to the user’s preferences – such as heating a room to a certain temperature or showing the person’s favourite television programme. Experts believe this technology could even give users the ability to control machines with just their thoughts – so no more fighting over the TV remote!
Bedrooms of the future will be entirely self-sufficient; beds will know when to wake you up and wardrobes will give your clothes a water-free wash in the blink of an eye.
The notion of taking dirty washing to the machine, waiting for its cycle to finish and hanging it out to dry is soon likely be remembered as an ancient practice – along with cave paintings and spearfishing.
Designs such as Clean Closet roll the common wardrobe, laundry basket, washing machine and drying cabinet into one. If this is to be the technology of tomorrow, all we will need to do is hang up our dirty clothes in our Clean Closet, and wait for it to be scanned. Once the scanner has detected any stains, marks or odours, it then cleans the clothes. The whole process runs without water and removed dirt is converted into biogas, which is then used to power the closet.
Eight Sleep is the latest company paving the way for “high-tech comfort”. Built to not only make bedtime more comfortable, their smart mattresses monitor and respond to sleeping habits. Daily reports analyse more than 15 sleep factors and the mattress can connect to other smart devices, which can be programmed to perform daily tasks, such as making your morning brew.
In the future, projectors and speakers will be built into beds to help aid the sleeping process – presenting us with a spectacular starry night sky as we nod off or a warming morning sunrise as we wake up. We could even see our future mattresses sterilising themselves, meaning you never have to flip your mattress again!
Craving a dark night sky for your midday nap? The future knows you do. In this smart home concept by Kasita, electrochromic windows go from clear to opaque on command – rendering blinds obsolete.
In this concept, users can even control their thermostat by interacting with their window’s touchscreen. Kasita’s vision is to create an integrated home automation experience, where voice-commands and apps control everything from smoke detectors to doorbells.
“In just a few years, there will be hundreds of million wireless devices tracking personal health around the world. Tracking devices will have a huge influence on us, providing instant feedback on our personal behaviour,” said Joachim Kiauk.
“Tracking tools will keep track of every waking and sleeping moment, from calories consumed, to measuring bodily functions like urine colour, blood pressure, insulin, blood sugar, heart rate and sleep patterns. The tracking systems will become so elusive they will simply become integrated into everyday life.”
If you’re eager to learn more about what smart technology will look like in the future, visit the Crystal’s Future of Cities exhibition.