science

Houses will feature smart wardrobes, zoom nooks and toilets that can study your stool by 2031


Over the next decade, homes will become greener and smarter, with wardrobes folding clothes, toilets checking waste, and a space for video calls, a futurologist has claimed. 

Tom Cheesewright claims that trends were already pointing towards a more remote, flexible and sustainable life, but the pandemic and lockdown are making it happen faster.

Research funded by Hive found that 88 per cent of people wanted to live in a more sustainable future but 41 per cent didn’t know how to go about making it happen.

There is also a push towards smart homes, with smart assistants, video doorbells and smart lights becoming more popular as people spent time indoors over lockdown.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Mr Cheesewright said: ‘The pressure of the pandemic brought that forward,’ adding that homes are going to change to reflect these trends over the next decade.

These changes will include a rise in ‘smart technology’, including things like smart wardrobes that can iron and fold your clothes, or a medical toilet that can analyse your waste for signs of cancer or other health problems and report back to doctors, according to the futurologist.

And with a greater number of people working remotely, other changes to expect in our homes include ‘Zoom nooks’ with backgrounds for video calls. 

Over the next decade homes will become greener and smarter, with wardrobes folding clothes, toilets checking waste, and a space for video calls, expert claims

Over the next decade homes will become greener and smarter, with wardrobes folding clothes, toilets checking waste, and a space for video calls, expert claims

Tom Cheesewright claims that trends were already pointing towards a more remote, flexible and sustainable life, but the pandemic and lockdown made it happen faster

Tom Cheesewright claims that trends were already pointing towards a more remote, flexible and sustainable life, but the pandemic and lockdown made it happen faster

SMART HOME DEVICES OF THE FUTURE WILL FOCUS ON SPACE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Futurologist Tom Cheesewright predicts that the smart home devices of the future will help us make use of space and track our carbon footprint.

They will range from the frivolous like a connected kettle, to the life saving like a toilet that can track our motions.

Here are a few ideas for smart home devices that may be ‘as common as a washing machine’ within a century.

Smart toilet: This will be able to track your motions and analyse them for signs of cancer or other illness. 

It could then report back to your doctor if it detects a problem.

Smart wardrobe: This could adapt to the space needed as well as iron and fold any clothes placed within it.

Cheaper cleaning: Smart mops and vacuum cleaners will become cheaper and more efficient.

Robot furniture: This can adapt, change shape, size and position at the touch of a button to meet your needs at any given moment.

Zoom nook: Spaces within the home, around a fold out desk, designed to maximise space for those essential video conference calls and meetings. 

Connected washing machine: Controllable from a smart phone or speaker to let you know when it is done, pause remotely or schedule the exact runtime to maximise efficiency. 

Automated routines: Built around all the connected devices, these will allow you to programme your home to meet your needs at a single command. 

Existing devices like smart bulbs, switches, doorbells, thermostats and cameras will continue and become both cheaper and more efficient. 

Pre-pandemic, around five per cent of us were working remotely, and at the height of the pandemic it was over 40 per cent, Cheesewright explained.

‘That level will not be sustained post-lockdown, but I suspect 15-20 per cent of us will continue to work remotely some of the time,’ he said.

The same is true of many other trends, in cinema and media, online retail, grocery shopping, and more – leading to greater online takeup during lockdown. 

‘They will show spikes in lockdown and drop back but to levels much higher than pre-pandemic,’ he said, with trends towards smart homes matching this move.

Many homes are already dabbling with smart tech – a trend that was already starting before lockdown – but has since seen a huge spike in demand. 

Around 70 per cent of homes already have some form of smart technology, based on the research from Hive, but that might only be one or two items. 

‘The benefit comes when we start to see this interconnected ecosystem of smart devices around the home that together can contribute to cutting back on your energy bills,’ Cheesewright told MailOnline. 

He added they will also work together ‘keeping your house safe and critically, giving you that bit of extra flexibility.’

‘Like when your alarm system can link to your app, so that when you leave the home your heating and lights go off – except when you want to set it to to make it look like you’re in,’ he said. 

There are so many more devices that are likely to become smart in the years ahead, as the cost of adding a connected computer trends ever downwards. 

‘Some of these things are likely to be fairly frivolous,’ he said, giving an internet connected kettle as one example, given you ‘still have to fill it manually.’ 

‘But some things will become as important to us as the washing machine.’

That could include a device like a smart wardrobe that irons and folds your washing for you. 

‘Or health devices, like a smart toilet that can watch for signs of cancer and other diseases. In a hundred years what looks smart to us now will seem as basic as a toaster,’ the futurologist said .

