There’s no need to keep your head in the sand about home technology and the Internet of Things. We know the problem—this field is changing so rapidly there’s no keeping up with all the products and players—so we’ve done the research for you and identified seven trends you can capitalize on now or expect to see in the near future.
1. Robots Are Here
Above: It began when iRobot released the Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner back in 2002, but now you can get the Braava to wash your floors, the Looj to clean your gutters, and the Robomow to trim your lawn. The Robot Butler will serve drinks to your guests and the Clocky alarm clock will make you chase it around the house to make sure you’re up for good. Talk of home robots is hotter than ever with Segway’s demonstration at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show of its Advanced Personal Robot (shown), which it hopes will eventually answer your door, move your furniture, and more.
2. TVs Are Getting Transparent
Above: Though not yet available at your local Best Buy, TVs are getting thinner, sleeker, and—soon—less opaque. Samsung, Haier, LG, and more have all revealed clear-concept TVs at consumer shows over the past several years, suggesting that the days of the hulking black box may soon be over. High-tech TVs more likely to reach your house first are LG’s Organic Light Emitting Diode TV and ultra high-definition 8K TVs from any number of brands. (Of course, you won’t have any 8K content to watch on it, but that will eventually change, too.)
3. Home Security Is Evolving
Above: There may be more developing in home security at the moment than in any other category listed here. Usually a subset of broader home automation systems, security technologies include Yale keyless locks, the Nest Cam and Piper video monitoring systems, and the Canary (shown here), an audio and video home security system controlled from your smart phone. Iris scanning technology like the EyeLock may also eventually make it home.
4. Outlets Everywhere
Above: Designers have officially realized that modern humans need outlets nearby at all times. Shown here is Herman Miller’s Power/Data Support System, which can be configured a variety of ways and installed atop a work surface. Similarly smart is Kononenko’s Lightbulb with USB Port, Christofer Ödmark’s Desk with built-in power station, and Evoline’s BackFlip module which hides electrical outlets and USB ports behind a metal cover when not in use.
5. Outlets Are Clever
Above: Not only are outlets starting to surround us, but they also are becoming smarter. A few examples: The Modlet from ThinkEco (shown) automatically turns off appliances when not in use to prevent, say, your toaster from sucking “vampire energy” and driving up your electricity bill. With Belkin’s Wi-Fi-enabled WeMo Switch, you can turn any plugged-in device on and off from anywhere using your smartphone.
6. Run Your House on a Battery
Above: Home energy is a hot topic, and the latest concept is Tesla Motors’ Powerwall battery system which stores daytime solar power for nighttime use but still allows the house to use power from the grid when needed. The genius of the system is its compact size (at 51 inches tall, 34 inches wide, and only seven inches thick, it can hang on a garage wall) and price: The system starts at $3,000.
7. Beyond the Nest
Above: Though the smart thermostat is still the best-known home automation device, and the Nest the most famous, home automation has expanded into a huge network of devices and platforms that make life smarter at home. Hello Sleep can monitor your rest and optimize temperature and lighting to help you sleep, Philips Hue can set the ideal lighting atmosphere for work, dinner, and party time, and Petnet will feed your dog while you’re away. Some umbrella devices control all the individual parts, including a sleek desktop unit and universal remote called NEEO that is compatible with more than 30,000 devices, and the Antumbra interface from Philips.