Technology is moving forward at a mind-boggling pace. The touch-screen products that were once the preserve of sci-fi fantasy are now the norm, with even the most basic of objects in our homes being linked up to the internet of things – Bluetooth enabled toaster anyone? But what are the products that are worth getting excited about, and why do we need them?
If you look past all the flashy novelty gadgets and the clichéd anthropomorphic robots that were so often imagined as part of our future, you’ll see that the smartest technology is actually becoming less visible.
Smart surfaces and security
Take for instance Corian’s charging worktops or Elise Som’s line of recycled glass stools and side tables that turn everyday home surfaces into charging stations for smart devices. Thanks to transmitters that sit within the material of these objects, we can now forget about finding plug points and do away with messy wires.
Yves Behar’s August security system is equally seamless - a smart lock that opens your door when it senses you’re there so you don’t have to search for your keys in the dark or pouring rain.
These effortless devices are woven into the walls of our homes, helping to make our lives less cluttered and more efficient.
Look out for LiFi
In the spirit of seamless design, Italian lighting company Artemide is currently developing LiFi-enabled products where a wireless signal is transmitted through light beams for you to access the Internet. More energy efficient than WiFi, the LiFi network is based on luminous impulses. It’s not yet on the market, but the company’s innovations lab has successfully created prototypes using the technology – a task lamp called Demetra, and a ceiling light named Tagora.
“LiFi is an incredibly safe and secure network and its performance is superior, approximately 30 times faster than standard wifi,” explains Carlotta de Bevilacqua, Artemide Vice President. “To transmit the wireless signal, one must be positioned directly under the beam of light. As soon as one is out of reach of the beam, the wireless signal is no more; this makes it a very secure technology. It will be one of the great revolutions in the light field.”
Get connected with smart bulbs
Meanwhile the way that we control lighting in the home is changing too. Low energy smart light bulbs such as Casambi and Philips Hue allow you to alter the intensity and colour of your lighting from the comfort of your touchscreen device. Presets can be used to create meditative environments, give a gentle wake-up call, or even link up with other smart home technology, so that the lights come on when you arrive home at the same time that the door unlocks and the heating switches on. Once reserved for complex systems in commercial and hospitality projects, companies like Casambi and early adopters like Innermost have now made bluetooth controlled lighting systems a reality for residential interiors.
Signaling that Internet Of Things technology has officially hit the mainstream, this year IKEA launched the Trådfri line of bulbs, LED panels and cabinet doors that can all be controlled using a remote or app.
"The exciting opportunity for this new tech is that it grows with you," says interior designer Afroditi Krassa, who will be presenting a seminar at this month’s Decorex exploring how interiors are adapting to suit the needs of the constantly connected millennial customer.
Krassa continues: "The millennial generation will expect their homes to understand their needs and respond accordingly, whether they are in the mood for downtime and 'digital detox', or virtual social time."
Upgrade your air
Unsurprisingly, given the growing awareness of mental and physical health, many of the latest home technology products focus on wellness – a rapidly growing industry that is currently estimated to be worth $3.72 trillion. Concerns over air quality and anxiety in cities has given rise to products such as Molekule – a smartly designed air purifier that breaks down pollen and dust at a molecular level, and Pium – a smart diffuser that builds up a profile of your needs in order to pump out the optimal fragrance for different times of day.
“Olfaction is strongly connected to memory,” says Pium CEO Ryan Kihm. “It's very emotional and impressive media affecting our mood and mind. Home fragrance can help make our actions happier, more calm, and more productive. I want Pium to be a smart agent for that matter.”
These new connected home technology products like Pium and Molekule eschew a “hi-tech” appearance in favour of a more subtle and homely aesthetic. With its smart leather strap and streamlined form Molekule is designed to blend into the home like a piece of furniture.
“I believe that products such as the Molekule air purifier need a strong sense of material culture which allows them to stand the test of trends,” says Molekule designer Martin Postler, co-founder of London design practice Postler Ferguson. “By using leather, anodised aluminum or even wood we can give products cultural relevance which is timeless. Changes in functionality and upgrades could happen digitally while the materiality and form stays the same becoming a longer lasting experience.”
It would seem that the future has already arrived; it’s just so well designed we can’t see it.
To find out more about the future of residential interior design, head along to Decorex in Syon Park, UK. Celebrating 40 years this year, the 2017 edition features an engaging talks and seminars programme including a talk by Afroditi Krassa looking at how the luxury sector is changing to keep up with the millennial and revealing how she creates some of the city’s most instagrammable interiors. A panel of experts will also explore The Future of Design from interiors and furniture to table top and beyond.
Get your trade tickets to Decorex here, which includes access to all the talks.