Some of this trend towards smarter, more efficient home environments is as a result of the increase in people working from home – spending more time in the property. 

There will be a greater number of people working remotely, leading to changes in the home to reflect this, including 'Zoom nooks' with backgrounds for video calls

There will be a greater number of people working remotely, leading to changes in the home to reflect this, including ‘Zoom nooks’ with backgrounds for video calls

This change in behaviour, accelerated by Covid, will lead to changes in the nature of homes and the way we use the space, Cheesewright explained. 

‘Some people are lucky enough to have lots of space, so in lockdown they have been busy fitting out spare bedrooms as secondary workspaces,’ he told MailOnline. 

‘But for many people, space is at a premium, so it’s about creating furniture that can transform the function of a room. 

‘I’ve spoken to property companies looking at adding fold-out desks and “Zoom Nooks” to give people a quiet corner with a clean background for video calls.’

These changes will include a rise in 'smart technology', including things like smart wardrobes that can iron and fold your clothes, or a medical toilet that can analyse your waste for signs of cancer or other health problems and report back to doctors, according to the futurologist

These changes will include a rise in ‘smart technology’, including things like smart wardrobes that can iron and fold your clothes, or a medical toilet that can analyse your waste for signs of cancer or other health problems and report back to doctors, according to the futurologist

If you are going to be working from home long term, there are more fundamental changes needed, he said.

He added that insulation is a major problem, as many British homes aren’t nearly as insulated as a modern office, leading to higher fuel bills and worse carbon footprint.

Noise is also an issue when working from home, for example, ensuring the washing machine doesn’t start during a video call sat at the kitchen table. 

Light and ventilation are critical too, particularly ensuring a good supply of natural light and fresh air in the space where you work.

These changes will include a rise in 'smart technology', including things like smart wardrobes that can iron and fold your clothes, or a medical toilet that can analyse your waste for signs of cancer or other health problems and report back to doctors

These changes will include a rise in ‘smart technology’, including things like smart wardrobes that can iron and fold your clothes, or a medical toilet that can analyse your waste for signs of cancer or other health problems and report back to doctors

There is also a push towards smart homes, with smart assistants, video doorbells and smart lights becoming more popular as people spent time indoors over lockdown

There is also a push towards smart homes, with smart assistants, video doorbells and smart lights becoming more popular as people spent time indoors over lockdown

Purina launches a smart dog bowl that can monitor your pooch’s eating habits and give personalised diet recommendations 

It’s something that many dog owners worry about, but the days of ‘pet fret’ – struggling to understand what food and how much your pooch needs – could soon be over. 

Purina has unveiled a smart dog bowl that can monitor your dog’s eating habits and give diet recommendations.

The bowl, called Purina CHEKR, syncs up to an app and gives personalised recommendations based on the dog’s breed, age, size, feeding frequency and dietary considerations.

The dog bowl was unveiled at the Amazon Web Services Summit Online in Australia and New Zealand 2021 this week.

Speaking at the event, Nicole Battistessa, General Manager of Nestle Purina Australia, said: ‘As a pet owner, I understand just how difficult it can be to know what to feed your pet and how much to give them as they transition through different ages and stages of life.

‘That’s why we developed Nestlé Purina CHEKR – to help provide peace of mind to pet owners and further enrich the lives of their furry family members.’

To use the bowl, pet owners simply download an accompanying app and input their dog’s details and dietary information. 

The app will then deliver a personalised food recommendation.

When it comes to meal times the smart bowl will also help owners dispense the right amount of food and monitor the dog’s consumption.

‘In my workspace I use a lot of smart tech for this,’ Cheesewright said,’ adding that he has a ‘couple of routines on my voice assistant.’

One example is a routine called ‘Warm up the workshop’ which turns on the radiator by his feet if it gets a bit chilly. 

Another is ‘Set workshop to presentation mode’ which changes the lighting to darken the background and highlight his face for when I’m giving webinars or TV interviews down the line.

But the very fabric of the building could change, especially for younger people just starting out on their own. 

‘Modern Build to Rent properties are a fascinating proposition,’ he said, as they are ‘typically smaller apartments, but offset by lots of shared spaces.’ 

Workspace is increasingly a critical part of that mix as younger people work flexibly, and often for themselves, a trend that will include working from home.

‘Freelancing is one of the fastest growing categories of work here and in many parts of the world with around 15 per cent of the UK workforce now self-employed.

‘I think this is going to increase significantly in the next couple of decades, so many people will really value having a space to work on their doorstep that doesn’t compromise their personal space at home,’ he said.

