The pros and cons of smart home tech

home tech

Decades of futurists dreamed about and designed their vision of a “smart home” intended to make living easier and more comfortable.  The 1933 World’s Fair envisioned that all homes would have helicopter pads; the 1962 World’s Fair highlights an electronic central brain in the home; the 1964 World’s Fair was about computerizing the home with time saving appliances.  And of course, who can forget Disney’s “House of Tomorrow?”

Retro-futurism seems almost cartoonish today, much like watching an episode of the Jetson’s.  However, like the retro-futuristic home, today’s smart home is meant to make life easier.  Filled with devices and appliances that are connected to the internet, remote access to your home’s systems and appliances is becoming increasingly commonplace.  There is an increasing ability for you to control your home, even when you are not there.  You can remotely monitor cameras in your home, change thermostat settings, and even program the DVR.

Realtor Magazine (Homes Are Getting Smarter, More Connected; January 09, 2014) reported that smart home tech is a growing sector showcased at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.  Besides the growing number of devices that can be remotely controlled, there is also a trend for appliances to send text messages and email.  Although smart home technology today is about producing individual gadgets that are programmable and controlled by smart phone apps, it appears that there is a trend toward integrating devices as well.  As smart home technology advances, home appliances and systems will be integrated with each other allowing them to communicate with each other; which expected to make the home function more efficiently.

All this technology is great, but there appears to be a downside as well.  Although there have been warnings about hacking smart home devices for a number of years, the recent report of hacked smart refrigerators that sent spam has attracted and focused attention on the hackers’ ability to take control of a smart home (phys.org/news/2014-01-cyberattack-hacked-refrigerator.html).  A Forbes article published July 2013 (When ‘Smart Homes’ Get Hacked: I Haunted A Complete Stranger’s House Via The Internet) discussed the ease of identifying and gaining access to smart home devices via the internet. Security specialist indicated that they were able to access and control smart devices (such as lighting, thermostats, garage doors, and security systems); more importantly, they were able to access personal data (including names) and device IP addresses from these devices as well.  The consensus among security specialists about protection from such intrusions is to basically stay “unplugged.”

While we wait for the perfect smart home, we can continue dreaming of the home of the future.  “1999 A.D.” (A 1967 Ford-Philco production; the video featuring Wink Martindale is posted above) is one of the best retro-future depictions of a home that incorporates technology considered to be state-of-the-art by today’s standards, as well as technology that we have yet to perfect.  Central to the home is a computer that collects and maintains information from all home devices, including biometric data that is sent to the medical center for analysis.  3D television, a “home post office” (email), push button meals, and shopping from a home computer is standard in this home.  As technology advances, there seems to be a post-modern sentiment exclaimed in the video that may ring true, “…if the computerized life extracts a pound of flesh, it has some interesting rewards…”

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2014

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2014/03/14/the-pros-and-cons-of-smart-home-tech/

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Future depictions of our homes by viewing the past

How we describe ancient homes gives a glimpse into how we will be depicted.

modern designIf you’ve ever read the accounts of archeologists describing the homes and lifestyles of the ancients, it might make you wonder how future archeologists might describe how we lived in our homes. Would their description early twenty-first century living be accurate, or would their hypothesis fit their conception of their future homes and lifestyles?

Reading the accounts of archeologist Ralph Solecki in a July 11th item in the Wall Street Journal (Archeologist Ralph Solecki Recalls His Neanderthal Cave Discovery) about his excavations in Iraq, a description of a Neanderthal home site emerged. It appears that life and death revolved around a 3,000 square foot cave. Described to be roomier than the average single family home, it sounds as if the cave may have had futuristic style with its large flexible space and a 20 foot ceiling. Of course, the cave was engineered by nature and may have served as a shelter among other things; it appears as if the Neanderthal cave was where life and death was centered.

The home of modern humans seems to have evolved to encompass life by incorporating necessary spaces for various functions; such as separating areas for food (kitchen, dining room), sleeping, and congregating (living room, family room).

Technology has also played a major role in home development and design. Indoor plumbing and recent advances in fiber optic communications are examples of features and amenities that have been included as technology has advanced. Additionally, technology has also allowed for high density living; up until the late nineteenth century, building materials and techniques may not have allowed for the high rise building.

