For a number of years now, the Internet of Things has been making itself felt around the home. From toasters connected to Wi-Fi to heating systems controlled from your phone, more and more of our household appliances are going online.
Up to now, these innovations haven't had a dramatic impact on the way we live - controlling your toaster via your smartphone might be convenient, but it's definitely not a game changer. However, that might all be about to change. It seems that innovation, ambition and ability are finally lining up to bring us real future tech that will revolutionise the way we live.
Getting in tune with technology
As technology becomes ever more advanced, the way it interacts with humans and interprets information becomes more intuitive. These capabilities are being harnessed by experts around the world and used to transform everyday items into diagnostic tools.
In Japan, manufacturer Toto is working on creating smart toilets able to monitor the user's health. By keeping an eye on urine flow rates and other key biological habits, the smart toilet will help to diagnose a number of medical conditions. Interestingly, the future doesn't feel far off when looking at their current range of toilets:
The intuitive technology doesn't stop once you finish on the loo. Sleep Number have developed a smart bed that automatically adjusts to improve the quality of your sleep. If you're snoring, the bed will realign itself to stop the wheezing and give you and your partner and undisturbed snooze.
Moley Robotics and Fraunhofer are taking interactive home tech even further by creating robots that can help around the home. Moley are working on a smart kitchen that comes complete with a robot chef while Fraunhofer are developing the Care-o-Bot, a real-life R2-D2 that will be able to do the laundry, serve drinks and search the web.
The more intuitive tech becomes, the more likely we are to rely on it. Before long virtually our entire daily routine could be aided by tech. With most repetitive and mundane aspects of daily life, taken on by robots.
A large proportion of the emerging and future technology that's being developed for the home is eco-friendly in one way or another. Whether they're generating energy or reducing waste, the appliances, fixtures and fittings of tomorrow are being designed to be easy on the environment.
In just a year or two, the very fabric of your home could be saving you money and lightening your carbon footprint. Photovoltaic cells, currently in development by experts at Michigan State University and Solar Windows Technology, will soon be transparent enough to be integrated into commercial and domestic windows. With scientists confident the cells will be up to ten percent efficient within a few years, these high tech windows will help buildings generate their own energy:
If current trends are anything to go by, it won't just be our homes that are generating electricity. Professor Jayan Thomas from the University of Central Florida is working on developing nanotech that can transform our clothes into mobile power stations. The futuristic filaments can be woven into fabric, allowing textiles to harvest and store the sun's energy. In the future, you may well be able to charge your phone by simply slipping it into your pocket.
Although the Internet of Things may not have transformed our lives just yet, experts are still determined to connect everything in the home to the web. One offering that might actually impact on the way we live is the FridgeCam. Developed by Smarter, the FridgeCam will send a live video feed straight to your phone, allowing you to see the contents of your fridge from anywhere in the world.
The idea is that, if you can check the milk levels and see if you have enough fruit and veg in, you'll be less likely to buy unnecessary supplies, therefore reducing the amount you throw away. Ovens are also getting the in-camera treatment with AEG leading the way in video-friendly cookers.
Surprisingly, mirrors may also soon be part of the Internet of Things. Using high-resolution cameras and in built Wi-Fi, your bathroom cabinet may soon be able to diagnose skin conditions, offer advice on beauty regimes and help your complexion cope with the weather.
The future of smart homes and smart living
Dr Ian Pearson from Futurizon spoke to us and gave his thoughts on how imagines the future of smart homes, "with all the household robot assistance expected to arrive over the next decade or two, doing the household chores will evolve into a managerial task where you explain to the home AI what you want done and it organises it for you."
We can look forward to homes that are greener, cleaner and more efficient, something that's good news for everyone. This article was based on an infographic and study by Service Octopus, which you can view in full here.