With the rise of products from companies like Nest and SmartThings — which make intuitive, web-enabled gadgets that adjust themselves — we're getting closer to a day where our homes do more for us than just give us a place to rest our heads at night.
We've also seen some other elements of the future home take shape, like web-connected TVs, home appliances, and sound systems that you can control from anywhere in your home using a smartphone.
There were about 821 million smart devices sold last year, with 1.2 billion expected to be sold last year, according to Gartner, so there's a huge opportunity to make our everyday objects smarter.
A new non-profit group, the Internet of Things Consortium, recently formed with just that in mind. Its primary goal is to help the makers of Internet-connected products and services collaborate with each other, and further grow the network-connected devices industry.
Given the IoTC's commitment to network-connected devices and the number of companies already working on home automation tools, our homes will undoubtedly go through some big changes in the next 10 years.
Technology moves fast. So fast, in fact, that it’s easy to take it for granted. Smartphones, which have been around for a decade or more, are so ubiquitous and such an integral part of our daily lives that it’s easy to forget just how advanced they really are. New products, like wearables, are almost always billed as something bigger and better than their reality.
Things like streaming services, social networks, smartphones, tablets, and voice control are all commonplace now, and not even particularly interesting at this point. But look back as little as five or 10 years, before most of these things existed, and you can see how technology has dramatically transformed the way we go about our daily lives.
In my role as an evaluator of new technologies and products, I think about this a lot. It’s easy to get bored with smartphones — trust me, as I look at my desk right now, there are half a dozen phones on with with negligible differences between them. But that shouldn't diminish just how revolutionary they are.
The thing is, if you step back and take stock of all of the gadgets and technology that you already have and use, you can see the future right in front of you. Put it together right and your day might look something like this:
A day in the life of tomorrow
That's a really typical, ordinary day in my life. None of it involves inaccessible things or an abundance of complexity. It's just fairly common, off-the-shelf products that are working together to be greater than the sum of their parts. Just a few years ago, to live a life like this, you had to be Bill Gates, willing to spend untold sums of money on custom components. Now anyone can do it.
Granted, my career compels me to integrate tech into my life as much as I can, but nothing here is so out of the ordinary that it would be difficult for someone of my age and background to build a similar experience. And not all of this is new, either: some of us have been using smartphones for 10 years or more; cars have had remote starters for decades. This also isn’t to say that there isn’t room for even more advancements and improvements — as it is, I’m charging almost half a dozen different devices every day, not to mention maintaining the software and services across them. And the dream comes crashing back to reality awfully quickly when voice commands fail or I lose internet connectivity.
But when it’s all put together and works, it paints a picture of the futuristic life that’s being lived right now, today, in many parts of the world. Just five years ago, things were wildly different. Five years before that and my routine would be almost unrecognizable.
The next time you’re bored with your phone, or tired of hearing about the latest wearable, or fed up with whatever device you’re trying to command with your voice not responding, perhaps it’s worth taking stock of just how much things have changed in such a short time.
And remember, there’s always tomorrow to look forward to.