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Technology has changed the world beyond recognition, both in the workplace and in our ‘connected homes’. Connectivity to the Internet, at ever-faster speeds, is becoming increasingly important. This presents both opportunities and challenges for today’s designers and house builders.
The NHBC Foundation has produced a guide that describes the spectrum of connected homes, from present technology to future applications. It gives guidance to designers and house builders on what they need to do to make their homes ready for the future as well as fit for today.
A connected home, sometimes referred to as a ‘smart’ home, is loosely defined as one in which electrical devices are potentially connected to each other and are often connected to the Internet too. This provides maximum convenience to the residents in operating the home, and enables both the home and the residents to access a wide variety of external digital services.
As lifestyles become increasingly demanding, people expect more from their living environment and its associated technology. Technology has come a long way since the start of the 21st century, and the rate of progress is not slowing down. In the year 2000, having one television in the living room, a telephone socket in the hall and no Internet access was perfectly normal and acceptable. Fifteen years later the use of fixed (landline) home phones for making voice calls is becoming less important than access to mobile phone networks, and the provision of superfast broadband to the home is increasingly essential to support Internet-connected TVs in multiple rooms, music streaming, game playing, security and remote control of heating and lighting.
The so-called ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is also evolving rapidly. At its most esoteric and future-looking, the Internet of Things is about connecting previously mundane appliances such as fridges to the Internet so that they can, for example, automatically order more milk. However there are more immediately useful IoT applications that are closer to market, such as boilers which automatically inform a servicing company when they develop a fault.
The homes that are built today should enable their residents to enjoy these present and future benefits, whether they are as simple as catching up on a missed TV programme or as important as helping an elderly relative to live independently for longer.
The NHBC Foundation report describes three broad categories of connected home, based on the features incorporated:
There is evidence that home purchasers are starting to prioritise better access to connected services (for example, favouring areas with superfast fibre broadband).This provides an opportunity for house builders to maximise the value of new homes by ensuring that they are ready for today’s technologies as well as what is on the horizon
The NHBC Foundation report also provides practical advice, in the form of requirements and special considerations for designers and house builders who are aiming to provide the electronic infrastructure for tomorrow’s connected homes. Even simple measures at construction stage such as the installation of a couple of wired data outlets can reap rewards for residents now and in the future.
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