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What the future of smart homes has in store

(TECH NEWS) As IoT pieces begin clicking into place, and as we begin to automate our homes, the future of full integration is definitely worth watching. What are the experts predicting about smart homes?

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smart homes devices

Cool tech, gadgety gizmos

Chris McGugan, General Manager and VP of Innovation at Kenmore, spoke at the Smart Home Summit about the future of the Internet of Things and what our homes will look like in five years.

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Smart home technology falls into two camps. Products that improve the way we interact with our home, and products that are cool. Basically, gadgets that make us feel more secure and gadgets that make it easier to stay on the couch and burn through Netflix episodes without having to get up to switch off the lights or futz with the thermostat.

What consumers want in smart homes

“Most consumers are looking for a gadget today.” McGugan said in a video interview for IoT world news. “[Most folks] are looking for home automation, home security or home monitoring.”

There’s nothing wrong with these upgrades (and here’s a recent article on how to make your home smart on a budget) and they certainly add charisma to any residence. But what McGugan and Kenmore are imagining is a more subtle home integration that focuses more on what we need, rather than the juicy gadgets that we overtly want.

A grander vision

McGugan hopes he can “bring a greater peace of mind to owning a large [appliance] if we change the way consumers interact with them and the way they are serviced and maintained.” Take your washer and dryer, for example: wouldn’t you love a notification on your smart phone when it’s time to change the load? What if you accidentally left your freezer door open? Wouldn’t you rather it send you an e-mail before wasting hours of energy?

These are not glamorous upgrades, and they’re certainly slower innovations since it can be many years before we replace our appliances, but technology like this will have a profound effect on the smart homes of our future. Soon, you likely won’t be able to buy an appliance without integrated features.

Soon, you likely won’t be able to buy an appliance without integrated features.Click To Tweet

Innovation over time, across industry

“If you had asked someone 15 years ago if they thought a home wifi router or a broadband connection was essential, you may have had a very different answer than what you would get today,” McGugan went on. Smart home tech is the same way.

There was a time when it seemed perfectly reasonable to expect people to go to the library to browse the web, or pay a dollar every time they wanted to access the internet from a T9 phone, but now internet access has become a human right – and we expect everywhere we go to not only provide it, but provide it for free.

By the same extension, smart home technology could easily bridge the gap to business use as well.

Imagine rather than waiting in line at your local coffee shop, you could queue on your phone. What if we could summon waiters, order refills, or request an employee to look in the warehouse for an item that is inexplicably not on the shelves, all on our personal devices?

This little computer we carry around in our pockets is capable of so much more than just smart home automation, and I see business IoT integration following closely behind smart home innovations.

Putting the pieces together

McGugan is right when he ended his talk by saying that, “It’s going to come down to the interface we provide for these devices to help consumers see their real value. I would love to say that we’re going to see smart homes as essential, but I think we still have some room to grow.” Interface is key for consumers to jump on the bandwagon.

We have to see inherent value in these tools and not just expensive gimmicks.Click To Tweet

That will easily come as consumers see the usefulness in knowing if their hot water heater is leaking or if their dryer exhaust is hotter than usual. One day we may see serious costs associated with not having integrated appliances, like severe water damage or dryer vent fires.

As IoT pieces begin clicking into place, and as we begin to automate our homes, the future of full integration is definitely worth watching. Maybe in fifteen years home automation will be seen as essential for all of us.

#SmartFuture

C. L. Brenton is a staff writer at The American Genius. She loves writing about all things, she’s even won some contests doing it! For everything C. L. check out her website

Real Estate Technology

Your office could benefit from a more open floor plan

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Science proves that open floor plans are more conducive to office productivity, but will it work for everyone?

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If you walk into a tech startup, nine times out of ten you’ll find an open seating/bull-pen style seating. Whereas traditional work environments are divided up into departments with individual offices and cubicles, open office floor plans put all employees in the same room. Studies have shown that cubicles don’t increase productivity. As a matter of fact, people are more productive when they are sitting close together, but can see each other.

Pros of openness

Some of the advantages of an open office floor plan are obvious. These kinds of offices are economical because you can fit more people and more desks in less space, and because it is more efficient to heat, cool, and light one large room than several small rooms.

Open office plans also facilitate communication between managers and their employees, and between departments.

Rather than taking the stairs or hiking down the hall to collaborate with another person, you can simply holler across the room.

Cons of openness

Unfortunately, all of that hollering can sometimes be pretty distracting. A University of Sydney study found that half of workers in open offices say that the most frustrating part of their workplace is the “lack of sound privacy.”

