The Smart Home Perks You Don’t Hear About

Smart Home

By now most people have a general idea of what a smart home is all about. There are learning thermostats, more interconnected security features, better energy savings, and all sorts of fun appliances and applications. Beyond these basic everyday features, however, there are also some interesting smart home perks you don’t hear as much about. And as we move closer to a future full of smart cities in which homes will play significant roles, some of these perks are worth considering also.

Smart Furniture for Health Monitoring

The idea of smart furniture coming to play a role in smart homes is actually something we’ve discussed before. Our article on ‘How Smart Homes Can Connect to Smart Cities’ included the statement that “microprocessors and sensors are incorporated into furniture… to analyse diagnostic diseases and identify health risks.” This is a concept people have gotten used to with certain wearable devices. But with in-home furniture, it’s still a fairly new idea.

The United States may be leading the way where the production of modern smart furniture is concerned, thanks largely to the innovative minds of Silicon Valley. Several years ago in fact, Silicon Angle highlighted new furniture from an American company that could track health in various ways. Specifically, it could monitor breathing and heart rate, track weight and sleep quality, and even keep tabs on blood pressure and body temperature. At the time, the company was seeking distributors in the U.S., as well as in China and Europe, and while we still haven’t seen a particularly widespread burst of smart, health-tracking furniture, we wouldn’t bet against it. If some of these innovations do catch on in Silicon Valley, they’re likely to spread beyond the United States and around the globe’s smart homes in short time.

Future Readiness

This is not a specific feature or application. However, it’s time to start considering the benefits of current smart homes from a standpoint of future readiness. A smart home, in some respects, is a network. It’s an IoT system on which various technologies connect to and communicate with one another — and sometimes with the surrounding cities or environments. Thus it stands to reason that an existing smart home network will be better equipped to continue adding functions than a home starting from scratch. In this way, one of the most exciting perks of smart homes is that they’re almost inherently ready for more.

Remote Monitoring for Home Integrity

Remote monitoring is something we tend to appreciate in smart homes from a security standpoint. But what about from a perspective of home integrity? There’s something to be said for being able to keep tabs on things like home accidents, repairs, and insurance claims from a distance. In this case, we can turn to the UK for a clear idea of why.

This is because UK homeowners are particularly tied up in second homes and extra properties, which they naturally have interest in monitoring from afar. Last year, The Guardian revealed that second homes were worth £1 trillion to Britons, which represented a 50% rise over the course of two decades. Breaking the number down a little more, the report indicated that some 5.5 million British adults have wealth from second homes or extra properties.

Keeping tabs on those extra properties’ security via smart home features is a must at this point. However, monitoring the homes’ integrity is also possible at this point. Regarding insurance, UK homeowners are already equipped with some helpful on-the-go tools. For instance, the HomeServe app helps users monitor policies and make claims wherever they may be. So in a sense, that’s step one: A remote homeowner can handle an insurance policy without being on site. Where some modern smart home features come into play though is in actually sending the alert that may make an insurance claim necessary. Today, one can equip an extra property with various sensors and intelligent systems that can recognise and report one issues like struggling HVAC systems, leaking pipes, etc. Thus, the home can speak up, and the homeowner can react.

Activity Insight

Another smart home perk we’re beginning to hear more about is insight. Where this point is concerned, it’s actually helpful to think of a smart home like a smartphone. Because in much the same way our phones can now inform us of our habits (such as how often we’re using the devices, which apps we’re spending time on, etc.), our homes can now keep us honest with insight about how we spend our time.

The prevailing example is television viewing. There are now smart TVs that can either display viewing statistics or tap into apps or broader entertainment systems to relay data. This could help people in countries like Japan or the U.S. — both of which are leaders in both TV viewing and smart home innovation — to adjust their habits. However, TV isn’t the only application for the idea of insight. The same idea could apply to smart refrigerators telling us what we’re eating most of, or which foods we tend to waste; it could refer to our beds pairing with devices to report on sleep habits, and so on.

Smarter Garden Spaces

Lastly, it’s time we also begin to consider gardens as potential add-ons to smart home environments. When it comes to exteriors, we usually only get as far as considering things like solar panels supplying energy. Now, however, there are some ideas and applications that are beginning to spread concerning the idea of smart garden management.

Some of the most interesting activity in this space has occurred in Germany, where there have actually been creative solutions to urban gardening needs for some time now. Simply put, many Germans love their gardens, but have often turned to publicly available space in order to manage them. DW’s guide to German garden colonies explains this in a little bit more depth. It describes a “typically German phenomenon” of Schrebergarten, or “allotment gardens.” These are basically plots of land Germans can rent in order to do their gardening, perhaps if they don’t have the space or capability to garden at home.

Now though, some potential trends toward smart gardening could enable more Germans to garden at home. Not too long ago, German Pulse identified a system called CloudRain that “wants to take the smart home outside and into your garden.” Designed by a company in Dusseldorf, Germany, the system essentially manages irrigation according to needs and weather patterns. This kind of optimised watering can allow city dwellers to make the absolute most out of limited space, and succeed where they might have previously believed gardening would be difficult. In Germany, this could lead to some allotment garden users trying new efforts at home. Worldwide, it could be the beginning of more consideration for yards and gardens in the smart home era.

There are many more examples, and the list could go on just about indefinitely. But these features and concepts should help to broaden your idea of the modern smart home, and paint some picture of how these homes will factor into the smart cities beginning to develop around the world.