As it becomes cheaper to fit sensors to consumer products, the number of smart devices in a typical home in developed countries could grow to over 500 by 2022, according to a new report by Gartner.
This growth will take place over a decade or so, the technology research firm says, because many home appliances are not often replaced.
As such, a “mature” smart home won’t exist until sometime between 2020 and 2025, although smart home appliances like refrigerators, security controls and fitness gear that sense their surroundings and communicate wirelessly are already here.
Gartner expects these smart devices, which make up the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) where wearables and sensors constantly exchange information, to be updated automatically with new features. They will also become easier to use, thanks to gesture and voice controls.
New business models could emerge in this new IoT world to challenge traditional companies. Gartner cited an example of a service provider that could combine data from low-cost sensors with that of smart locks to create new cloud-based home security services that undercut traditional burglar alarms.
Governments, too, can use IoT to influence consumer behaviour. For example, sensors and smart products could enable differential taxation: the conservation tax on water used for washing could be lower than that on water used to irrigate the garden.
Just this week, Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) announced an ambitious plan to use technology extensively in estate management. From next year, it will also test smart technologies in Punggol Northshore, such as a smart car park system that automatically increases the number of available lots during non-peak hours for visitors.
In addition, HDB will provide digital infrastructure in flats to pave the way for smart homes. With such infrastructure in place, residents will be able to use smart home applications to save energy and access services like healthcare.
Despite these advancements, obstacles remain before a fully smart home becomes a reality.
For example, while remote controlled switches and dimmers have been available for years, they are largely used by tech geeks because few consumers see sufficient value. For these smart home products to take off, they must appear simple and easy to use to for non-techies.
Concerns over security and privacy are also potential bugbears, especially as smart devices learn more about their users and collect personal information. The lack of IoT standards could also affect interoperability between devices, though efforts are underway to bring about more standardisation in the industry.
Is a smart home truly within reach? Do you own any smart appliances? Let us know in the comments below!