Text: David J. Cord
Technological advancements are allowing the creation of smart homes, but “smart” doesn’t necessarily mean “useful”. It seems that people don’t just want smart homes; they want wise homes – homes which can collect, analyse and use data in ways that are appropriate for and chosen by the people who live there.
Buildings are increasingly acquiring “brains,” the ability to measure the environment and respond to commands. This allows them to programme lights to turn on when they enter a room or call a lift when they leave their apartment. But the developing trend for smart homes is for them to have a “heart”, as well as the ability to sympathise and be personal for each individual. Now that the sensor and communications technology are maturing the next great leap will come with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Homes will be adaptive, learn our habits and anticipate our needs. Homes will understand and be able to provide for us if we want more light in the winter, our first cup of coffee to be waiting for us at 7am, or even if we are running late and need to get to the ground floor quickly. It adapts to our ageing population, such as subtly increasing warmth in our flat, giving us larger fonts on our screens, or holding the lift door open just a bit longer.
The transformative power of urbanisation
The fact that urbanisation is continuing around the world is nothing new. People want to live in cities for the jobs, services, social networks and experiences they provide. Yet urbanisation is also transforming due to changing demographics: people form families later and live alone longer. Global trends like these have an impact on the needs of future living.
Dense urban living means that buildings are growing taller and apartments are becoming smaller. Affordability is also an issue, which has created needs for tiny micro flats and co-ownership schemes. Changing economics and demographics has made flexibility more important. Old industrial buildings need to be converted into flats. The ageing population has additional wants and needs.
This applies to practical architecture, such as for mobility and accessibility, but it also applies to new service concepts, specially designed for ageing consumers. As urbanisation both increases and transforms, it becomes even more critical to move people safely, efficiently and comfortably inside urban environments.
Prioritising health and well-being
There is a decisive shift occurring through much of the world. Once people have reached a certain level of material comfort they begin to prioritise other things, like health, comfort and security. People expect their homes and living environments to contribute to their well-being, and not just be a place to sleep when they aren’t working.
The concept of home is transforming and expanding, from our apartments to buildings, from neighbourhoods to cities. The boundary between home and work is also blurring. We see millennials being happy to work from the beds in their apartments or sleep on futons in their offices. In some cases, we even have the digital nomad, who works remotely and calls home a state of mind. Buildings must increasingly take well-being into consideration, such as the amount of light an apartment receives and access to gardens and community areas.
A related development is the rise in serviced apartments, fully furnished suites where people can buy different sets of lifestyle services attached to the apartment. These services can be access to a gym, food delivery, housekeeping or laundry, for example. Mobility is also increasingly important for our well-being, as anyone stuck in a traffic jam knows. Apartment blocks have space to store bikes and wide doors so you can easily bring them inside. Also riding a lift will be a more enriching experience: the lights, sounds and sensations all have our well-being in mind.