We are undoubtedly living in a new age of information where technology is becoming increasingly more central to our every day lives. Connectivity is now integrated into all our interactions, transactions and into the urban fabric of our cities; using technology is now unavoidable to be a part of the modern world.
Cloud based computing is all part of this change, we can now go from place to place and have everything with us via our smart phones; from Spotify music playlists, audio books and podcasts, Dropbox files, social media and banking to information like local weather and news. Essentially we can now take our environment with us, adapt our location to our own tastes, our technology becoming an extension of our preferences and personality.
Smart Technology & Our Homes
The development of technology to influence our surroundings extends to our homes. Although smart homes are not a new idea they are now very much more accessible because previously smart home automation was not really smart at all. Everything had physical controls and had to be wired into the fabric of the building, which was time consuming and expensive.
Now we are able to bring an ecosystem of different devices to link up together via Wifi, Zigbee or Z-Wave to a central hub such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. These devices can be voice activated, allowing us to control our whole home just by saying what we want or need. Apps such as Yonomi and Apple HomeKit are an alternative and work as smart home hubs that live on a Smartphone or ipad.
Harnessing Smart Home Technology
At Liquid we have embraced this transition and are intent on harnessing the latest technology to develop smart homes that help us to live a more healthy and sustainable life. Last year we won two smart living design awards for our Grand Austin project, particularly because of the way we built the functionality of smart home technology into a modern and comfortable living space.
Smart Home Technology & Our Health
Science is now proving that our homes and buildings are often unhealthy, for example, due to poor air quality and lighting. We are now able to measure all the important variables in our homes more accurately and developments in smart home technology can now tackle some of the practical problems, allowing us to design homes with healthy and sustainable living at the centre.
Home Lighting Systems That Wake You Up & Help You Sleep
Healthy lighting is important because we are all governed by our circadian rhythm, set to the rising and setting of the sun. This natural rhythm is so strong that the amount of light we’re exposed to can completely shift our body clocks, causing problems such as sleep disorders, eating disorders, ADHD and depression.
Light pollution in built up areas and lack of natural daylight are both problems in cities along with the colour or tone of lights in our homes and the large amount of artificial light we are exposed to from screen time.
At Liquid Interiors we design bespoke circadian lighting systems that mirror the color temperature changes of sunlight throughout the day and evening, therefore supporting the natural sleep-wake cycle and improving sleep quality and mood. Different lighting scenes in different rooms go from energising cool bright blue light in the morning through to warm dim light in the evening before sleep.
Lighting can be complimented by blackout roller blinds that connect to lighting schemes, integrating the control of light exposure from the outside, particularly for shading and light pollution. Each room in your home can be pre-programmed and then linked in with a central hub to instruct the lighting system through voice activation.
Light sensors are also now becoming more accessible with motion activation for night-lights; they are also useful for energy saving as they switch off lights automatically when they are not needed.
Similar effects can be created by introducing a Philips Hue lighting system into your home.
Ensuring Indoor Air Quality Is At Its Best
Good indoor air quality is vital for health and wellbeing; we can now monitor the air quality in our homes by connecting an air quality monitor such as an Awair, which will analyse the temperature, humidity, dust, CO2 and chemicals in the atmosphere. When poor air quality arises various systems can then be activated to counteract the problems.
Air conditioning sensors can now be located in the ambient air rather than by an outlet and comfort levels can be automatically adjusted with a device such as an Ambiclimate, regulating the different factors that influence the temperature and humidity to perfect comfort levels.
Smart air purification systems, dehumidifiers and HVAC systems can also be connected to a central voice activated hub making it much easier to regulate everything via voice command. Again this can all be controlled from a smart phone for added assurance and allow control when not at home, providing energy saving benefits.
Positive Changes To Our General Wellbeing
Voice activated technology such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home have brought smart home technology to many more people, along with a big change in how we interact with our technology.
These systems can fully integrate our lifestyle choices with our homes, creating spaces that are so in tune with our own preferences that they almost merge our thoughts with our physical surroundings.
For example, if you wanted to workout in your living room a workout setting of different elements can be grouped together so that with a few words the room will change to workout lighting, play the workout video from YouTube and alter the air settings to cool the room. At night with a few instructions you can check your diary and the weather for the next day, dim the lights, set an ambient sleeping temperature and play restful music or white noise.
Personally, at first it took some time to get used to speaking to Alexa, however talking now feels like a much more personal connection to the technology, more natural and more accessible. Best of all these things can now all happen without having to look at a screen! Reducing screen time and all its negative effects, including exposure to more artificial light, brings you closer to nature and makes you feel more relaxed, improving overall wellbeing.
Positives, Negatives & Future Trends
Some of our clients are naturally wary of smart home technology because they are concerned about the amount of radiation from Wifi and its effect on sleep quality, however with Zigbee and Z-Wave there is not the same issue as these protocols work without Wifi.
Some people are also concerned about using AI voice automated systems as they worry that they don’t have control over being listened to. Therefore, although the trend is for voice-activated technology, retaining smart pads or wall switches that can control the smart system is also likely to develop further.
Other future trends indicate that wearable’s will be the next development in smart home technology, a wearable device will allow you to go into any room in your home and have that room respond to the settings pre-set into the wearable. There are also more developments in training the hub devices to recognise different voices.
Screens and touchpad’s are set to look a lot more like paper, there is a move for technology to be more natural and tactile in general along with a shift to more natural interactions that are more human focused.
Further technology in energy saving such as integrating Nest will help us to limit energy wastage and reduce overall usage.
The Future is Smart & Healthy Homes
Smart home technology is moving so quickly that it will soon be possible to make any item ‘smart’ and group everything together centrally to create changing ‘scenes’ for your home. For Liquid Interiors as specialists in home automation and smart home systems the possibilities for creating healthy and eco efficient homes are increasing enormously.
We even help our clients with programming, coming up with settings to improve health. As with all technology, to gain all the potential health benefits it is essential that devices are programmed properly and that settings are used to their maximum.
Currently there is no completely healthy focused central solution on the market to gather together all the elements to optimise health and wellbeing, however it is certain that we will be at the forefront of using these new technologies and that they will arrive soon.
For further information on Smart Home Ecosystems this is a good overview
For our smart home partners here in Hong Kong please click here.
For more information, feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco consious interior design consultants.