The refrigerator suggests recipes, the front door recognizes our face, and robots help us keep our house clean or look after us: Hannah takes you on a journey to the year 2030. Discover how the smart home can make our daily lives easier.
You’re early today! It’s 7 in the morning, and I wasn’t expecting you yet. The shutters have just opened up, the coffee’s freshly brewed, and my digital assistant is reading today’s appointments to me. Sorry, how rude of me. Let me introduce myself. My name is Hannah, and I live here with my mother Sophie. Do you remember? I introduced you a while ago to the Internet of Things (IoT) in the year 2030, and we went for drive in the Car of the Future. I’d like to show you how we will live in the future and what everyday life in our homes will look like. So, please take a cup of coffee; I’ll quickly show you around.
My home is what’s known as a smart home. You may have already heard that. The term means that technical systems, automated processes and connected appliances are used to increase living comfort. Improved security and more efficient energy usage also play a role. The term was already popular in your day, but by 2030 the market has grown tenfold (source: PWC, 2015). Today, we could hardly imagine life anymore without the smart home. Having a connected home is just as normal for us as the smartphone, power socket or refrigerator are for you. Please take a look around! Are you surprised? My home is probably not what you imagined: Nothing buzzes, blinks, or beeps. The floor is made of dark wood, and my furniture is modern, but very comfortable. I certainly don’t live in a science-fiction home. Just like yours is for you, my home is a retreat where I can also switch off and relax.
Please excuse me, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. I work at the Cybersecurity Center and really shouldn’t be late today – I have an important appointment. Please understand that my privacy is very important to me, which is why you can’t follow me into the bathroom. But of course, I don’t want to keep any information from you: As soon as I step into the bathroom, the warm light’s already on, and my digital assistant starts reading the news. The smart mirror analyzes my skin and suggests various facial creams. If my toothpaste runs low, I order more in seconds by pressing a button.
These features are practical, of course, but a smart home has become much more than just technical gadgetry. Some of these things were available in your day, but it’s by being connected that they demonstrate their true benefit. By communicating with each other, the individual components improve our quality of life. For example, I am thinking of my smart alarm clock that automatically switches on my coffeemaker. And controlling all these systems has also improved considerably since your time:
Even in your day, more and more manufacturers realized that technology had to adapt to people, not the other way around. I’m sure you recall the breakthrough of voice control: To no longer have to operate appliances clumsily via tablet or smartphone, more and more people already used smart speakers in 2019, in other words, loudspeakers with digital assistant systems. They make the way we operate appliances much more intuitive and convenient. In 2030 we still like to use smart speakers, especially within our own four walls. Their quality has also improved. I only remember the words “I didn’t understand you” from way back. We can also control appliances simply with gestures now. For example, a simple hand signal is all it takes to stop the robovac. And there are many applications we no longer have to control at all. They sense their surroundings and guess on their own what we need, or they adapt automatically to our habits. That’s made possible by something called context awareness.
I’ll just grab my bag, and off we go. You ask whether I forgot my house key? Fortunately, we don’t need keys anymore in 2030. The door has smart cameras installed that recognize my face. I can also grant permanent or temporary access to other people, such as my sister or my mother’s doctor. These systems make me feel better protected against burglars. As you know, a traditional lock can often be picked in seconds. The sensors in our windows also make me feel safe. If someone tries to break into my home, the glass-break detector triggers an alarm instantly. And when I leave the house, as I’m doing now, all the windows close automatically.
How we get to work in 2030? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but beaming people has not yet been invented. Instead I have a self-driving e-car waiting for me. Get in. I’ll show you some more of my smart home while we’re on the road. I can show the images of the interior and exterior cameras on the car’s display. These cameras are not just there for intrusion protection. My mother is already in her eighties and not getting any younger. When the day comes that she has trouble getting around, I can issue a command at work to let delivery robots into the house so that she doesn’t have to walk to the door. Again, the keyword is privacy. Of course, apart from me no one else can view the camera images.
