Ten ways connected technology to houses has changed
The 21st-century household is often packed with gadgets and devices, from tablets and laptops to smart televisions. CNBC looks at ten technological developments that have become integral parts of many people’s home lives.
The advent of high-speed broadband in the home means that dial-up connections are, for most people, now a nostalgic memory. Today, people with broadband in their home can stream movies and music, browse the internet, make video calls and download large files quickly.
Having a reliable, fast broadband connection also acts as a gateway to other modern devices that have been designed to, in theory, make our lives easier or more entertaining.
Intelligent TVs have sounded the death knell for DVD and video players in many households. TVs that connect to a fast internet can, among other things, stream movies, television programs, and music and browse the web. In the U.K., regulator Ofcom says that intelligent TVs were in 42% of households in 2017, compared to just 5% in 2012.
Console and PC users were relatively restricted to online gaming during the 90s and early 2000s. The introduction of fast internet connections and the development of consoles such as Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation means that gamers can now face off against players from across the globe with ease. This has led to a boom in E-sports, with the world’s best players earning substantial financial rewards for their exploits in games such as Fortnite and Street Fighter. One 16-year-old, Kyle Giersdorf of Pennsylvania, recently won $3 million playing Fortnite.
U.K. energy regulator Ofgem describes smart meters as devices that can “give consumers near real-time information on energy use.” The idea is that, by seeing how much energy they are using, consumers will be able to “better manage their energy use, save money and reduce emissions.”
Whether it’s on a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or the aforementioned smart TV, streaming has revolutionized the way we consume media. Services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video offer instant access to television programs and movies for a fee. Platforms such as Spotify and Tidal do the same for music.
Whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google’s Home, virtual assistants are becoming a common sight in many homes. These pieces of kit react to voice commands to undertake a range of tasks, from playing music and providing weather forecasts to recipe advice. To put things in perspective, users can control more than 30,000 different connected devices, from TVs and lights to thermostats, using Google Home.
The ovens we use to cook our food may look more or less the same as they did decades ago, but the kit inside them is changing. Today’s smart ovens can be controlled using verbal commands, turned on and off remotely, and send users notifications when food has been cooked.
A variety of major companies, including Dyson, Hoover, and Miele, offer robot vacuums. These devices take the elbow grease from cleaning, moving around homes, and sucking up dirt and dust autonomously. And while a robot vacuum may be convenient, they arouse suspicion in some cases. In April, armed deputies in Oregon were called to a property after reports of an intruder, only to find that their suspect was a Roomba vacuum cleaner going about its business.
For some, locks that don’t require keys to open them are convenient for securing the property. These locks can be controlled using an app or by entering a passcode and opening up some secondary applications. In July, U.K. supermarket Waitrose announced it would be expanding the trial of its “While You’re Away” delivery service. Yale smart-lock technology gives Waitrose delivery drivers access to a customer’s home. The customer sets a temporary access code for their lock, sent to Waitrose through a secure app.
On the topic of securing one’s home, intelligent doorbells offer safety-conscious households an extra layer of security. There are many products on the market, but most work in pretty much the same way. When the bell is rung or one of its motion sensors activated, the homeowner receives a notification – usually sent to their cell phone – that someone is trying to get access to their property. Using their mobile device, they can see who that person is and, if necessary, speak to them.