Meet the McFlys — A Survey in Current Home Automation
My first exposure to the home of tomorrow was Back to the Future II. Marty and Doc hop in the DeLorean to Marty’s future den and witness voice-controlled appliances, AGR headsets, a robotic greenhouse and a food/pizza hydrator. Today, many of these once-fictional devices are ready to connect. This survey explores how the automated home plays out for three households: Baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y with a focus on security, environment, personal health, fitness and hobbies. Within these categories we’ll cover gadgets and gizmos that work together to improve the home lives of each generation.
Generation Y, better known as the Millennials; the internet has been their social playground since they were tall enough to reach the mouse or grab someone’s smart phone. This couple has a sophisticated sense of design but is unafraid to get in and get messy in order to build something better. Here’s a list of a few of the devices they’ve used in their first smart home.
WeMo – Belkin produces a wide range of electronics that seamlessly connect home devices to Wi-Fi under the WeMo line. Control power, water, light, and video anywhere via an app — just make sure the phone is not set to silent.
August – The August Smart Lock makes it possible to lock and unlock a home from any mobile device. It can even unlock doors for friends and family from anywhere.
Scout – Scout was too good looking for our couple to pass up. Walnut, silver, and acrylic encase a Wi-Fi HD camera, video recorder and mobile alert system.
Nuimo – Nuimo is a slick little universal button. It controls music, movies, lights, locks and more in every room of the house — no phone required.
Hue Lights – They fit into existing light sockets and allow for total control wirelessly — perfect for movie-mood lighting, alarms, and timers.
Canary – A “canary in the coal mine” works as well as a canary in the house. This device connects to their smartphones, helping them to monitor sound, air quality, movement temperature and video. But mostly, they love the “canary in the coal mine” reference.
Makerbot – After three trips to the hardware store in one day, it was time to invest in the Makerbot. Now they can print anything from Nerf guns to nails with this super maker.
Countertop – This sleek device syncs with phones and appliances to make better, healthier food. For example: Countertop can sync with Vitamix to share and discover new recipes. This is just a taste of the future of cooking.
Parrot Flower – Continuously monitors the health of the home’s 100 exotic plants. Updates and alerts are received 24/7 via their mobile devices. Black thumb be gone!
Born in the late 70s, they rode the Oregon Trail on their school’s Mac Classic IIs and surfed Yahoo groups on dial-up in college. This is a technically-savvy-but-busy family that is quick to adopt new technologies that make their lives (and parenting) easier. They value simplicity and dependability over the level of customization that the Gen Y house loves.
Dropcam – Keep an eye on home, kids, and mischievous pets even while miles away.
Honeywell Tuxedo Touch – A touchscreen hub organizes video monitoring, smart locks, home heating and more. It’s also voice-controlled, making it great for when hands are full, which is almost always.
Netatmo – Netatmo sends the names of the people it sees directly to a smartphone. Get notifications if a child escapes time-out, mom arrives home from work, or if there is any stranger danger.
Sonos Music – The Sonos app lets you find, play, control, and explore your music from anywhere, while Sonos Wi-Fi speakers ensure that your tunes follow you from room to room. Nap time never sounded so good.
Dyson Eye – Like the Eye of Sauron, this robot sees everything. It knows where it is, where it has been and where it has yet to clean. Dyson will even follow a kid around to minimize the tornado effect.
Wally – This little guy detects water leaks and mold. Sensors monitor temperature, moisture, and humidity. The sensors send an alert when they detect leaks, keeping the air in the Gen-X home fresh and fungus free.
LG Smart Fridge – Old yogurt containers and black baby carrots wedged in the back of the crisper are in the past. The LG Smart ThinQ Wi-Fi Fridge couldn’t be cooler. It sports an LCD screen and its accompanying smartphone app tracks food, and expiration dates.
Withings – Spy on babies 007 style with this sleek monitor. Play music, live chat and receive alerts anytime, anywhere.
Wakeup Light – A sleep-cycle monitor and soothing light promise a gentle transition from the Land of Nod.
Times are a changing and this evergreen couple is riding the wave. They were first inspired to buy a computer in 1995 to keep up with the Fefferbees. They found that all the whatchamajiggers helped them stay independent and active and they have been addicted to smart living since.
Piper – Piper acts as a home remote. Grandpa can check live video, control power and appliances, and monitor sounds, temperature and brightness. It’s simple to set up and easy to update. He loves using it to spook grandma.
Giraffe Plus – Using a family of simple devices, including what looks like a motorized iPad, the grandparents keep tabs on their health, motion and activity. Staying connected to friends, family and their doctors sets the whole family at ease.
Clime Sensor – Cheap, tiny and simple to set up, this little gizmo tracks movement, temperature, humidity and light in every room. It connects wirelessly and updates according to their day-to-day habits.
Nest 2 – Grandpa swears it’s always freezing while grandma is always breaking a sweat. Nest 2 learns what temperatures they each prefer and builds in a schedule to meet both needs.
Netatmo Weather Station – With an indoor and outdoor module, this little device receives weather updates 24/7. No more need to watch Jim Cantore...unless grandma really wants to.
Mr. Coffee – Brew coffee from anywhere at anytime. Golden Girls reruns at 7pm are much better with a hot cup of joe.
Clever Pet – With Clever Pet, their little ball of fluff will never be hungry or thirsty. The device feeds her, records her, even plays with her using motion sensors, touch screens, light and sound.
Foodini – Grandma still makes cookies, but to save her joints she now makes them in her 3D food printer. She just throws in fresh ingredients and lets Foodini do the rest.
Google Cardboard – Grandma is on a river float today, in her living room, AR style. She downloaded the river float experience via Google Play and her reaction already earned 30,000 likes on YouTube.
The internet of things is making home life easier (and more interesting) one device at a time. More players are coming to the market every day, making it a fair bet that the home of the future will be more of an ecosystem of devices than a walled garden. The next big step is making sure that all of the devices in the home can talk to one another and to us. The Thread network protocol may be the solution for the machines, but there is no clear leader yet for how we communicate with our devices.
Currently, apps serve as a stop-gap, the universal remote control to our digital lives. It’s going to change, and probably soon.
Apple is rolling out more of its HomeKit this WWDC. It may jump out and take the lead, or there may be something from Google/Nest, or Belkin, or a player that’s not currently visible in the marketplace. The only sure thing is that there is a lot of commercial interest in the home right now, and that interest will ultimately translate into better experiences for us all.
Marty McFly would be psyched.
Written and Illustrated by Sheri Smith