Domestic technology has progressed in leaps and bounds since the millennium dawned, and today’s homes are havens of IT sophistication compared to just sixteen years ago. It’s already possible to control room lights from overseas, cook dinner using magnetism and hide appliances away at the touch of a button. Given this breakneck pace, what will a typical home look like in the next decade?
The biggest change to our homes is likely to involve the Internet of Things – the collective term for any device that uploads or downloads data wirelessly. Fridges may be able to reorder items as they run low, while toothbrushes could report bleeding gums to your dentist before scheduling an appointment at a convenient time. Despite the slightly Orwellian nature of this mass information gathering, the IoT aims to liberate us all from mundane chores and automate as much of our lives as possible.
Entertainment will also change rapidly, as we abandon decades of offline media storage (CDs, video tapes, photo albums and so forth) in favour of digital files hosted in the cloud and accessible from any device in any location. Sitting down to watch a TV programme is already becoming passé, thanks to on-demand content and the ability to stream programmes via a tablet or smartphone. That millennial stack of black boxes in the living room will soon be replaced with a single screen, light enough to hang on a nail yet capable of displaying multimedia content in eye-popping 8K definition.
Smartphones are set to become increasingly central to daily life – which might seem remarkable to anyone with a teenager. Apps will enable us to control our homes from miles away, regulating everything from thermostats and lighting to individual appliances. Today, it seems exotic that a cooker or drone can be controlled from a smartphone app, but this will be mundane in a decade’s time. Speaking of drones, expect to see them dropping off your latest online purchases – from presents to pizzas – early in the next decade. When we do cook our own dinner, it’ll probably be in multifunctional stove heaters or on magnetic induction hobs.
A rising global population and a growing need to preserve existing resources should drive tomorrow’s home towards unprecedented levels of energy efficiency. Nanotechnology may give us self-cleaning fabrics, with magnetic washing machines and recirculating showers further reducing our dependence on water. Domestic hydroponic systems are expected to spearhead a quiet revolution in self-grown food, while energy-efficient LED lighting will carry Li-Fi signals around the home for lightning-fast connectivity. And don’t forget the much-discussed 3D printing revolution, with plummeting hardware costs enabling people to print anything from food to furniture via a few screen taps.