“Home is the most important place in the world” according to Vanessa W. Folkesson - ultimately we just want our homes to reflect us, and be comfortable and cozy – yet all we hear about with the smarthome is about ‘fancy gadgets’ and cutting-edge technologies. Home should make us feel well, ignite our emotions and feel safe – this emotion and simplicity has been lost in the buzz around the smarthome.
One of the largest challenges facing smarthome creation is future-proofing design. Most furniture has a lifespan of around 20 years – yet technology incorporated into smarthome design has the potential to quickly become dated. To counter this, designers should focus on device and brand collaboration. How will the device work with other devices, and devices from other brands? The success of mobile phones illustrates how this can be achieved. Mobile phones are all compatible – regardless of brand, age, style, space etc. Smarthome design should learn from this collaboration to ensure the smarthome is future-proof.
Also key to the smarthome is the interface, a vital concept in technological design. Digital interfaces should not be the default – sometimes it is better to keep it simple! The Hue lightbulb from Phillips originally needed a smartphone but now only uses a simple, tangible switch. Invisible interfaces may also be suitable – such as smoke alarms that turn off when users wave at them. The tangible and invisible interfaces can be superior to digital interfaces as they are simple and intuitive to use –and simplicity should be at the heart of the smarthome.
Debating the creation of the smarthome left us with three key learnings:
1) Smarthome design should focus on emotions rather than functions – we need smart devices that ignite happy emotions.
2) Future-proofing the smarthome is essential. Brands and devices must be collaborative to achieve this – Brands need friends too!
3) Tangible and invisible interfaces reflect simplicity – and the smarthome should be simple and intuitive!
So where does the future of the smarthome lie? The next phase in smarthome design is beyond the appliance - ‘smart materials’ will be a future focus. Lights that can kill bacteria, carbon fibre materials in beds that can keep two sides different temperatures are potential innovations in this area. But first we need to convince consumers why they need a smarthome – and keeping it simple can achieve this.