Turn any corner and you’re likely to hear the latest buzz surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT). According to google dictionary, the Internet of Things is a ‘proposed development of the internet in which everyday objects have network connective, allowing them to send and receive data’. The IoT is a rapidly expanding web of connectivity fueled by WiFi capabilities, an expansion of censors built into WiFi enabled products, a substantial decrease in technological costs and mass smart phone penetration. All of these rapidly expanding capabilities create the ‘perfect storm’ for the IoT. The IoT concept includes everything from smart phones, to washers and dryers, to headphones, to home security systems, and essentially to any object that has an on/off switch. If you can turn it on or off, you can most likely connect it to the internet.
According to recent reports from Gartner, there will be over 26 billion connected devices by the year 2020. By many accounts, that figure is a gross underestimate and connected devices could potentially soar beyond 100 billion within 5 years. That’s a lot of connections.
Another hot topic floating around the IoT arena is a whole lot of conversation about smart homes. Smart homes could not be possible without the mass connectivity of the IoT. The smart home buzz lends to talks about controlling your thermostat from two states away while on vacation or starting a load of laundry while you’re sitting in your Friday afternoon commute from the office. But what isn’t widely talked about is how this smart home connectivity may impact the way we design homes in the not so distant future. How is this technology influencing the way we view a home of the future?
Perhaps because I’m a child of the 80’s, my mind’s eye quickly draws upon images of George and Jane Jetson hovering through space and straight into their intergalactic modern dwelling space. People would often wonder if someday we would really live in fully automated homes that not only got us dressed and prepped each morning, but also have dinner waiting on the table and delivered hot off the conveyor belt. While the Jetson’s may still resonate as a vision of a futuristic home, the reality is that the technology to create a fully functioning and nearly self-sufficient home is available now and it’s changing the design and vision of what our future spaces may look like.
Architects once dictated what future homes looked like and consistently pushed the boundaries of what we could imagine our dwelling spaces to be. Frank Lloyd Wright, widely considered one of the greatest American architects of all time, designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Wright pushed the envelope on design but also believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called ‘organic architecture’. Fast forward to modern day times and we find engineering geniuses predominantly designing our future homes. Could it be that engineers and software gurus will be our new modern day architects influencing what we view as a home of the future?
In an online journal of ‘critical discourse surrounding contemporary art, culture, and theory’, Justin McQuirk shares exactly those sentiments in the aptly titled ‘Honeywell, I’m home! The Internet of Things and the New Domestic Landscape’. He shares:
For the first time since the mid-twentieth century, with its labor-saving household appliances and rising quality of life, the domestic is once again the site of radical change. And though domestic space appears to fall within the realm of architecture, architects themselves have been almost mute on the implications of such change. Architecture, it seems, has given up its dream of imagining how we might live and so into that void technology is rushing.’
Throughout history, architects have often overlooked the possible impact of technological innovations such as air conditioning, which was slow to catch on after WWII. Innovations such as home air conditioning literally changed the way that homes needed to be designed to allow for the venting, air ducts, and so forth. Arguably, the IoT and the smart home are not likely to demand an overall structural change and infrastructural development to adapt to the technological advancements we’re seeing.
More impactful, it seems inevitable that the IoT will have far greater implications for architecture than previously thought and will specifically alter our sources of vision for our Jetsons-esque homes of the future. Step aside Frank Lloyd Wright's of the future…the engineers that are designing sensors, smart phone technology, and IoT connectivity just may be our sources of futuristic home design as we now know it.