- Better living through technology
- What can the smart home do for us?
- Will we become slaves to technology?
Dr Chris Brauer is the only person who’s ever made us wish we could go back to school. This livewire academic, who lectures at London’s Goldsmiths college in his role as its director of innovation, is a furiously fast-thinking ball of energy who has just released some deep insights into the smart home.
His Smart Lives study, released on 19 June 2015, is a fascinating look at how consumers respond to energy-saving smart home technology.
Why did you launch this research?
We wanted to look at smart home technology in the light of the new advances such as voice recognition programmes like Siri. The Energy Saving Trust was the ideal partner on this, as they look at everyday ways that the consumer can save energy.
What do smart home technologies mean to us today?
You can now have a thermostat in your home that is linked to the net, or a carbon monoxide indicator which texts your neighbour if there’s a problem. They are designed to make your relationship with energy easier. But these technologies can’t change behaviour on their own. Saving energy requires a shift in our cultural consciousness. Just as getting people to stop smoking requires action from the top down and from the bottom up, so too does the notion of reducing energy use. It’s a society-wide commitment.
Home technology is often talked of as part of the ‘internet of things’. What does that mean?
Sensors are now ubiquitous, embedded in everyday objects, and connected on the internet. A fridge that scans sell-by dates, for example, is connected to the net and as much a part of your home as your laptop.
And when we move around the world, we can communicate with these devices remotely – we will always be linked to our home, in other words.
Doing a bit of crystal ball gazing, what will the fact that computer processing power doubles every 18 months mean for us?
I expect the smart home will soon demonstrate intelligence – not just do things in a smart way – but learn and adapt to the needs of those living there.
Do you have a smart meter? Is it useful?
I do, and it is. But I’m looking forward to the next layer, which are the apps and services that run on top of the smart meter data. This will have a much bigger impact on our behaviour.
Finally, where does wearable technology, such as a smart watch, fit into all of this?
It’s a really important component. Wearable tech takes information from people, their biometrics, and their moods. In our research we simulated wearable tech anticipating a film choice for you as you were heading home from work, based on how you were feeling during the journey. People found that very useful. There are truly powerful possibilities between human data and the data from the home.
From the web