The cameras can do even more. Thanks to the sensors integrated in the housing, they measure the air quality, act as motion sensors, and can detect a fire or gas leak. If there’s a gas leak, the system opens all the windows directly and sends a potentially life-saving alarm. Other sensors in the home detect whether wires are defective or whether the washing machine’s leaking water. They automatically contact my choice of repair service even before worse damage can occur.
That drive practically flew by, wouldn’t you agree? And we weren’t even in an air taxi. Now I must leave you alone briefly. My appointment at the Cybersecurity Center is highly confidential, I’m sure you understand. Take a look around the business district here. And if you get hungry, the new bistro next door is worth a visit. The vegetarian dishes in particular are a dream. The fruit and vegetables come from the many rooftop gardens that are now on many buildings. Urban farming doesn’t just supply us city dwellers with fresh groceries, it’s also a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get in contact with the neighbors.
Our society has generally become much more environmentally conscious, which is something I’m personally very happy about. Government, business and consumers – they’ve all recognized that we must make changes, not least because of the bad air quality in our cities. That’s why virtually every suitable building now has solar panels installed on the roof. And smart meters are standard in every home. They show us which appliances consume the most energy. And the heating and air conditioning don’t just adapt to our habits, but also take the exterior temperature or open window into account. Thanks to smart appliances we can reduce our energy consumption by up to 30 percent. And our wallet’s pleased about that as well.
Hi, the meeting is already over. I hope you had an opportunity to try out the excellent bistro. Let’s drive back home. I can carry on working there without any problem, and you still have more to discover. We should make a quick stop at the organic food store. I’ve invited my sister and nephew to dinner tonight and want to pick up my groceries. My smart refrigerator has already placed the missing ingredients for the vegetable lasagna on a virtual shopping list and sent it to the supermarket. I can either have the groceries delivered or pick them up myself, like today.
Although online shopping is, of course, very common today, I also like to walk the store isles on occasion and get some inspiration. That way, shopping no longer feels like a cumbersome duty. That’s how it is for us with many typical household chores. In 2030 we don’t have to do everything ourselves anymore, which leaves us more time for things we actually want and like to do. You’ve probably already seen robotic lawnmowers and robovacs. Today, they can do a whole lot more. If it’s warm outside, they water the flowers. Indoors they mop the floor, clean the windows, and do the dusting. And unlike myself, they are highly motivated every day. You’ll see for yourself: When we get home, everything will be spic-and-span, the laundry already washed, dried, and even folded.
Here we are again. See, the door has already recognized me and opened for us. Take a seat on the sofa. You’ll find a wide selection of smoothies and soft drinks in the fridge. I just need to attend a video conference. What already worked fairly well in 2019 is now even better. The smart speakers in the living room capture my voice pattern exclusively and suppress all background sounds and voices. The video is transmitted smoothly in 8K, and a smart camera suppresses the background, depending on the privacy setting. After all, not all of my colleagues need to know what my living room looks like. I’ll be back in an hour. Make yourself at home.
The meeting took a while, but now I am all yours again. I think it’s gradually time to start with the preparations for this evening. Please follow me to the kitchen island. I love cooking, especially thanks to my smart helpers. The refrigerator not only recognizes what items need to be reordered, but also when which product expires. It uses this information to suggest tasty and varied recipes. This morning it notified me that the eggplant and peppers will most likely be spoiled by the weekend. That’s why I’m fixing vegetable lasagna today. With this system I have almost no food waste. Let’s get started! I’ll just let the refrigerator know that we’re starting with the cooking. And the oven’s now switched on automatically – with the right setting, of course. An instructional video of my favorite chef is projected in my field of vision, so nothing can possibly go wrong.
What else I like to do in my spare time? After an exhausting day I really enjoy relaxing on the couch. The smart home calls up the evening scenario, bathes the room in warm light, lowers the shutters, and plays relaxing music – just the way I like it. I can watch a movie on the smart wallpaper or use it to read a novel. If I feel more like action, I also enjoy playing a virtual reality game on the console. As soon as I put on the VR glasses, I can meet friends in a breathtaking 3D world and experience adventures with them. But no worries, we still also continue to meet in person at a café – just like in the old days.
