The news from the latest Consumer Electronics Show(CES) 2013 in Las Vegas got me thinking how much life has changed since I was a kid back in the seventies and early eighties. It doesn’t feel like that long ago, but maybe it is. At least that’s what technological developments are telling me. Like many other parents I am hugely concerned about my kids and their friends spending too much time on the iPad, computer, television and every other electronic device you can name – but in reality they are just doing the same things that I do and, for that matter, the rest of the world. Born in the early 2000s they are typical of generation Z or C – the connected generation. Technology and connectedness is in their DNA and being tech-savvy is critical for our future generation, as technology changes ever faster than before.
The internet is probably the most beloved invention since the car. More than 2.4 billion or 34.3% of the world’s population is online and Facebook, the world’s biggest social network with 1 billion users, just confirms the fact that we love being online, connected and living our life in real-time. However, the internet is not only used as tool to connect people. Increasingly it is also used to fight inefficient transport services, outdated water and waste networks, rising pollution levels and increased demands for energy and housing in our ever more urban communities. Today cities are becoming more intelligent as high technology firms, including IBM and Cisco, cross industry boundaries to take on the challenge of city management. In many different forms, they offer highly efficient, next-generation computerized planning, information and control systems. For example, IBM has worked with Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro to use technology to better handle the challenges of running the city, from managing traffic flow, or coordinating public works crews to anticipating disruptive storms. Another smart new technology making a difference to city planning is Urban OS from Living PlanIT, which works like a PC operating system, monitoring buildings, traffic and services in order to help a city to run smoothly. Test beds for the Urban OS are currently being built in Portugal as well as London’s Greenwich peninsula, while Living PlanIT was selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers of 2012 for its work in developing smart cities. Another interesting Internet-led development is connectedness in manufacturing. According to the recent report “Industrial Internet: Pushing the Boundaries of Minds and Machines” from General Electric, the Internet of Things has the potential to add US$10-15 trillion to global GDP by 2030 and reduce billions of dollars’ worth of waste across major industries such as healthcare, energy and transportation.
With or without us giving it a thought, the fact is that our lives and surroundings are increasingly connected and now extend into our personal space – our home. A recent report from Visiongain confirms that the connected home is no longer a concept but a reality with a market being built around it that is anticipated to reach revenues of US$101 billion in 2013. Alongside the Connected Home market gaining traction, three industries are named as winners – consumer electronics, home computers and mobile devices. Among the most mature Connected Home technologies is smart metering. The report reveals that 8 million smart meters are expected to be installed globally in 2013, reaching 12 million in 2014 and by 2018 the projected number is 58 million.
CES 2013 offered a vivid demonstration that the technology for the Connected Home is here and your smartphone will be acting as the brain or the “magic wand” to control it. The price of these new services though is in many cases still to be determined – and most likely won’t be cheap. However, the bigger question is how long it will take consumers to embrace these new technologies? For instance a NPD Connected Intelligence Application & Convergence survey shows that less than 10%of consumers with connected HDTVs use the display to do anything else except watch TV!
So what products and services may (or may not) your family and community be sharing your home with soon? A few examples of connected home devices shown at CES 2013 include:
- The major TV manufacturers (e.g. Sharp, LG, Panasonic, Samsung) all showed off smart, web-connected sets with improved user interfaces and smartphone or tablet integration.
- The Korean company Moneual offered what was basically an all-in-one computer built into a tabletop to allow consumers to perform tasks using its touchscreen interface when sitting at the table.
- LG’s Smart Manager lets you check the food stored inside your fridge remotely, while its freshness tracker lets you inventory the perishable items (via voice recognition, selecting icons, or scanning receipts or barcodes) and keep tabs on expiration dates. The fridge can even suggest dishes to cook with what you have got on hand. You can also create a shopping list using the app. A Smart Diagnosis feature will send you an alert if there’s a minor issue, such as the door being left open. LG’s washer/dryers and oven can also be smartphone controlled.(Source: Wired)
- Eversense 2.0 is a home environment and energy management unit that pairs with an app to allow you to control the temperature from another place. It uses your mobile device to identify where you are in the house and personalize the thermostat and lighting settings in the room to your preferences. (Source: Wired)
Like it or not, everything is getting more connected as technologies advance, shifting how we live, behave and work. Looking ahead, try envisioning sensors discreetly attached to your body so you are constantly informed about how your vital functions are doing. Or pill bottles that tell you when to take your medicine; wine glasses that let you know when you have had enough to drink; or sugar bowls warning you about your sugar intake. Everything seems possible!