ICON Fall 2014 : Page 38

ENVIRONOTES/ cooling should turn on or of based upon whether or not anyone is home or on their way. Security In many ways, security led the way to smarter homes in past decades with digital devices connected to online monitoring systems. But now a growing num-ber of companies have taken an extra step: August and Kwikset both sell smartphone-operated locks that replace traditional locks and deadbolts, pro-viding keyless access to homeowners through Bluetooth phone-recognition technology. Residents can customize and monitor who gains entry from their smartphones, and they can even use such mon-itoring technology to keep track of other activities inside the house, such as Internet and light usage. If your kids are watching YouTube under the sheets instead of sleeping, for example, you can be alerted. Traditional cable and satellite TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV also provide these services through existing entertainment packages. Smartphone-enabled security alarms such as Canary also can be connected to smart lights from companies like LIFX. These lights can change the color of their illumination or begin fashing to alert homeowners of an intruder. Or if you just want to check who’s at the door, products such as the SkyBell doorbell allow homeowners to video-chat with visitors who ring the bell, even if the homeown-ers are not physically at home. While on vacation, you can pair lighting control and video entry with mechanized shades like the app-controlled Hunter Douglas PowerRise. KitchenS Not to be outdone, next generation refrigerators are also getting smarter. LG’s latest generation of fridges connects wirelessly to the Internet to help users track expiration dates to let them know when food is about to go bad, even when they’re away from home, through an accompanying smartphone app. LG fridges introduced this year can even order food from an online grocery store. While you’re in the kitchen, why not use a screen embedded into the digital-wall backsplash? You can cook along with TV chefs, check a security-camera feed, or help kids with their homework without ever leaving the room. Above all, though, the future of smart homes isn’t about any one device so much as the interconnect-edness of them all. Take software like Qualcomm’s AllJoyn, introduced in 2011, which allows the spec-trum of smart-home devices to talk to one another. And thanks to the popularity of Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, the next trend may be voice or even gesture-enabled controls. Soon a human-sound-ing voice will be the interface with every aspect of a home, like a maid or butler anticipating your every need. The key, says Ziba’s Madden, is to make life eas-ier without taking it over. “There’s this sense that technology can drive the human out of the experi-ence,” he says, “so the question is, how do you drive the human into it? It needs to be empowering.” i Brian Libby is a Portland, Ore.-based journalist, critic, and photographer covering architecture, design, and visual arts. He has contributed to The New York Times , Metropolis , Salon , Dwell , and Architectural Record , among others, and writes the popular Portland Architecture blog. With the August Smart Lock, you don’t need keys or codes. Instead, you use a smartphone or computer to control access to your home. The Canary security system learns your household’s normal activity, temperatures, noise levels, and so on. When the system senses anything out of the ordinary, you are notifed via your smartphone and have the option to watch, listen, notify police, or ignore the alert. 38   icon  fall/14 the magazine of the american society of interior designers

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