What the Future Holds for Smart Homes in 2021
Streaming studios, high-speed connections and tech-assisted sanitization all look to loom large next year
You probably didn’t think technology could become a bigger part of your life—and then 2020 happened. In an unprecedented year that sees the world still grappling with a global pandemic, the always-connected embrace of tech grew stronger—and more necessary. And there’s no sign of that letting up anytime soon. Our predictions for 2021? Devices that were once esoteric will become ever more everyday in our lives. High-speed, high-bandwidth internet connections will grow increasingly essential and technology that tackles the most pressing issue of the day, sanitization, will become more prevalent.
In Every Home, a Streaming Studio
Zoom Rooms, Hangout Holes, Skype-type Situations—whatever you call them, video conferencing setups have grown in importance over the past year as social distancing and working from home has made video streaming the primary form of communication for business and socializing. With a full return to the office (or social outings) nowhere in sight, homeowners should consider investing in quality audio, lighting and camera equipment to look and sound their best as they pass their days talking directly into a computer.
Fortunately, a lot of the technology to create professional-appearing video calls already exists—thanks to TikTok stars, gaming streamers and YouTube personalities. This niche demo, which has been not-so-quietly broadcasting their every image and thought for years now, has created a market for at-home computer peripherals that offer Hollywood-level quality video and audio.
High-definition cameras that automatically adjust for lighting conditions, microphones that ignore surrounding noise, lighting systems you can control with your voice are all on offer. So users should expect new, mainstream, easier-to-use, plug-and-play equipment on the horizon as extended work-from-home orders make video conferencing essential.
Of course, not all video calls are for board meetings, sometimes you're just trying to talk to your friends and family, and while your office set-up would certainly suffice for this, there are even more user-friendly options for these informal online chats. Smart speaker lines, such as Amazon Echo and Google Nest, have incorporated video in recent years, making placing video calls as easy as saying a name. Facebook’s Portal is a dedicated intelligent video call system with multiple device options, including a screen that can follow you around the room and a peripheral that attaches to your TV, turning it into a large video conferencing screen.
Expect to see more iterations of these types of products, and for their popularity to increase, as video-based gatherings become more commonplace and users put a premium on ease-of-use. As the song says “Video killed the texting star.”
For the past few years the trend in home internet has been mesh—a system of routers spread throughout the home to blanket it in Wi-Fi—and while that likely isn't going away (in fact, it probably received a boost as quarantine took hold), homeowners may in fact rediscover the beauty and security of a hardwired connection. While hardwired connections (ethernet, et cetera) are the standard in professional settings, home internet has long been the domain of wireless—an easy-to-use system that lets the whole family enjoy an online connection, untethered.
Even the best wireless routers, though, can be hindered by home design or building materials or other factors that won’t let you enjoy the full speed of the internet you’re paying for. For example, while you're paying for 1GB internet speed, you’re very likely only getting about 250MB. Often, this is probably enough for multiple devices, even those engaged in various streaming services or gaming, et cetera.
But when mom and dad and junior and sis are each spending all day in various Zoom Rooms, your speed can struggle—which is less than ideal when you’re trying to lead a meeting or learn calculus. Hardwiring into your internet connection is the one way to guarantee you get the full download and upload speeds (both integral for video streaming) you are paying for. While it may require creative (or even intrusive) cable management, expect to see a return to “connected,” connections as work from home extends into the new year—at the very least as a complement to home Wi-Fi.
When the Coronavirus sent populations around the globe into quarantine, it gave homeowners renewed focus on their property’s health and cleanliness.
Intelligent air filtration systems, like Molekule, Rabbit Air, Coway and more, are nothing new—but 2020 became their time to shine and there's every reason to expect that 2021 will see their popularity continue to grow and more devices join their ranks. These products, which can automatically detect air quality and begin operation or be pushed to purify on-demand via app or voice control, not only provide cleaner air within the home but offer peace of mind—something that can be sparing these days.
Likewise, UV light-based cleaning devices, like PhoneSoap, which sanitize our most heavily handled and exposed gadgets (phones, tablets, computers, et cetera) should be in increased demand. Expect UV light to be incorporated into other, larger devices, for the purpose of cleansing anything (groceries, clothes, deliveries) that was exposed to the outside world.
Homeowners who live in large, communal buildings should expect to see property managers and developers increasingly incorporate touchless technology to high-traffic areas, allowing residents to open doors and elevators via gesture movements or app-based technology.
In so many ways connected technology is a valuable tool for limiting exposure to illness, and in the near future we should expect homeowners and businesses to embrace anything that is offered.
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