March 7, 2017
The 9 Top Home Tech Trends for 2017
Tech has finally infiltrated our homes, but we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what home automation can really do. And smart tech has had an admittedly pretty rocky start. With a confusing number of platforms, not to mention a number of high-profile security flaws, smart devices were starting to seem a little less The Fifth Element and a little more Futurama.
Still, there’s hope for the home automation market. The dust raised by competing providers is finally starting to settle, and a few clear victors are starting to emerge—which means integration and machine-to-machine communication can become much more streamlined and powerful. Meanwhile, 2017 should see the release of some very cool new devices, as well. Here’s what’s on the menu for the next year in the world of home tech.
A Smart Fridge You’ll Actually Want
When manufacturers first started releasing smart refrigerators, the resulting products were a little underwhelming. A fridge that can tell you when you’re getting low on milk? Not exactly life-changing stuff. Thankfully, at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, LG and Samsung showed off some refrigerators that have a few more features. Notably, this year several models had integrated with Alexa and Google Assistant technology, and with a flat screen embedded in the front, they can now become the digital hub, chronicling a family’s comings and goings. You can jot down notes for your significant other to read, make grocery lists, or just watch a cooking video while you prep. This movement cements the kitchen’s place as the digital head of the home, so look for more smart culinary appliances to come in the future.
Even More Digital Assistant Integrations
If you have a few smart devices in your home, you’re probably already familiar with some of the issues with compatibility. With multiple communication channels, platforms, and proprietary apps out there, the promise of real M2M communication seemed distant, at the very least. Now, thankfully, two systems are emerging as distinct leaders in the home hub world: Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Digital Assistant. You’ll start to see more and more products that integrate with these systems and these systems alone, making the job of connecting and programming devices easier.
Charging Stations in the Kitchen
It’s not just appliances that are getting a high-tech upgrade. Counters and drawers will soon see changes as well. We’re already starting to read DIY hacks that add home “charging stations” into a spare kitchen drawer, a trend that’s likely to go mainstream in the next few months. Tech-ready homeowners often find themselves with a mass of charging cords draped all over their counters. Standing at waist level, with readily-accessible outlets, the kitchen makes a practical spot to give your devices some juice when you’re outside the bedroom. A charging port housed in a drawer lets you get all the convenience without any of the clutter.
Sous vide is the perfect cooking technique for the technically-minded: it’s scientific, it’s precise, and now, it’s digitally-connective as well. WiFi-enabled sous vide cookers swept the home goods market this year, with a number of different models released that allow you to check on your food right from your phone. Because sous vide relies on precise cooking temperatures and timing, it makes the perfect candidate for automation, since accuracy is everything to these meals. This year, expect to see more high-tech cookery on the market that will make last year’s sous vide machines look positively Stone-aged.
Futurists are predicting a new era where every inch of homes will be digital—environmental sensors and integrated surfaces will create a digital framework that allows our living spaces to be shaped to our every whim. A movement in that direction has been the release of smart windows: manufactured to “read” the amount of sunlight and heat and interiors, smart glass can automatically deploy more or less shade depending on environmental predictors. It can also be manipulated manually from your phone for a total comfort solution. Expect to see more happening with windows in the future—with developments like window-integrated solar glass and mobile phone projecting, windows should get quite a few updates in the near future.
Speaking of solar, we’re on the verge of a total renewable takeover. With the unveiling of Tesla’s solar roof systems last fall, it became clear that solar panels will soon be getting a new, sleek update that fits the aesthetics of contemporary homes. Known as roof-integrated solar systems, these units represent the cutting edge of the PV world. Instead of being housed in boxy, mounted glass frames, solar cells sit sandwiched in between layers of glass that can be molded and colored to match almost any shape—including many styles of shingles. And now that Tesla has gotten everyone’s attention, building-integrated photovoltaics should definitely start taking off.
Daylight Harvesting (sensors etc)
Daylighting is a cheap way to offset energy costs for lighting—but it’s obnoxious (not to mention inefficient) to remember to turn the lights on and off manually throughout the day. Using photosensitive sensors, daylight harvesting units automatically read light levels in interior spaces and readjust electric lighting based on the information they gather. It’s just another small way technology is helping homeowners reduce their energy consumption—all while making home life easier and more convenient, too.
More Practical VR and AR Systems
VR and AR systems still have a long way to go before they become accepted technology—but their influence is spreading. Notably heavy-hitters like Windows and Apple are expected to release products this year that will bring PC- and app-based VR headsets to the masses. These platforms should make VR a little more affordable and acceptable for mainstream users. No word on how they’ll affect your personal relationships, though.
Competition for Tesla’s Home Battery
Tesla’s announcement of its new solar home battery storage, the Powerwall 2.0, had the solar industry up in arms, by turns excited and skeptical. It seems like the first nascent movements to get homeowners to accept solar storage, an inarguably necessary move if residential solar is to compete with conventional energy sources. But since then, a number of companies have also made moves to begin solar battery production, most notably LG Chem, who recently partnered with SolarCity competitor Sunrun to bring their RESU battery to life. If these products can capture the public imagination, a totally solar-powered future may be right under our noses. What a time to be alive!
About the Writer
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.