Just how automated will your home be in five years?
Last week a group of electronics reporters were invited for a tour of a Residential Experience Center at 561 Broadway (between Spring and Prince streets) in Soho here in Manhattan. The 3,000-square-foot apartment represents today's home automation state-of-the-art created by home control company Savant - and perhaps how all homes will work five years hence.
With components supplied by Krell, Lutron, Runco and Thiel, every electronic aspect of this jaw-dropping dwelling is controlled by a series of iPad wall panels, handheld remotes, tablets and smartphones. (Simply being able to afford a dozen iPads to install in-wall just for home control is mind-boggling. Personally, I loved the grooved hardwood floors and the beautiful bathrooms.)
Admittedly, Savant's sophisticated living space, which took eight months to construct, is beyond the ken of the 99 percent of us whose idea of "home automation" is a universal remote control, a dishwasher timer and a garage door opener.
But Savant and other companies who are members of CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association) believe the home of tomorrow - a future maybe just five years hence - will be even more advanced than today's most automated abodes, even Savant's Residential Experience Center. (You can schedule your own tour if you'd like.)
Top 10 Home Automation Trends
At the Residential Experience Center, Dave Pedigo, CEDIA's senior director of technology, presented a David Letterman-like Top 10 Emerging Trends and Technologies for the automated home that illustrate how exactly our castles will soon be completely automated.
Over the next three days, I'll bring you my own take on Savant's top 10.
10. It's All About IP.
Every electronics gadget that runs on electricity will soon be accessible via the Internet for remote control, at home or away - smartphones, computers, appliances, lights, security systems, cars, TVs...you name it and you'll be able to access and control it via the Internet.
In order for a gadget to be accessible and controllable via the Internet, it needs a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address. An IP address is expressed as a series of numbers. (Each Web site also has a unique IP address, but for user ease the numerical IP address is expressed as a alphabetical address - www.xxx.com. For instance, Thiel's Web site IP address linked above is actually http://184.108.40.206).
Under this numerical naming structure, known as IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), there are approximately 4.29 trillion possible IP addresses.
And believe it or not, we're running out of IPv4 IP addresses, which has delayed the deployment of many futuristic gadgets - not enough IP addresses to go around.
So on June 6, the Internet industry officially moved from IPv4 to IPv6, which creates a longer IP address string, enabling 340 undecillion new IP addresses.
"Undecillion"? Here's how the number of potential/possible IPv6 addresses looks like in numbers:
This infographic does a great job of expressing the potential of IPv6 IP addresses into more understandable human terms.
No matter how you look at it, that's a lot of IP addresses. Savant notes IPv6 provides an entire IPv4 universe of IP addresses for every star in the known universe, which means there can and will be no limit to the number of future gadgets to include Web access and control.
In fact, it's likely ALL new devices will have their own IP address, both current and new classes of gadgets, including...
9. Digital Home Health/Wellness
The timing of IPv6 coincides nicely with the needs of a new class of devices - health/medical sensors/transmitters. These bio sensors enable home health monitoring to lessen the reliance on doctors and hospital visits and increase the chances that if you or someone you love have fallen and can't get up, rescue will come sooner rather than later.
Now that there are plenty of IPv6 IP addresses available, expect the number of medical/health/wellness monitoring devices to explode.
This new generation of bio sensors will track and transmit a wide range of bio-medical data such as heart and pulse rate, glucose levels, etc., as well as tracking medicine ingestion and even lifestyle - if sensors don't detect movement at a prescribed period of time, for instance, authorities or loved ones can be notified.
These health monitoring devices include not only sensors to track and report the conditions of the nearly 100 million Americans who will be 50 years and older this year, but for youngsters as well. Health monitors will allow parents to not only keep track of where their kids are, but their physical condition as well as they attend school and especially as they participate in athletics or in other potentially injury-inducing activities.
8. Energy Monitoring
Another new gadget category stalled by the lack of IP addresses is smart grid and energy management terminals.
Our homes will soon be replete with IP-enabled gadgets to allow us to monitor carbon emissions, track real-time energy creation and use, and to help your house adjust itself - you tell your house how much to budget for energy costs, and the house decides how to allot energy so you don't over-spend.
And, of course, you'll be able to monitor and control your home energy usage via the Internet.
And these energy monitors will all be tied into a regional or national energy smart grid, the national system for tracking energy creation and usage.
Tomorrow: trends number 7-thru-4, voice control, video, all-over-audio and all-over-TV.