What will our homes look like in 2020?

01 Oct 09

The future household is all about simplifying communications, according to Ericsson’s Kursten Leins. “The  connection between the device and the service will be more or less irrelevant, or invisible to the household. We talk about IPTV-type services where you might sit down in front of your TV to check your email, the weather,sports report, your government information services, for example. It’s not just about consuming entertainment, but the TV somehow becomes a portal into our communications needs.”

And it’s not just consumer demand that will drive the adoption of the devices we’ll be using in 2020; future environmental trends and the subsequent regulatorychanges could soon dictate the technology we use as well. Leins contends that this is already beginning, pointing to the electrical ‘smart metering’ initiative that is rolling  out here and overseas. “That means that not only will they have interval meters – so you can monitor and charge for power consumption in the home on a half-hourly basis – but there’s also talk of being able to offer  a managed service from your energy provider where they’ll cost-optimise your power bill by switching things  on and off at their discretion. The notion of an intelligent home is actually starting to become a reality not  through consumer pull, but actually through a regulatory push.”

Other devices teased in Ericsson’s research include the ‘eco wallet’, a personal ID/ navigation device that also monitors your ecological footprint (another device likely to emerge due to environmental and regulatory  demands). And there’s the virtual doctor’s bag: a device that streamlines the medical appointment process by allowing users to conduct certain medical tests themselves – all under the instruction of an actual doctor via  high-quality video presence, of course.

But one thing that shone through in the research is the forecasted convergence of Internet, telephony and entertainment functionality into such living-room staples as the family TV set and, yes – even the couch! The  ‘communications sofa’ that Ericsson touts on the Life in 2020 Web site has certain technology embedded that allows a user to make video calls (with the visual feed appearing on-screen as you watch TV), browse social  networks and play games. The sofa’s in-built sensors will also detect when a user has dozed off and adjust the  room temperature and lighting accordingly.

According to Netgear’s Ryan Parker, the rise and rise of social media is playing a significant role in shaping  the living room of the future. And it’s already beginning to reflect in his company’s range of networking  products and in the home entertainment offerings of other companies, which now allow users to access  popular Internet services on their livingroom televisions. “It really is social media that is driving the way in  which we embrace the Internet,” he says. “I think that there’ll be that constant change in the way that we  consume content. It will be more videofocused, we’ll want to see it on every TV, and we’ll pretty much want  to have it in every room of the house when it suits us.” 

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