Lifestyle has been the driving force of home design since the industrial revolution and emergence of the middle class. By comparing homes built during various modern eras, you can observe changes in how we lived over the last one hundred years; the pre-war era home is different from today’s two-story modern house (which most homebuyers today consider a colonial). Today’s homes are increasingly informal and relaxed. It might have been thought to be ill-mannered to see the interior of the kitchen from other rooms during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century; however, today it is common to have the kitchen open to other rooms. Additionally, the average home size has increased significantly through the years, increasing from an average size of about 980sf during the 1950’s to over 2,400sf in today’s average home.

High density living has also become progressively comfortable as well, which has become increasingly attractive to many who seek care free living. Since the first high rise, technology has introduced elevators, air conditioning, and other necessary amenities to today’s lifestyle – such as fitness and business centers.

Homes will continue to transform according to our needs and technological advances. Future homes will undoubtedly offer “flexible” spaces that can be used for various purposes, depending on your lifestyle. Rooms may be used for entertainment and work centers, and also allow for informal dining. It may be possible that the kitchen may become a flexible space as well, as we cook less in our homes.

As future homes could become the open space with 20ft ceiling, it may be that future archeologists would be more familiar with Neanderthal home than ours. And just as we have characterized Neanderthal living as “difficult,” future archeologists might also describe our lifestyle as “difficult” when they excavate our homes.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2013

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Trending home designs

by Dan Krell
© 2012
DanKrell.com

Trending home designs

You might be amazed if you stopped to think about how much the home has changed over the years. From modest beginnings, when most homes were one or two rooms, the home has transformed from the humble shelter to today’s technological marvel that expresses your personality and popular tastes.

Early home architectural designs were very practical, and may have changed along with heating/cooling innovations. Before the furnace was a standard feature in the home, most homes were built around the fireplace; in very early homes, a central fireplace was where the homeowners cooked their food. Further advances in home design occurred as new building materials were developed; the use of drywall may be responsible for the spread of “tract housing” in the 1940’s and 50’s, as home builders realized they could make homes faster and more affordable.

However, a driving factor in today’s home designs is popularity with home buyers (because that’s what sells of course). The American Institute of Architects (aia.org) conducts the quarterly Home Design Trends Survey to track architectural trends and reveal what home buyers want in their homes. Besides the fact that a wounded housing market reduced the demand for the McMansion, what else is trending?

Economy and energy efficiency design features and appliances have been trending since the financial crisis. Since 2007, there has been a significant increase in demand for high efficiency furnaces, tankless water heaters, and more insulation.

Highlights of the recent Home Design Trends Survey (2nd quarter 2011) reveal how the economy has impacted home design. Most “Special feature rooms” have declined in popularity; except for home offices where people can telecommute, there was a significant decrease in the demand for interior greenhouses, media rooms, interior kennels, safe rooms, kid’s wings, and exercise rooms (demand for au-pair suites has remained steady). Informal living features continue to trend as people are increasingly staying home to entertain themselves and friends; a demand for “home-centered activities” spaces and outdoor living spaces are increasing. Requests for indoor-outdoor transition rooms, such as mudrooms, remain strong.

Special features continue to focus on energy efficiency, as well as increasingly on accessibility. Insulation seems to be a major home buyer focus as extra insulation or the use of alternative insulation techniques are in high demand.

As visitability laws gain momentum nationwide, home accessibility design features have increased in demand. First floor owner suites, height adjusted fixtures (sinks faucets and light switches), ramps, and even elevators have increased in popularity among home buyers.

Technological advances also dictate home buyer preferences. New energy efficient devices continue in popularity as well as low-maintenance products. High performance windows were a top requested item, as were water saving devices. Home buyers are also demanding more low maintenance engineered materials in their homes; such as floors, siding, and decking.
As technology changes, home design is anticipated to change as well. For example, some foresee that the demand for the home office to diminish as wireless communication technologies advance such that people won’t anchor themselves to one room as they work from home.

If you think that trending home design features are only for new homes, think again. Popular design features often filter into older homes as home owners renovate. As a design feature’s popularity increases, so does the chance it can be found at the Home Depot.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 6, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.