This decade has seen the conceptualised ‘smart home’ leap onto the market in great strides, with countless smart devices becoming widely accessible fore more than just the upper-class. Home hub and AI assistant devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa are two major examples of an increase in device integration throughout the modern house. It seems like you can get an interconnected smart home device to do almost anything. Almost. I’m waiting eagerly for a future where I can ask my Google Home assistant to do my dishes (smart dishwasher maybe?).
But what exactly makes a ‘smart home’? Smart homes are characterised by a network of automated or intelligent devices that adapt to the environment around it through innovative technologies. This web of smart devices aim to “simplify the life of its inhabitants” (Ricquebourg et al. 2006), and have been made possible by recent developments in high-speed internet access and interactive hardware technologies. These devices in tandem have created a phenomenon known as the ‘Internet of Things’.
Within my own home, keeping in mind that I live in a share house with other University students, we don’t have many smart devices that interact with each other through internet connectivity outside of our own personal belongings. For example, my smart phone and watch are always directly linked, and interact with one another constantly (though it’s via bluetooth technologies and not the internet). However, we do share a Google Chromecast that is connected to our TV. This device allows us to stream media directly to our TV from any compatible device; smartphones, tablets, or computers. We don’t actually have our TV antenna plugged into the display at all, and use the Chromecast exclusively to stream our favourite shows from apps like Netflix, Stan, YouTube, and various other streaming platforms. I learnt recently that the Chromecast can be synchronised with a Google Home device to enable voice-activated commands, such as; “Hey Google, play Stranger Things from Netflix on Chromecast.” Sounds pretty nifty.
My only encounters with smart technology in the home beyond this are at my boyfriend’s parent’s house. They own a Google Home hub, and a few other Google Home nodes are placed around their house. It is mostly used by them for its music and calendar features, but it also has the capability of turning on and off their bedroom lights through remote voice commands. While I think there have been big developments in the accessibility of the ‘smart home’ experience, I still believe it has a long way to go before achieving the Utopian dream of a completely integrated, almost sentient household. Especially when factoring in concerns about privacy and surveillance that push back against rapid development.
Ricquebourg, V., Menga, D., Durand, D., Marhic, B., Delahoche, L. & Loge, C. (2006). The smart home concept: our immediate future. 2006 1st IEEE international conference on e-learning in industrial electronics. pp. 23-28. IEEE.