If you thought Alexa was the end of it, you have barely touched the tip of the iceberg as far as where our homes are headed in the future. Digital touchpoints will continue to permeate every aspect of our lives, right from measuring our bodily stats to monitor our health and save us from life-threatening illnesses to measuring how we use our homes to best tailor our appliances and home design to suit our needs. This is already happening in many ways, with entrepreneurs tailoring aspects of the Internet of Things (IoT) for a variety of great uses, such as helping older Australians stay in their homes for longer by using digital touchpoints to alert loved ones when a family member’s typical lifestyle patterns become disrupted and therefore indicate a potential fall or illness.
For homeowners, there has never been a better time to prepare their homes for the future in ways that allow for the incorporation of new technologies. These can be separated into three areas: energy use, water management and the IoT.
Preparing your home for the future
Energy production has for a long time been front-of-mind for many Australian homeowners.
According to a 2018 Solar Trends report published by the Australian PV Institute and the University of New South Wales, Australia has the highest penetration of residential rooftop PV in the developed world, thanks both to the dramatic reduction in the price of solar panels (more than half the price from a decade ago) and the small scale incentives that have been offered as part of Australia’s Renewable Energies Target. On top of this, the efficiency of PV technology has also dramatically improved over this period to make solar production of energy a highly sought-after solution for homeowners and renters alike.
Wind power has been a less common feature of average Australian homes, at least on a modular level, but you should expect this to change. While wind and solar energy production is old news, preparing for the future with these in mind revolves around understanding how energy production may one day evolve beyond a centralised system, where energy is produced on large-scale renewable farms, to one wherein individual households produce all the energy they require and potentially feed the excess back into a grid. Traditional energy providers today may have to shift their focus to be simply service providers, rather than energy providers. They will help us manage our energy production, through the analysis of our usage data. What this means for homeowners today is understanding how the new technologies of battery storage and digital connectivity are already turning us into energy producers.
Adopting current technologies, such as PV panels and battery storage, and designing our homes with energy capture and connectivity in mind is the best way to usher in the future of a more interconnected energy production system.
While energy dominates the political landscape as far as our wallets are concerned, the availability of water in the 21st century is yet to become a mainstream topic of concern and discussion, and has not yet resulted in individual solutions for our homes becoming a common feature of the Australian property sector.
In early 2019, Sydney’s combined dams fell from 73% capacity to 55%, the lowest since 1940, while many of Australia’s other capital cities faced potential water restrictions due to similarly low water levels. While dam levels have always fluctuated, a Climate Council report in 2018 noted that Australia’s rainfall patterns had dramatically decreased over the past three decades due to climate change, with the Murray-Darling Basin experiencing a 41% decline in flow over the past twenty years.
This means that it is more important than ever for individual homeowners to develop strategies for the future production of their own water, first through existing technologies (water capturing and management) like tanks and greywater systems, before exploring new ways to better use water, such as through community water saving, capturing and management projects and passive design principles
You may not be a big fan of having Alexa potentially listening to your conversations at home, but there is little room for doubt that connectivity within the home will become a significant area of tech over the next decade, with sensor touchpoints permeating many facets of our home. These sensor touchpoints will measure all manner of things, such as temperature and our usage of appliances and utilities, to better deliver and manage energy as well as streamline other aspects of our lives, such as how we do our shopping to our rubbish management.
Understanding that you will have a considerably more engaged role in the production of the very energy and water you consume in your home and that you will become increasingly connected with your neighbours as a collection of energy producers and consumers, you can navigate the future of incoming technologies with an appreciation for what may just be an expensive fad (i.e. some voice-assisted technologies) compared with what may save you considerable money in the long term.