You must meet my mother before you leave. As I already mentioned, her health is not the best, and she occasionally forgets an appointment. You probably know that in your day it was mostly young people who got excited about the smart home. In the meantime, even the older generation has realized that connected functions offer them benefits. They can live much longer in their own four walls instead of having to move to a nursing facility. That’s beneficial not only emotionally and financially, but also in terms of health, as various studies show. Instead of arranging a move, our smart home consultant only had to make a few adjustments. Fortunately, installing additional applications is easier and more cost-effective today than ever before. And because of social change, that’s also urgently needed. Did you know that there will be more and more old people worldwide?
Despite the initial skepticism, my mother really appreciates the technology in our home. Naturally, we didn’t install big red emergency call buttons in every room – you would have noticed them right away. Instead, the so-called smart health applications run more secured in the background. Do you see the armchair in the corner? It’s a classic from 2005, but enhanced with numerous sensors that measure breathing and pulse, for example. The carpet on the parquet floor is also more than decoration. If the built-in sensors detect a fall, they raise an alarm that notifies me on my smart wristband so that I can call for help right away. If the sensors notice something especially conspicuous, they even call the emergency services on their own. My mother’s mattress works in much the same way. It not only analyzes her sleep, but also sends a signal if she doesn’t leave the bed in the morning. Her smart wristband also measures things like blood pressure, heart rate or blood sugar and reports any abnormalities to her doctor. Again, we make sure, of course, that no one else has access to this data. Since privacy is particularly critical in the smart health field, all the data is transmitted on specially secured communication channels.
Many of the functions are based on artificial intelligence. The devices learn my mother’s daily habits over time and notice any deviations. For example, the system knows how long she normally goes for a walk. If she is noticeably late coming home, I receive a message. Believe, that really puts your mind at rest. The digital assistant also reminds my mother of her doctor’s appointments, and if the weather is cold, the smart front door reminds her to put on a coat. Do you see the small wooden box in the hallway? That’s actually a little robot that reminds her in the morning to take her pills and issues them in the right combination. Should the situation get worse, we could also imagine getting a personal care robot.
There’s one aspect we haven’t yet covered. What about the protection of privacy when a system collects so much personal data? I fully understand your concern. All these sensors, microphones and cameras: Everything is interconnected, and with things like the automatic emergency call, our home is also connected to the outside world. That makes us somewhat vulnerable. But let’s not forget that a smart home only makes our lives easier if the devices use the data they collect to learn and adapt to us and our habits. Without this information, the home simply wouldn’t be smart.
But it’s also important, of course, to feel safe, particularly at home. Unprotected smart home devices can become the target of attackers who may steal and misuse our data. We’re not just talking about payment and health data, but also video recordings or access to the home. To protect against this, we should take various precautions. Whenever I buy a smart home device or appliance, I always make sure that it carries the appropriate security label. It indicates the product’s security level, thus telling me how effectively my data can be protected. It took a few years for manufacturers and government to agree on a standardized and, most importantly, informative label. But now we have clear regulations as well as inspection authorities that check compliance with the security guidelines.
What makes a device well-secured? First of all, it contains a so-called hardware-based security chip that is almost impossible to outwit thanks to its integrated security functions, encryption and authentication technology. That way, the data is protected as if it were in a safe. I also make sure that my data is collected in a format that’s as anonymized as possible, so that no one can trace it back to me personally even if there’s a data leak. Sometimes this isn’t possible, however. Just think of the health data that’s being transmitted to the doctor. That’s why such data is sent on specially secured communication channels.
Reputable manufacturers are also transparent. I can always find out where my data goes and who can process it – like the doctor, for example. I can also request deletion of my data at any time. Nevertheless, it must be clear to us all that if we want to live in a connected home, we cannot have absolute data security. I personally have decided to accept this risk due to the benefits for me and my mother.
The oven light has come on, the lasagna’s ready. My sister and my nephew should be here any moment. So, how do you like our smart home? Are you surprised? To be honest, I can barely imagine a home without smart appliances anymore. Living in 2030 feels convenient, protects the environment, and provides a high level of safety. One thing has not changed, however: My home is a place where I can be at ease – except just a little smarter than it used to be.
Last update: March 2019