Innovation for Everyone: The Future of the Connected Home

04/07/2013 11:34 BST | Updated 02/09/2013 10:12 BST

When our clocks ticked over into the 21st century thirteen years ago, even the most forward-thinking among us would have struggled to predict the major advances in technology about to take place. Broadband internet didn't exist, wireless technology was simply a vision and before 2007, no one had even heard of the iPhone. Today, two thirds of people in the UK own a smart enabled phone, and more than 33 million adults access the internet daily. Wireless technology has become ingrained in every part of our lives - from interactive whiteboards in schools that send homework notes to pupils' wireless tablets, to paying for parking by phone and ordering our food shopping online at the touch of a button. Take this connectivity a step further, and the 'Internet of Things' means that now more than ever, we are living in a world where inanimate objects are becoming intuitive. We are increasingly relying on technology to help make our lives run more smoothly and efficiently so we can spend more time and money on the things that are important to us.

Despite the speed of change around us, the pace of innovation in our homes has been somewhat sluggish. Yes, we've seen the introduction of new gadgets like 3D HD TVs and wireless sound systems, but if we look right at the core of our houses - at the things at the centre of our home lives, like our kitchens, appliances or the way we use energy, there has been no real game-changing innovation in the home since the introduction of central heating. While technology innovation across the board is making our lives easier each and every day, our houses just sit there, mostly static.

There is a huge opportunity to turn our homes from inactive bricks and mortar to places that work with us and for us, into spaces that are truly in sync with our lives.

Imagine if through GPS technology, your home knew that you were only a few miles away and switched your central heating on automatically, meaning you're not wasting money heating your home when you are not there, but are still nice and warm when you step through the front door. Or, if your dishwasher could diagnose when it had a problem, search for local repair companies, find the best quote, have access to your diary and book in a repair date, all before you even got home. An intuitive home could make our lives infinitely more comfortable, as well as being more convenient, and saving us time and money.

The connected home is an exciting concept and some businesses and individuals are already beginning to wake up to the opportunities of syncing our homes with our lives. For example, in our bedrooms, Good Night Lamp has launched a connected light technology, letting you tell your family you're home safe, no matter where you are in the world. For our front doors, start-up August has created the August Smart Lock that can be opened via a smartphone, offering one-off access for anyone with a suitably equipped phone, be that friends arriving for a barbeque or service providers and delivery agents needing access for a set amount of time. While, we're already able to control the heating in our homes from our smartphones through products like Remote Heating Control from British Gas, and, by 2020, every home and business in the UK will be fitted with 'smart' electricity and gas meters that will automatically send meter readings to the energy supplier, putting an end to estimated bills and giving households the ability for the first time to see energy use in pounds and pence as they use it. In fact, at British Gas, we are already leading the way in this space, having just installed our millionth meter.

Our homes are starting to get cleverer, but this is just the beginning. The fact is that the pace of innovation in the home is still some way behind other areas of our lives. I believe when it comes to connecting our homes, we're close to a tipping point. This is not about designing the shiniest new gadgets or futuristic images of robots running our homes. This is not about expensive technology for the few, rather it is about listening to what consumers want and designing true innovation to deliver everyday comfort for the homes in which we all live. There is an opportunity to 'wake up' our homes and sync them with our lives. We need to bring the vision of the connected home into reality for everyone, making our homes work for us, each and every day.