As Home Automation Grows, ‘Star Wars’ Becomes Reality
The home of the future is much closer than a galaxy far, far away.
Moviegoers around the world are lining up for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — the film has already made more than $50 million in advance ticket sales, proving that fans are eager to jump back into the world of George Lucas’s imagination with J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair.
While a Roomba vacuum cleaner may be more functional than an R2-D2 replica toy roaming the halls, there’s plenty of the force flowing around today’s homes. Technology is powering net-zero and sustainable homes in the desert right here on good old planet Earth and not on Tatooine. You don’t even have to be an Ewok to have a real home in a tree house.
Sci-fi novels and movies have envisioned what kinds of technology might become popular and accessible in the future. And many of those predictions have even come true. When the calendar hit Oct. 21, 2015, the date Marty McFly drove the DeLorean time machine to in “Back to the Future Part II,” the gadgets imagined in the 1989 film—like tablet computers, video chats, hands-free gaming, and fingerprint scans—had become commonplace.
With the advent of new, more affordable smart home technology, houses are beginning to see more of the home automation seen in sci-fi. According to futurist Michael Rogers, the home of the future may become a 24-hour monitoring zone, recognizing each family member and detecting emotion. “Your house is going to recognize you and each person in your family… (and) not only know who you are, but what mood you are in,” he says.
According to industry watcher IHS Inc., the global market for large smart appliances is forecast to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 134 percent, from fewer than 1 million units shipped in 2014 to more than 223 million units by 2020.
If small smart home appliances are included in the home of the future—like coffee machines, rice cookers, microwave ovens, air purifiers, and electric toothbrushes—the total addressable smart connected home-appliance market is forecast to reach 700 million units worldwide by 2020, says IHS.
As connectivity between devices becomes easier and more affordable, however, smart home technology, and the idea of networked home automation, are moving from the realm of sci-fi into reality.
Rogers predicts that by the 2020s those home networks will connect to car networks, public-space networks, and business networks to make Internet connectively entirely seamless. “The rate of change is accelerating,” and that is reshaping how people live in their homes as well as how homes are built, says Rogers.
“We’re at the threshold now of understanding that [smart home] technology will forever be embedded in architecture,” Lorenzo Apicella, a partner at Pentagram Design, a design consultancy with offices in London and New York, tells The Home Story.
All that convenience in the home of the future comes with privacy concerns. “My generation values a certain amount of privacy, and the Millennials have grown up really wearing their hearts on their sleeves,” says Apicella.
For the second year in a row, Millennials (individuals between 18 and 34 years old) represent the largest group of homebuyers in America, 32 percent of the market, according to a March 2015 report from the National Association of Realtors®.
Millennials are eager to use home automation to enhance their security, unlocking the door for expected guests like a child returning from school or a care provider, turning on lights, and viewing data or video of who’s been in and out of the home. Potentially, these technologies could make it easier to manage a household and will help homeowners feel safer and more comfortable in the home of the future.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association blog, a 2014 survey of U.S. homebuilders, architects are designing homes to be prewired for smart home technology with multi-room audio, home theaters, and monitored security (broadband Internet is now a standard feature in 91 percent of homes).
While cost is also a concern for all homebuyers—particularly first-time homebuyers, Apicella notes that many well-regarded smart homes are “designed with a budget in mind.” Many smart home technology elements are easy and cost-effective for homeowners to install themselves and monitor via inexpensive or free smartphone apps.
While technology is not yet at the point at which one can move a car (or a spaceship, as the case may be) from a flooded driveway like Yoda from the first “Star Wars” trilogy, smart home technology is quickly evolving to the point where the home of the future can be here today for those who wish it.