The obvious saying, “that we all have to live somewhere…” and “the whole, there are 7 billion of us so lets move to the cities” are both some of the most cliché statements in 2018. What makes us all live comfortably is generally by nature a debate that has lasted the past two centuries. Smart homes and IoT is a topic that will gradually make its way into the hearts of the city and urban planners, usually employed by their states and where most desks are filled to the top with paperwork and permits (no matter what country you live in). In 2013, there were two events that made a big leap for smart reality and also birthed the merger of the digital designer with industrial, urban and architecture: Samsung announced the smart fridge and Waze joined Google.
Backing up: for decades, the promise of the smart home has tantalized designers and business’s a like. The idea of a new market, like weed and the internet itself, took a strong foothold for Wall Street and Palo Alto, looking to capitalize on the dynamics of connected technologies in the home and urban environments predicting and managing the desires of the occupant entirely without human interaction. Now, with the ascension of artificial intelligence from dream to near-reality and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), some say they closer that ever to finding a smart home that can wash the clothes, dishes all while cooking (and saying the trash is full on that whizz of a fridge).
Today, Big Blue is putting that tiny technology to work, developing a multi-application gas sensor that could help airports detect and track biochemical threats, determine whether the steak in your fridge has spoiled, or even diagnose breast cancer and other diseases simply by analyzing your breath.
MIT RESEARCHER AND PROCTER AND GAMBLE EXEC KEVIN ASHTON COINED THE PHRASE “INTERNET OF THINGS” IN 1999.
Sensors like these are driving a relatively new tech trend: the Internet of Things. In essence, the “things” referenced in this awkward buzz-phrase are machines embedded with sensors that gather, store and analyze data. And since they’re all linked to the Internet, they can upload that data for further processing, download updated software and often be controlled from afar.
The international research firm Gartner estimates that by the end of last year, there were 3.8 billion connected things out there—smart cars, smoke detectors, door locks, industrial robots, streetlights, heart monitors, trains, wind turbines, even tennis racquets and toasters. By 2020, Gartner estimates there will be 25 billion of these smart devices, transmitting tiny amounts of data to us, to the cloud and to each other.
Not being too sarcastic, the smart home is here to a certain extent, but experts predict the truly interconnected smart home, where devices and appliances can talk to each other may still be a decade away – why? Because, it doesn’t matter to the masses. Users can generally get by fine without Waze or a smart refrigerator. Regardless, if there is a market for it, it will exist. So let’s speak to the only physical room where IoT will matter most and start this revolution (or continue the discussion) for the other rooms in households where smart features will leak out too while we also discuss the important issues such as data security and interoperability between devices.
You guessed it – The Kitchen. The Kitchen will be the starting point for IoT, and slowly from here all major design decisions will arise. This is not said by me, but rather pedestrians in my life. And ask anyone the question, “what does the future of homes look like to you?”, you will find that they will bring up the kitchen as the basis of review. Here are three examples:
Said from Tony Livedas: Architect from Denver CO: My mother in the room starts dancing, waving her arms back and forth as she describes the future counter tops of her dreams. “Its dark blue, or marble or whatever…. But there are touch screens everywhere. Buttons that you can press to turn heat cubes that are surfaced directly under the slab.” She is resilient to start talking excitingly about the app that she can control from her phone that can turn on the heat to start warming a pan of water while she is out. The entire idea is feasible actually, while I can only think about the consequences of having a particular thing of lip-gloss tap the one button on the phone in one’s purse that then turns on the heat accidentally and the entire house burns to the ground.
Fortunately, the idea catches on and spurs on another conversation to another co-worker, where he talks about the future of the cabinets system, “Its’s connected to a cooling system… so the refrigerator will be non-existent, and all of the cabinets will have a self-controlled temperate gage depending on what is inside them. The cabinets will be hardly noticeable, but blend into the walls and have transparent screens on the outside with the ability to feature your News’ Feed from Facebook or Instagram”. Two thoughts here: 1) The idea that his News Feed has a greater hierarchy than the food we eat is ultra-interesting, 2) the data aggregated from food to give an adequate temperature reading would be vast and large and who dictates this is another interesting topic.
The Interview with Tony continues as he discusses how smart kitchens will continue to change the commercial landscape: “Afterwards, going to the local farmer market, and next to it a small bagel shop, I spill the question again – “what does the future of IoT and smart homes look like, and immediately a larger man, with a beard longer than his chest gives the most rewarding of both of the answers – “It’s not necessary about the appliances as it is about the community spaces and where the family and friends sit and interact – The kitchen will lose an island, or the traditional areas all together but instead be a series of interchangeable walls that fold, hold food, cook it and reassemble themselves.”
Tony can’t help but smile after this part. Educating his audience that there will be a forefront of “smart” restaurants that go beyond the touch screen order kiosks and can better maintain a sense of human touch and community. “You will still need a guy to cut the bagels. Not because of the cutting, we have had these appliances for decades, but because of the beard, the smile and need for non-screen interactions which are huge for our psyche. What happens when community is only found in these digital boxes?”
Community for IoT will be tough and not in the sense of the open source community but in the sense that family and friends will be in these spaces to gather, dispute, cook, sleep, live, and eat. The automation part to human habits and tendencies is something that we as designers will be challenged with. Design in terms of its industrial components and the software around it will have to convert or better said, invert itself with human conditions on the first and forefront. Have we gotten there yet? – With Samsung’s smart fridge, it appears we are in its infancy.