Smart Home Technology – Glimpse of Future

Computer-controlled kitchens, intelligent smoke alarms and electronic delivery boxes could be the norm in every home within the next ten years.

Technology to link domestic appliances, including fridges, microwaves and washing machines, is set to become commonplace…

Buyers from High Street stores visiting the Electrical Retailing Show at the National Exhibition Centre yesterday were given a glimpse of the not-too-distant future as they strolled around a five-room ‘smart home’. All the appliances and gadgets on display in the ‘home’, plus the broadband Internet and wireless technology needed, would cost pounds 30,000 to buy and install.

Despite the number of ‘boys’ toys’ on display – plasma screen televisions, games consoles and digital radios – developments in kitchen appliances caused a stir among visitors.

Fridge freezers fitted with a barcode scanning device not only compile a shopping list but can also e-mail it to a supermarket website at the touch of a button. Many new ‘intelligent’ models also have self-diagnosis features, which enable them to report a fault by sending a message to the owner’s mobile phone via the manufacturer’s service centre.

Richard Stevenson, technical editor of electrical trade magazine ERT Weekly, claimed these appliances and gadgets were not aimed exclusively at wealthy consumers.

He said: ‘Our pace of life is increasing and people are constantly looking for ways to make their daily lives easier, so they have more time to spend with their friends and family.

‘At the moment the goods featured in the smart home are about 30 per cent more expensive than their non-network equivalents. But in two or three years time network technology will become standard in most appliances, and certainly by 2012 most homes will be equipped with this technology.’ The world’s first ‘pop-up and ping’ microwave toaster and outdoor smart boxes, which are operated with a pin number so deliveries can be left safely when no-one is at home, also feature in the 21st century kitchen. The living room was dominated by a 42-inch plasma screen television worth pounds 5,000, but a tiny smoke detector stole the show.

As well as flashing all the lights and sounding an alarm, the detector also calls a mobile phone or pager number to alert homeowners if there is a fire.

Other quirky gadgets included a smart blanket, which measures and regulates body temperature while a person is asleep.

Mr Stevenson added many of the high-tech appliances would feature in family’s everyday lives in ten years’ time.

He said: ‘A lot of manufacturers are already producing these goods with fault reporting systems, which can send text messages to your mobile phone to alert you to problems with the appliance.’

Despite the clever technological advances which will allow people to start their washing machines or switch on an oven by remote control, there is one domestic task which will still remain a chore – ironing. While this task may never become virtual, manufacturers showcasing new products at the exhibition are determined to try and make it a pleasure.

Last year, more than 5,500 visitors attended the three-day show at the NEC and organisers expect more to attend this year’s event.

Fact FileThe ‘smart home’ also features:

The world’s first DVD player with integrated hard disk enabling viewers to record films and programmes digitally

A talking video recorder which tells you what to do

A camcorder with wireless network technology which allows users to surf the Internet and send and receive e-mails

Recordable MP3 players, including one which claims to be 100 per cent ‘skip-proof’

Intelligent network systems which control security, lighting and heating, as well as domestic appliances
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