Open offices are not only noisy, but are also less secure, since everyone can overhear one another.

Employees may get peeved if they can’t concentrate because of all the noise around them, or can’t make a phone call without being overheard.

Dr. Who inspired solution

A startup called Framery Acoustics offers a solution.

They create soundproof phone booths and meeting pods designed to complement open office floor plans.

One of the founders, who previously worked in an open office, complained that his boss talked too loudly on his cellphone. His boss replied, “Well, get me a phone booth.” Thus, Framery Acoustics was born.

Simple solutions

Framery Acoustics is just one company that offers a product suited to appease open office dissenters. Framery Acoustics isn’t ready to give up on openness and neither should you. So, when it comes time to return to your office (if you haven’t already), look for ways to make your office more flexible. Whether it is by providing a quiet capsule for private meetings and phone calls or just having a designated section for meeting, the solution is out there.

Compromising allows you to reap the benefits of an open office plan, while still ensuring that you and your officemates have privacy and quiet when it is needed.

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Real Estate Technology

3D printed homes are now gaining traction outside of the US and China

(TECHNOLOGY) Other countries are now using 3d printing to build homes to underscore their infrastructure. This shows the viability of the technology!

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3D printing

Recently, we reported that Lennar was using 3D printing to build homes in Austin. In 2014, the BBC reported that China was printing up to 10 homes a day at the low cost of $5000 per home. This trend is making strides in the real estate market, even though there’s still a long way to go. In a move that should give the industry confidence in 3D printing, Indonesia’s Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) Ministry announced that they are using concrete 3D printing to build homes in rural areas. Eventually, plans are in the works to construct schools.

Using 3D printing to build an infrastructure

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. As with most countries, housing expenses are climbing in both urban and rural areas. According to Habitat for Humanity, 11.3% of the population lives below the poverty line. For comparison, in September, the U.S. Census Bureau released information that the U.S poverty rate increased to 11.4%, one percentage point over the same time in 2020. Affordable housing is a problem in Indonesia.

“This technology really helps us, so we can build faster, more accurately, and with precision,’ explains Kusumastuti, Indonesia’s Director General of Human Settlements.” The PUPR reports that 3D printing reduces waste and improves construction quality. Considering that up to 70% of housing is built by individuals, not private developers or the government, using 3D printing under the PUPR Ministry is an upgrade in a country that deals with many types of economic disasters, due to its climate.

3D printing’s potential for real estate

As 3D printing is used in more construction projects, not only in the U.S. and China, it’s hoped that the real estate industry embraces the technology. Indonesia isn’t the only country that is trying out 3D printing. 14Trees constructed a school in Malawi using this method already, with the project taking around 18 hours. The company is undertaking more projects in Africa using this technology and more companies are building houses using 3D printing in the United States. It will be exciting to watch how this plays out in the various markets.

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Real Estate Technology

Why everyone and their mother own spy machines (aka smart speakers)

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Regardless of privacy issues with them, what does information about smart speakers, ownership, and usage tell us about future trends?

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smart speakers scare me

I don’t trust smart speakers, but even I can (begrudgingly) admit why they might be convenient. With just a simple wake word, I would be able to do anything from inquire about the weather or turn down my own music from across the room. And the thing is, plenty of people have bought into this sort of sales pitch. In fact, the worldwide revenue of smart speakers more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. And it’s projected that by 2022, the total revenue from smart speakers will reach almost $30 billion.

With over 25% of adults in the United States owning at least one smart speaker, it’s worth figuring out how we’re using this new tech…and how it could be used against us.

First things first: Despite the horror stories we hear about voice-command shopping – like when a pet parrot figured out how to make purchases on Alexa – people aren’t really using their smart speakers to buy things. In fact, in the list of top ten uses for a smart speaker, making a purchase is at the bottom.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, though, it’s worth knowing where advertisements might crop up in more subtle places.

Sure, people aren’t using their smart speakers to make many purchases, but they’re still using the speakers for other things – primarily asking questions and getting updates on things like weather and traffic. And I get it, why scroll through the internet looking for an answer that Alexa might be able to pull up for you instantly?

That said, it also provides marketers with a great opportunity to advertise to you in a way that feels conversational. Imagine asking about a wait time for a popular restaurant. If the wait is too long, it creates the perfect opportunity for Alexa to suggest UberEats as an alternative (promotion paid for by UberEats, of course).

Don’t get me wrong, this is already happening when you search Google on your phone or computer. Search for a tire company, for instance, and the competitors are sure to appear in your results. But as more and more consumers start turning their attention to smart speakers, it’s worth being aware that they won’t be the only ones.

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