Welcome to the world of smart homes

Imagine living in a house with built-in technology that reminds you to take your medication or to buy toothpaste when the tube is running low.

Perhaps it could even scan your body for a thermal reading to see if you really are sick enough to warrant a doctor’s visit. Or tell you that you’ve left a door unlocked.

Welcome to the world of smart homes.

It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but sensor technology in our houses is already starting to revolutionise the way we think about everyday tasks.

Samsung’s home monitoring kit, SmartThings, already lets you monitor and control your house from anywhere.

Google Home, launched just a few weeks ago, is a voice-activated home assistant that can manage everyday tasks such as putting on your favourite playlist.

Deakin University researchers are at the forefront of developing so-called “digital enhanced living” and see myriad practical benefits from sensor technology. Deakin Software Technology Innovation Lab deputy director Professor Rajesh Vasa says it won’t be long before sophisticated sensors are mainstream in domestic houses.

“Traditionally it was very, very expensive,” Rajesh says of the technology.

“We’re getting to the point now where it’s well under the cost of a fridge, about $1500, for a bunch of sensors.”

Deakin is working on the Unisono platform and has already teamed up with Samsung and the City of Greater Geelong to start testing the technology’s application.

Its most recent project involved monitoring the movements and lifestyle habits of elderly Geelong residents.

Rajesh says the aged-care sector is a big market where the technology can provide peace of mind for families and help people remain independent.

Insurance companies are also interested in the security aspect as sensors can alert home owners of intruders.

But Rajesh says there are many other applications researchers are still investigating.

“There are many things you can do with smart technology,” he says. “When you do your shopping, you can scan your receipt when you get home. Say you bought toothpaste; it will remind you when you are running low again and say, ‘Why don’t you pick some up when you’re at Coles?’”

He says there’s also thermal imaging that can detect if you are genuinely sick, potentially avoiding unnecessary medical visits. For the health-conscious, a sensor can tell you how many calories are on your plate.

“This is what the smart home generally can be in around the next 10 years,” Rajesh says.

The biggest challenge is working out who should be able to access the information sensors pick up and what it would be used for.

Rajesh sees wider benefits for the Geelong region particularly. The Deakin team believes the city would be the ideal place to set up a support centre for the new technology and is seeking grants to make this happen.

“If you have half a million smart homes … you need a support centre if something’s not working,” he says. “It’s actually a brand new industry and [Geelong] has got all the plumbing that you need already and there are a lot of skilled people around that we could give a bit of training.”

- See more at: http://www.theweeklyreview.com.au/property/welcome-world-smart-home/

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