Chris Turner, Managing Director of sensor specialist Faradite, takes a look at the technology of the future with some interesting predictions.
I believe there are three main pillars that will enable the future of the smart home accessories market: Communication and control, delivery of power and novel sensors/actuators.
We have smart watches, rings and phones that measure our vitals, but think of the possibilities if we had physical implants – our home’s ability to adapt to our mood with dynamic playlists/lighting moods would be huge.
In the future we will see a big swing from building – centric to personal-centric control. Think of your new BMW, it has pre-sets per driver based on the key, so it changes settings based on who is in the car. Imagine if your home could do the same, it would know that Zoe is in the living room and she is hot because she has just done a run, so it would reduce the temperature. When Gill enters, the blinds would open because it would know that she has just got up and needs natural daylight. This change in control methodology is enabled by a mixture of bio implants, wearables and AI.
All of this relies on connectivity both inside and outside the home. Communication is fundamentally the most important part of any smart home; today we have wireless and wired devices that are on local networks, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth meshes, KNX, Z-Wave, etc. These all connect back to a local base or communicate peer to peer.
But as security cryto technology gets better, we will have low bandwidth city-wide area wireless networks. Our devices will connect to these city-wide area networks instead of locally. We are already seeing this movement within the silo of smart cities. But in the future the communication ‘air gap’ between the city and the home will reduce and eventually be eliminated.
Also, as soon as homes are sharing their data with the city, then the city can start to offer services that will benefit the homeowner. For example, in Russian cities, homes are centrally heated by a local boiler station and it
can be optimised by knowing the total heating demand in the city leading to massive cost and environmental benefits.
Currently the size of wireless devices is limited by the size of practical power connectors or standard battery pack sizes. But the delivery of power is going to change.
Currently we have proximity wireless charging, but in the future, wireless midrange charging will become standard. This would work with a central charging hub per floor which would power the devices in its vicinity.
With the rise of micro super capacitors enabling batteries to be smaller, we will see small wireless devices that might not need charging. As a result of the devices being smaller, fixings are going to have to change, with more focus on novel adhesives for applying devices to surfaces as standard screws / springs become the limiting factor to form factor and design.
Today we have holograms, but what is the future of volumetric displays? Are we going to be able to touch and feel our displays and what opportunities does that propose?
There is also potential in smart fabrics, one application could be controlling the amount of light allowed into a room in a dynamic way linked directly to lux sensors, think of tuneable blinds. I can also envision a world where the
window treatment will be able to dynamically reflect heat based on the heating controls either calling for heat or cooling, further reducing our dependency on heating and air conditioning.
Within the next few years, I would be shocked if we did not see the introduction of Covid/ virus related sensor capability in domestic and commercial properties. This clearly has massive benefits to the residents and could become standard in all high-end residential homes. I also think we will see more focus on air quality sensors.
I also think that we are going to see the introduction of re-configurable spaces in domestic dwellings, especially in those with restricted space. As a result, we are going to need to think about how our AV, lighting, sensors etc are going to be able to adapt and re-position themselves as the function of the room changes.
Another technology that shows promise to enable re-configurable surfaces is smart dust, the minimisation of electronics to the level that it could be embedded into surfaces. This could lead to light emitting surfaces which could be configured to emit light in the correct places, or enable surfaces to be full of sensors that could measure the environment. The future is certainly going to be complex and the needs/ wants of consumers is currently going to push the bounds of what is possible.