In a report published last year, TechSci Research projected that the global smart home market will exceed $60 billion by 2021. We are now approaching a tipping point where smart homes will no longer be a luxury; they will be the norm.
For example, Quadrant Homes, a development company based in the Seattle area, recently announced that all of their future projects will come with a “Home Technology Package” that includes several smart gadgets such as Ring motion-detecting doorbells, Nest thermostats and Caséta Wireless programmable lighting systems. For an extra fee, buyers can add other features like a Sonos audio system or Lutron automated window shades.
Indeed, millions of American homes are already equipped with some type of smart technology. Apple and Amazon are having a major impact on the smart home industry since their intelligent personal assistants can be synced with virtually all smart appliances. Thanks to Siri and Alexa, it’s possible to lock your doors, turn off the lights and crank up the thermostat with a simple voice command.
Such technologies are convenient for anyone, but they can be life-altering for people with physical limitations. Smart homes make it easier for elderly and handicapped individuals to remain independent. For instance, NBC News recently interviewed a quadriplegic man who is able to live alone thanks to the Apple Home app. Despite having no arms nor legs, he can open doors, draw the window shades and much more using Siri and the Apple Switch Control.
In an article about the evolving field of “wellness real estate,” The Atlantic recently profiled Joe Colistra, an architect at the Center for Design Research at the University of Kansas who designs smart homes with features that prioritize occupants’ health and safety. For example, motion-sensing walls and force-detecting floors can be set up to monitor elderly patients’ movements and automatically alert medical professionals if they fall. “Smart toilets” can help some people cut down on their doctor’s visits by analyzing urine and fecal samples and sending reports straight to the patient’s provider.
The benefits of these advancements are not just practical; such smart technologies can boost the self-esteem and emotional well-being of individuals who need them. Regardless of age, everyone experiences a drop in confidence when they can no longer perform tasks that once came easy. Research has shown that assistive technologies can improve the emotional health of physically disabled people by helping them feel more self-sufficient and less isolated.
As the number of smart appliances continues to grow, the technology is becoming less expensive and more reliable. For instance, maintaining connectivity used to be a major challenge because most homes have Wi-Fi dead zones, but Qualcomm is addressing this problem by introducing a mesh networking platform and reference router design into the homes they build. Such systems ensure that every nook and cranny has internet access, and they allow occupants to directly issue voice commands to their home appliances rather than communicating through intermediary programs such as Amazon Echo or Apple Home.
Of course, on top of inevitable technical difficulties, there are a few challenges that still need to be worked out. The ability of artificial intelligence to understand human speech is still quite limited. Programming a machine that can understand all languages and all accents perfectly is still a pipe dream. For people with speech impediments, the challenge is ten-fold. As of now, many smart homes cannot accommodate individuals who stutter or suffer from other vocal limitations. This reality will likely change, but it will require some big innovations in the tech field.
Another major concern about smart homes is security. Some Wi-Fi enabled appliances lack the safety features found in phones and laptops that prevent hackers from infiltrating your network. Consequently, there have been several reports of cyber attacks on smart homes. Cyber criminals can identify such vulnerabilities and use them as an entry point to spy on homeowners or steal personal information from their computers. Convincing consumers that smart appliances won’t compromise their safety should be a major goal of manufacturers moving forward.
Given the industry’s projected rate of growth, now is the best time for tech companies, housing developers and real estate companies to invest in the smart home market. Consumers who are buying smart homes today tend to be individuals with disabilities or those with elderly parents who require consistent monitoring; however, it’s just a matter of time before all homes become smart. The field of home automation is still in its infancy, and it will be exciting to watch this technology evolve right in front of our eyes.
About Smart Home Expert Todd Lubar
Todd Lubar is an entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience in the real estate industry. He currently serves as the President of TDL Global Ventures, LLC and the Sr. Vice President of Legendary Investments. Over the years, Lubar has consistently ranked among the top 25 mortgage originators in the United States.
In addition to his career in real estate, Lubar has also worked in the entertainment, construction and mortgage banking industries. His greatest passion is helping clients achieve their financial goals.