Smart assistants and connected doorbells are cool—but they're so 2019. Smart home technology is constantly evolving and it's time for your smart devices to do more than play your favorite tunes or tell you when you've got a delivery. Here are five exciting trends that are emerging to make your life easier.
1. 5G home gateway
You've likely heard the buzz around 5G mobile, but 5G doesn't stop with mobile phones. Providers are working to bring 5G to home internet, promising to deliver ultra-fast internet with no lag. A 5G home gateway provides WiFi speeds comparable to fiber optic-cable speed. This could be especially welcome if you're adding more devices to your smart home and using bandwidth hogs like virtual-reality apps. Several service providers are working on 5G home internet. Verizon already offers the service in some US cities and says customers at some locations get peak download speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
2. Health-monitoring devices
Connected devices that monitor vital health signs are nothing new, but a renewed consumer focus on health due to the pandemic has created even stronger interest. A July 2020 Consumer Technology Association forecast estimated unit shipments for connected health devices to grow 75% in 2020. Even before COVID-19, device manufacturers were introducing new features, especially for wearables. Apple, for example, added a blood oxygen sensor and app for its Apple Watch released in 2020. New smart devices coming to the market range from Bluetooth-enabled scales to hearing aids enabled by artificial intelligence (AI). Not surprisingly, some are catering to COVID-19. Among the hottest gadgets at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show in January were a coin-sized wearable that screens temperature and other vitals, an air-quality monitor with sensors for viral-transmission factors like humidity, and even a smart fridge with a UV-disinfecting water dispenser.
3. Adaptive WiFi
The trend toward mesh WiFi has been growing, thanks to its ability to improve whole-home WiFi service. But mesh WiFi has limitations, especially on a congested home network, and can actually cause slower performance. The next evolution in whole-home WiFi, adaptive WiFi adds a dynamic layer that learns from your home's internet usage patterns to optimize the performance of each device. When it comes to the growing adoption of WiFi 6, an adaptive WiFi system can ensure that the smart home takes full advantage of the exciting new capabilities of this more advanced technology. WiFi 6 is faster and greatly reduces lag, but it needs to be optimized on a congested home network. Take Plume HomePass as one example. The platform monitors your home network and continuously optimizes each connection by considering factors like your home size, your device speed requirements, and your expected usage. The great thing about this emerging smart home technology is that it doesn't just improve WiFi as you continue to add more devices. It also gives you control over what's going on in your home, keeps your kids safe online, and provides data protection for your online activities.
4. AI-powered appliances
The smart home is growing beyond connected appliances that do "simple" things like tell you when it's time to buy milk, vacuum your home, or allow you to launch Netflix with a voice command. The home appliances of the future rely on AI to take even more decisions and actions off your hands. Some new products to watch for include:
- A household robot that can sort dishes, pick up and move objects, and even pour you a glass of wine.
- An AI-enabled refrigerator that helps you decide what to cook, based on available ingredients, your favorite recipes, dietary restrictions, and even weather and season.
- An oven that uses computer vision to identify the dish you place inside and control the cooking process—so you have perfectly roasted veggies every time.
5. Smart plumbing fixtures
Plumbing fixtures are also adding more convenience to the smart home. Some can be connected to a smart speaker for voice control, while others follow commands to give you exact water temperature and quantity. Here are some of the exciting smart plumbing fixtures and related gadgets to look for:
- A shower head with a removable speaker that uses voice-activated Amazon Alexa technology to play your favorite tunes, tell you the weather, and more.
- A smart water assistant installed under your sink that detects a leak anywhere inside your house and provides data on each fixture's water usage.
- A whole-home, water-monitoring system attached to your water meter that observes water pressure, flow rate, and temperature—and can activate an emergency shut-off when it detects a major problem.
Smart home products are still a relatively new area of the market, and manufacturers are continually coming up with new, cool, and clever ways to help you enjoy your home even more. For savvy consumers, embracing these technologies means finding new ways to control what's happening inside the home—so you can both protect your privacy and get the most from all your devices.