The concept of a "smart home" has been around since the time of "The Jetsons," but it's one that's increasingly becoming a reality. However, today's real smart homes might not be exactly what most people imagined half a century ago. While robot butlers and flying cars have not yet penetrated the market, there are some incredible new pieces of home tech that are reshaping homeownership.
One of the most recent and influential innovations comes from Tesla Inc., which made a name for itself designing electric cars. Now, the tech company's hottest product is one that could pave the way for a new era of home energy consumption. Tesla's Solar Roof is made of tiles containing photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity from sunlight. While intrepid homeowners have been able to set up a traditional solar panel atop their roof for some time now, Tesla's tiles promise greater efficiency as well as strength, along with a more appealing form factor.
While the tiles are not currently in mass production and aimed at the luxury market, Tesla reported in early June that pre-sales had already gone out of stock until 2018. Perhaps in response to this high level of demand, other companies like Forward Labs have announced intentions to release solar roof products to compete with Tesla, but at a third of the cost. Clearly, this is one area of home tech that will develop rapidly over the coming years.
Another fast-moving sector of residential technology involves home automation. Utilizing the ability to connect appliances like the thermostat, lighting and security cameras to the internet, companies like Google have been enhancing how homeowners interact with routine home features.
Google recently announced an update to its suite of Nest appliances, which include thermostats, smoke detectors and home security cameras that can be controlled remotely by users. In a forthcoming update, Nest cameras will tap into facial recognition technology to recognize who is home and activate devices based on that information. This could also provide homeowners with the ability to monitor their home while they are away, to ensure the dog sitter is still coming by each day, for example.
While this feature offers the potential for many handy uses, it also represents a hidden cost of advanced home tech. Some expressed concern that with Nest's new facial recognition abilities, Google or others could use the information to monitor users without their consent. There is also the possibility that video and data collected by the system could be used as evidence in a crime, although Nest has explained that its policy is not to relinquish such information to law enforcement without proper authorization.
Even more examples and uses for smart home tech are sure to come at a breakneck pace in the near future. Despite some concerns, these developments are bound to have a significant impact on how homeowners go about their lives each day.