If you use a smartphone to control your home security system, a smartwatch to program your thermostat, or an Amazon Echo speaker to dim your lights, you’re an armchair revolutionary.
What Is IoT?
The “Internet of Things,” or IoT describes the embedded connectivity of devices that can send and receive data from sensors, from the internet, and from one another. Companies are working on designs and software for “gateways,” which will connect control circuits with devices. The possibilities for the homebuilding industry – and for simplifying the lives of everyone who wants to relax at home – are astounding.
Tap Your Inner Inventor and Imagine the Possibilities
To envision the possibilities for homebuilders, just imagine that every device and appliance in your own home has a brain, a voice, eyes, and a keen interest in you. Every device listens, talks, receives, and sends information. Your thermostat could respond to your garage door opening by adjusting the temperature when you come home from work. Your lights could dim when you turn on the TV (even dimmer if it’s a Netflix movie). Your shower could turn on two minutes after your alarm clock goes off. An IoT home would be enough to make George Jetson envious. [Tweet This]
IoT devices can not only communicate with one another; they can also use a combination of sensors and web data. Think of a refrigerator compiling a grocery list as it empties, scanning its own contents and taking information from your Food Channel, Epicurious, or Whole Foods profile. It can then place an order for home delivery, completely eliminating every grocery task you do right now, except unpacking. The longer you own your refrigerator, the more it learns what you and your family want and when you want it. It’s even possible that a Pandora type app could give you recommendations based on the foods you currently enjoy.
An interconnected system of windows can close before a storm, heeding an automatic Weather Channel storm warning. Those same weather feeds could prevent your sprinkler from wasting water in the rain. Imagine that! Air quality sensors in your HVAC could tell you when it’s time to change filters, and sensors on your floor could tell you when it’s time to vacuum – or unleash the Roomba robot. That stovetop you accidentally left on could shut off when your front door sensor tells it you’ve gone to work. Or perhaps the sensor in Fido’s collar could do the same when he barks goodbye at the window. Poor Rosie the robot won’t have a job in the homes we’re about to inhabit.
Homebuilders may soon be able to offer many of these features, integrated into HVAC systems, kitchen and bathroom appliances, flooring, and more. We’ll also have advantages over the sellers of individual products and systems in that we can innovate centralized controls to manage all of these processes even more efficiently.
IoT will also change the way we think about communities. Monitoring systems could bring cost efficiency to neighborhood lighting and power systems, supplying power where and when it’s needed, to reduce HOA costs for homeowners.
Tap the Brakes When the Possibilities Become Strange
As easy as it is to visualize improved convenience, cost savings, efficiency, and safety, it’s just as easy to imagine this trend leading to overzealous innovation. Who needs toilets that study our bathroom behaviors or “track lighting” that follows us through the house, lighting our way as we go? The creepy factor will be a reason many such bad ideas never make it to market. Hopefully.
No doubt IoT will also trigger a perceived loss of privacy. Will the Internet of Everything lead to Privacy for No One (let’s name this PfN), with homes that feed corporations and the government data about citizens through appliances? Will insurance companies be able to learn about our diets from our refrigerators, or our workouts from our home fitness equipment? Homebuilders will need to balance the promises of technology against some of the risks. But first movers may enjoy great advantages, especially with tech savvy Millenials.
According to Intel, the number of IoT devices will grow from approximately 15 billion in 2015 to 200 billion just five years later in 2020. [Tweet This] If this exponential growth rate for smart, embedded devices proves true, we as homebuilders will have an opportunity to provide our customers new levels of comfort, convenience, and security. We just have to foresee all of the possibilities, good and bad.
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