The homes we live in are getting smarter. Technology is becoming such an indispensable part of modern living that more and more people are choosing to make it an integral part of their homes. Chances are you already have elements of it where you live. Security or sound systems as well as sensor lighting are all common forms of smart home technology, but there are other types that are rapidly becoming popular in homes.
Entertainment is a major area where technology can be a great lifestyle enhancer. It is possible to wire up your entire home so that music, video and gaming can be accessed from any room. Centralised speaker systems have been fairly commonplace for decades now, but new technology means that your laptop, TV or palm pilot can be connected easily throughout the home.
Big screen and plasma televisions have changed the face of not only the lounge room but of the whole house. It is now common to have a dedicated media room or home theatre in which to house your media equipment. This is often the best solution in a house that was not designed to accommodate modern technology. Big screen TVs, stereo systems and clunky speakers are notoriously difficult to incorporate harmoniously into living environments.
Some manufacturers aim to design appliances that are beautiful in themselves, but ideally a designer would take technological issues into consideration during the design process allowing your big screen to be a design feature rather than something to knock into when you’re drunk.
Environmental control systems are also becoming more popular in modern design. Air-conditioning systems are the most obvious form of internal environmental control, but these are being complemented (and sometimes replaced) by automated sunshading and ventilation systems that will open windows, adjust shutters and moderate air-conditioning operation according to the fluctuations in external temperature and breezes.
Although they can be expensive to install, the lower reliance on mechanical air-conditioning reduces the impact on the environment and means that the preliminary costs will be recouped over time.
Another innovation in recent years has been fridges that remind you when you’re running low on grocery items, compile a list for you and do your shopping over the internet. There are even smart closets and laundries that tell you when to wash your clothes, and smart microwaves that know exactly how long to cook food without instruction from you.
But let’s not get too carried away. There are obvious limitations to the usefulness of modern technology in homes.
How do you get your car in the garage during a power failure? What do you do if your air-conditioning breaks down and you can’t open a window? And how will you entertain the kids if the PlayStation kicks the bucket?
No matter how smart your house is, you will always need a contingency plan for the inevitable sporadic failure of technology. In a way, isn’t the smartest house of all the one least reliant on modern technology?