For those not in purpose-built properties, he believes there will be a ‘significant market’ for shared suburban workspaces.

He expects this will be somewhere between a coffee shop and a traditional services office, providing a sustainable, cosy space to go and work away from home.

‘Here you can get all the facilities you need, have meetings and calls in a professional environment, but then critically, leave it all behind at the end of the day,’ he said.

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Some of these spaces will be in nearby office buildings previously occupied by a single company, others constructed into a large apartment complex. 

‘There will obviously be varying levels of luxury, but a gym is often standard now, alongside a variety of other amenities: lounges, garden spaces, cafes, concierge services, chilled lockers for food delivery,’ said Cheesewright to MailOnline.

‘There’s usually some smart tech involved to help you access it all, notifying you of parcels, allowing you to book spaces or call out maintenance, and often control the light, heating and even entertainment in your own apartment.’

This was all happening long before coronavirus hit the world and put much of it in lockdown, forcing a change in the way we work and communicate.

But this forced ‘work from home’ and digital communication had a ‘time warp effect’ on how quickly the change was happening.

‘Things I expected to take decades will instead take years,’ he said, adding that it is particularly true of shifts in our attitude to technology and nowhere less than in older generations. 

One big change he predicts is that future homes will actively contribute energy to the grid, generating and storing energy through solar panels and other technology

One big change he predicts is that future homes will actively contribute energy to the grid, generating and storing energy through solar panels and other technology 

One example is a routine called 'Warm up the workshop' which turns on the radiator by his feet if it gets a bit chilly

One example is a routine called ‘Warm up the workshop’ which turns on the radiator by his feet if it gets a bit chilly

Alexa, do I have an irregular heart rhythm? Scientists develop an AI system that can measure your cardiac function using smart SPEAKERS 

Amazon’s Echo and other smart speakers like the Google Home could be used to monitor the rhythm of a person’s heart. 

Academics created an AI-powered device which monitors regular, and irregular, heartbeats using the same tools found in smart speakers. 

The prototype, which was built in a lab but could be incorporated into speakers in the future, was found to be almost as good as medical devices in hospitals. 

The search for heartbeats begins when a person sits within one to two feet of the smart speaker.

Then the system plays an inaudible continuous sound, which bounces off the person and then returns to the speaker.

Based on how the returned sound has changed, the system can isolate movements on the person – including the rise and fall of their chest as they breathe, scientists said.

Researchers say this is the first time doctors have been able to monitor both regular and irregular heartbeats without physical contact.

‘Video calling and online grocery shopping suddenly became critical skills, with spending on the latter going up 300 per cent among the over 65s.

‘Once you have mastered technologies like that, you’re likely to be much more open minded to other tech,’ he said.

Likewise, with more of us spending more time at home, there might be an even greater focus on making our homes both more comfortable and sustainable. 

‘If your home is also your workplace, then investing in retrofit starts to make more sense, whether that’s insulation, triple glazing, building an extension, or adding smart tech.’

That smart tech could include simple things like bulbs controllable by a smart speaker, or something like a Hive thermostat you can set while out and about. 

Exactly how smart, and how sustainable our homes become depends heavily on how old our properties are, said Cheesewright. 

‘In an ideal world, the home is completely airtight with no drafts whisking away heat. They’re insulated throughout to a high standard, and all windows and doors are designed to minimise losses,’ he said.

‘This should be the standard for all new builds, and you can achieve this with even old homes, but it can be costly. We need to encourage people to start with small steps. 

‘Not everyone can afford to make the changes they would like to, and a rising number of people are renting.’

This is where smart tech has a role to play, he said, doing so by ensuring that we aren’t heating the home when we don’t need to, and only heating the right rooms.

They can also work to ensure ‘we aren’t wasting money with lights and appliances left on,’ he suggested. 

This is something people seem to want to do, without requiring government intervention, he said, with a Hive survey showing 88 per cent want to live more sustainably, they just aren’t sure how to go about it.

‘Legislation is likely to come in that sets deadlines on things, as with petrol and diesel cars,’ he said. 

‘And taxes will likely continue to be a lever for government to nudge us towards more sustainable behaviours. But for the most part, they should be pushing at an open door.’ 

People are actively looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption within the home, in line with green legislation coming into force banning sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and ambitious net zero targets set for 2050. 

