The last decade has been full of incredible technological advancements, from the smartphone to electric vehicles. But companies are far from finished innovating, and one of the areas of focus for the next decade will be your home.
Intelligence within the home is improving, with devices and apps learning from our interactions with them. For example, "smart" devices can understand when you're home, what your preferred temperature is, and when it's cheapest to use energy.
Products like Wink, Control 4 and Apple's (AAPL) HomeKit are just a few of the platforms giving consumers the ability to control their homes in ways we've never been able to before, and as these grow, the number of smart devices in the home will increase as well. Here are a few advancements these platforms can look forward to in the next decade.
1. Your Thermostat Will Enable Effortless Comfort
One advance already making its way into homes is smarter heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Google's (GOOG) (GOOGL) Nest is probably the best-known smart thermostat, learning when you like the temperature to be warmer or cooler, detecting when you're away from home and allowing remote connectivity even when you're away. Instead of you always having to program the thermostat, it will learn to save energy during the day when you're gone and turn the heat or A/C on in time for comfortable temperatures when you get home.
I think the next advancement for the masses -- it's something Bill Gates built into his house five years ago -- will be integrating smartphone capabilities and communication, like location services, into HVAC controls. Your home will be able to tell when you leave work and turn the A/C on just in time for when you get home. Maybe you're away for the week and forgot to turn down the A/C before you left. Your home could be set to adjust automatically based on your location. Your home may even be able to tell who is inside and what their preferred temperature or music is, adjusting automatically.
2. Solar Energy Will Play a Big Role
Millions of homes will be run by solar power within the next decade, and smart homes of the future will provide smart energy production to go along with smarter energy demand. Solar panels produce energy during the day, when you may not be home, making it a perfect time to run the washing machine, use air conditioning and even do the dishes with on-site energy production. Solar systems can tie into your home platform to use your energy production as you choose, whether it's to minimize cost or maximize use of your own solar energy.
Energy storage for solar energy will also play a role in energy choice, not only providing security in case of a power outage, but allowing you to use some of that extra energy you produce during the day, at night. The solar power system will also be able to talk to your home control platform to intelligently plan when and how to use energy depending on your desires.
SunPower (SPWR) is one of the leaders in this area and is introducing solar and energy storage systems that integrate with Apple's iOS HomeKit and other platforms. This will allow consumers to choose if they want to use most of the energy they produce during the day, save the most money or consume the least energy. Then the solar power system will make decisions on when to turn on the A/C, run the dishwasher or perform any other controllable function.
3. Appliances Will Strive for Efficiency
Consequently, then, in this solar-run home of the future, smart appliances like washing machines, dryers and dishwashers will be a huge component, communicating with the home's control platform and solar power system to run at the most efficient times. Already, some smart capabilities are popping up in appliances from LG and GE (GE) that can be set and started with mobile apps. The ability to control when appliances use energy will be key to making smarter choices about energy consumption.
4. Electric Vehicles Will Coordinate With the Smart Home
Tying into the solar system might be an electric vehicle. The EV could act as a key component to the home, taking abundant solar energy during the day, reducing consumption during peak evening hours, and completing a charge at night when demand is low. Some companies -- like German semiconductor company Infineon -- plan on using the EV as an extra battery to power the home at peak times.
In the future, we'll not only be charging our vehicles at home, we'll be doing so intelligently to save money and still have a full charge in time for the drive to work.
Whether it's comfort, environmental impact, or cost savings that drive consumers to a smarter home, it's a revolution that is set to pick up steam in the next few years.
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