At the start of the new millennium, if someone had complimented you on your phone, you might have assumed they were talking about the flashy new case of your Nokia 3210.
Today, smart technology has permeated almost every area of our lives. We have smartphones, smart speakers, smart doorbells, smart refrigerators, and wearable smart technology in the form of smart watches and smart glasses. It’s estimated that there’s up to 100,000 times more computing power in an iPhone than there was on Apollo 11, the spacecraft that carried man to the moon. The power of today’s technology is outstanding.
But just how are smart home appliances better than their older predecessors? We’ve taken a closer look at the benefits of going ‘smart’.
It’s a scene we’ve nearly all faced before. You go to make a cup of tea only to find the milk’s gone off. With so many things in your fridge it’s easy to lose track of expiry dates.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that the UK wastes 6.6 million tonnes of food every year. That’s about £355.68 per household.
Smart fridges can assist by giving a helpful prompt when your groceries are about to pass their expiry date — helping you to save money by buying only what you need, and sometimes even providing recipe ideas in the process.
With your fridge offering guidance on its contents and expiry dates, it’s possible to dramatically reduce waste. A smart fridge will appeal to greener consumers as well as those who love to have the latest gadgets.
Depending on the extent of its features, your fridge can message you, when it detects you’re near a shop, to remind you to pick up a few essentials. You can even subscribe to a delivery service, and it will automatically order regular items to ensure you’re stocked up.
Many smart fridges today connect with apps on smartphones to generate alerts when there are operational issues or, for instance, filters need to be changed. They can save on electricity costs too by monitoring any functionality issues and allowing users to adjust temperatures accordingly.
Smart washing machines and tumble dryers
A benefit of smart technology means that you don’t need to physically be somewhere to operate something. This is especially the case with smart washing machines and dryers.
Today, you can start or stop your laundry on the go and get updates on how long’s left. Being able to plan when the cycle will end, avoiding damp clothes sitting around for too long and needing to be rewashed, proves to be both helpful and more energy efficient.
Some smart washers use technology to assess the shape and fabric type, adjusting the amount of detergent needed or the washer movement to allow for the best cleaning performance.
Depending on the capacity of the load within the washing machine, it can calculate the appropriate and most efficient amount of water and energy to use too.
A key feature of some smart washers and dryers is that they will alert you when there’s something wrong. If it can’t provide you with a quick fix itself, you can easily organise your repairs, plans and appliances in My Account. If you don’t have one, it’s also simple to create a new account.
For smart dryers, you just need to type in the properties of the textiles within the drum and your drying requirements. Sensors will then measure the temperature and moisture of the textiles and dry them accordingly. This means that the appliance uses less energy and comes out less creased too.
Lighting and heating
Circadian lighting, which creates a range of subtle hues and shades at different times of the day, is already a feature on long-haul airlines and now it’s filtering into our homes too. Bright lighting mid-morning is good for activity and energy, with softer shades mirroring the change in natural light as the day progresses, eventually easing us into a relaxing sleep.
Smart home lighting reduces your energy bills. Between motion detection and scheduling, you never have to worry about leaving your lights on again when you leave your house. Alternatively, if you’re out all day and feel like some lights on might give intruders the impression that you’re inside, you can flick them on from your phone.
Our thermostats are getting smarter too. Turning the heating on while we’re on our way home is pretty handy but what if your heater could learn what temperature you prefer at different times of the day and automatically adjust by itself? That’s exactly what the latest generation of smart thermostats can do, using machine learning to understand how warm you like to keep your house and create the perfect environment for your home without you having to do a thing.
Health and wellbeing
While a lot of smart devices are focused on home entertainment, when creating your smart home, there are multiple health and well-being benefits to consider.
Air quality monitors constantly measure pollutants in your home or place of work. They'll let you know when it's too hot, too humid, or if there's too much carbon dioxide in your house, so you know when to ventilate and let in some fresh air. Considering we spend more time indoors these days working from home, it's time we thought about our indoor air as much as we do about the pollution outdoors.
Technology can even help look after the most vulnerable in society. Smart sensors can detect any unexpected changes in someone's daily activities — a missed cup of tea in the morning, or the TV or lights not being switched on, can trigger an alert to carers. Smart technology isn’t always about what’s happening. Sometimes it’s about what hasn’t happened that’s important.