Cheesewright believes that we will increasingly use smart technology to manage energy within the home, but there is a greater awareness required to help us understand the benefits it can have on our home lives and our wallets

Cheesewright believes that we will increasingly use smart technology to manage energy within the home, but there is a greater awareness required to help us understand the benefits it can have on our home lives and our wallets

Samsung unveils AI-powered robot vacuum at CES that uses sensors found in self-driving cars to navigate around objects like houseplants and pet poop 

Samsung’s new robotic vacuum uses the same LiDAR sensor technology as self-driving cars to detect obstacles and react accordingly.

According to the company, the 3D sensors on the JetBot 90 AI+ are sophisticated enough to know which objects it can bump up against, like a table leg, and which to give a wide berth to, like a houseplant or pet poop.

Perhaps best of all, the vacuum empties its contents into an easily portable pouch that can be lifted out and tossed every few months.

Samsung rolled out the JetBot 90 AI+ at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it also unveiled an AI-powered laundry system that learns user preferences and recommend optimal washing and drying cycles. 

Powered by Intel, the JetBot 90 AI+ combines a LiDAR sensor, similar to that used in autonomous vehicles, with AI-enhanced object-recognition technology to detect distance and track precise locations.

The sensor can differentiate between objects and even recognize the shape of a room to efficiently and safely maneuver around them.

But while there is a desire the Hive survey found that 41 per cent say they don’t know where to start and two-fifths don’t believe the process to sustainable living will be easy. 

Cheesewright believes that we will increasingly use smart technology to manage energy within the home, but there is a greater awareness required to help us understand the benefits it can have on our home lives and our wallets.

‘Some of the main barriers to adopting smart tech have fallen. It used to be complicated and expensive, but now it’s simple and affordable. 

‘Hive is a great example: its eco-system of solutions to manage heating, lighting and electricity is now helping people cut their carbon footprint in over 1.9 million UK homes. 

‘But if we want to hit our net zero goals and live more sustainably as a nation, greater education is required to overcome some of the perceived barriers to adoption. 

‘As we edge closer towards an era of mass adoption, people need to know how smart tech will further benefit them not only from a sustainability point of view, but also to their wider lives, be it financially or through added convenience.’

One big change he predicts is that future homes will actively contribute energy to the grid, generating and storing energy through solar panels and other technology. 

‘Though the percentage of individual households adding small (sub 4kw) solar installations is only increasing at about 3.6% per year, the next class of installation (4-10kw) seems to be growing much faster,’ Cheesewright said.

It isn’t just solar power that is set to increase, we’re also likely to see more and more people using other technology and taking part in the future energy system, be it smart water tanks, heat pumps, EV chargers and home batteries.’ 

All this power will be needed to support the smarter homes, especially with our houses becoming ‘one giant computer’.

But while there is a desire the Hive survey found that 41 per cent say they don’t know where to start and two-fifths don't believe the process to sustainable living will be easy

But while there is a desire the Hive survey found that 41 per cent say they don’t know where to start and two-fifths don’t believe the process to sustainable living will be easy

Cheesewright believes that we will increasingly use smart technology to manage energy within the home, but there is a greater awareness required to help us understand the benefits it can have on our home lives and our wallets

Cheesewright believes that we will increasingly use smart technology to manage energy within the home, but there is a greater awareness required to help us understand the benefits it can have on our home lives and our wallets

‘Computers are making their way into everything, turning the home into one giant computer – a true ‘machine designed for living’,’ said Cheesewright.

He predicts robotic furniture that transforms to make the best use of space, cheaper robot mops and vacuums, as well as hydroponic systems to supply us with salad. 

Americo Lenza, from British Gas, owners of the Hive brand of smart products that worked with Tom Cheesewright on the predictions, said we are approaching a greener future, driven in part by smart technology.

‘From tech that allows you to monitor and track your carbon emissions through one centralised app, to the rise of electric vehicles and homes increasingly having greater control of how they access energy from the grid – consumers are looking for tech that makes everyday tasks not only easier but is also better for the planet.’

WHY ARE PEOPLE CONCERNED OVER PRIVACY WITH AMAZON’S ALEXA DEVICES?

Amazon devices have previously been activated when they’re not wanted – meaning the devices could be listening.

Millions are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that their conversations are being heard.

Amazon devices rely on microphones listening out for a key word, which can be triggered by accident and without their owner’s realisation. 

The camera on the £119.99 ($129) Echo Spot, which doubles up as a ‘smart alarm’, will also probably be facing directly at the user’s bed. 

The device has such sophisticated microphones it can hear people talking from across the room – even if music is playing. A hack by British security researcher Mark Barnes saw 2015 and 2016 versions of the Echo turned into a live microphone.

Fraudsters could then use this live audio feed to collect sensitive information from the device.   



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