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Trends in Interior Home Technologies

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July, 2002

The objective of this report is to discuss major interior home technological trends in the next ten years. Networking, monitoring, automating, and digitalizing are the four major trends. I relied on "George Washington University Forecast", British Telecommunication exact timeline, the popular media "buzz", and my background as an engineer to identify the trends. Networking allows devices to use the information on the Internet to better perform their tasks. The development in monitoring is focused on "indoor location tracking", which can aid relatives to keep track of children, disabled, or elders from a distant. Automation is promising to introduce robots and systems that will relieve us from mundane tasks such as vacuuming or cleaning. Digitalization allows the integration of entertainment and communication devices, which will put you in the living room in front of a flat screen, rather than a boxed monitor. In short, the trends indicate that we will be able to control the home environment more, to access and monitor home from away, and to relieve ourselves from housekeeping.


Our home life will change with networked appliances, increased monitoring capability of home environment and personal activities, automation of day-to-day activities, and digitalization of information. The purpose of this report is to discuss the four major interior home technological trends: networking, monitoring, automating and digitalizing, and how exactly they may alter our home life within the next ten years. Becoming aware of how home life will change may help with your purchasing decisions, productivity, and safety.

Determining trends in technology involves mathematical and scientific analysis. Extrapolation, pattern analysis, goal-oriented analysis, scan-monitor-track techniques and intuition are methods used to identify technological trends(1). I am not an expert in determining technological trends, and I do not seek to identify the trends. I selected the four trends based on:

  1. The "George Washington University Forecast" which identified information appliances, intelligent networks, and wall monitors to have a market demand of more than $100 billion within the next thirteen years. See the next page for the actual table(2).
  2. British Telecommunications exact timeline(3). (It predicts the date of commercialization of various home interior technologies, which can be categorized into the four trends.)
  3. My background in engineering.
  4. Popular media's technological "buzz".

The four trends characterize the devices and the systems directed to home market. The theoretical bases for the technologies are well developed.

Mainly, economical factors and design details need to evolve for the technologies to reach a wide market. The other trends such as wireless technology, human-centric computing, and miniaturization are relevant to interior home technologies. But all technological devices aim to be human-centric, minimal, and wireless if feasible, and they are not indicative of the devices we will find in our homes within the next ten years.


Networking allows communication and interchange of resources between various electronic devices. The networking technologies were pioneered during the late 1960's and became mainstream in the 1990's through the Internet. Currently, networked appliances or "web enabled" devices for home use are under research and commercialization by Microsoft, Bell, Cisco, and other firms.

Networked appliances give the user centralized control, wide-ranging access, greater customization, and increased capability. Increased capability of common devices is a salient goal of networking. For instance, consider the scenario forwarded by Bell Labs president Netravalie: "your lawn sprinkler could check the web site of the National Weather Service before turning itself on, to make sure the forecast doesn't call for rain"(4). Similarly, devices are being designed to take advantage of the information in the Internet.

Lack of operating system in devices that can communicate with the Internet, and high cost of physical connection to the Internet are two main obstacles for networking appliances. Decreasing the cost of Internet connection and the development of standardized software will overcome the obstacles, and allow for wide spread use of networked appliances.


Monitoring involves sensing and interpreting the environment, and monitor-human interfacing. More precisely, in our homes researchers want to "build an environment that can sense the inhabitants by seeing, hearing and measuring contact through a variety of sensing technologies, including video, audio, motion and load"(5).

One key monitoring technology is the "indoor location tracking" or domestic positioning system. The system will identify and locate residents, customize home environment for an individual or a group, and respond if unsafe condition or activity takes place. Aware Home researchers note that "the most important potential users initially are senior adults"(6). Also, parents with young children can benefit by always keeping an eye on their youngsters through the monitors.

Another monitoring technology that will be common place at homes is integrated security systems. An array of systems and services such as Axis 2100 Network Camera, and DP-28NSF Intercom Kit are directed at home users. Increased tensions due to terrorism and gang activity will force these products into homes quickly. Also, technologies such as household access by facial or fingerprint recognition, and devices operational only at registered homes will be available within the next decade(7).


Automating is a general aim of technology. The scope, sophistication and use of home automation will increase. "By 2006, say designers and builders of smart residences, 25 percent of U.S. homes will have some automation technology installed, and many will include programmability from a console in the basement or a desktop in the den, using a PC to micromanage the indoor environment"(8). According to experts consulted by "Reality Check"(9), the factors leading to increased home automation are:

  1. declining prices
  2. digital wiring
  3. "usefulness for disabled persons"
  4. government requirement (i.e. energy efficiency, fire safety)
  5. "fear"

Robots, the curiosity pets of the designers and engineers are set to take a more useful and dominant role in home life. Btexact predicts "fleet of garden robots for plant and lawn care" by 2014, and housework robots by 2015 to be available. Automated vacuuming devices, lighting systems, and "self-cleaning toilets" are already available.


The trend from analog to digital electronics has been taking place for the last five decades. The digital computer was developed by Joy Forrester and Perry Crawford during the 1950's at MIT(10). However, only recently the digital devices such as camera, TV, MP3 players, and DVD have become economical to the average consumer. A "BusinessWeek Online" article indicates that digital equipment sales have been steadily increasing(11). For example, the sales of digital television sets are expected pass four million by 2004. You can note the steady increase in sales from Figure I.

Digitalizing is converting physical or analog signals into digital or "computer readable" signals. It allows for exchange of information across mediums. Nicholas Negroponte has discussed the merits and potentials of digitalization in the popular book "Being Digital". He identifies increased speed and accuracy, reliability, data compression, easier modulation and transmission, and energy and cost efficiency as advantages to digitalizing(12).

Digitalization allows for integration of entertainment and communication devices. For instance, Btexact predicts that by 2015 more people will be connected to the Internet through television than a computer. In short, activities such as video conferencing, web surfing, and watching television will be done through a big flat screen monitor in the living room. The present day cathode ray tube monitors, and computers will vanish as computing power is made available through the Internet, or through centralized systems hidden in the basements.


From the technological devices beginning to be marketed and under development, I can imagine how home life will be in 2012. We all will have large flat screen monitors or projectiles, be part of security systems, and devolve mundane tasks such as vacuuming and cleaning to automatic machines. We will have an option to the degree to which our homes will be connected, automated and monitored. I do not foresee all the dumb devices being connected to the Internet, us subjecting ourselves to close monitoring, or devolving activities such as cooking and gardening to the automatic machines.

I did not consider social issues such as privacy, "alienation", mechanization, and technological dependence. But, social factors do have a role in determining technological trends. In the past North Americans have embraced and adapted to new technologies well. As the technology evolves, we will naturally adapt to the technologically driven home life.

End Notes and Works Cited
(1) "Research: Technology Forecasting Techniques" (20 June, 2002)

(2)"Field: IT Hardware". 2002. (7 June, 2002).

(3)Ian Pearson and Ian Neild. "Btexact technolgoy timeline." 2002. (8 June, 2002)

(4)"Bell Labs Experts Predict Communications Nets in 2005 Will Become
'HiQ Nets'." (23 June, 2002).

(5, 6) Jane M. Sanders. "Sensing the Subtleties of Everyday Life." 2002. (7 June, 2002).

(7) According to the Btexact time line.

(8,9)Wieners, Brad and Pescovitz, David. 1996. Reality check: You've heard the hype we asked the experts. Here is the real future. New York: Hardwired.

(10)Aspray, William and Campbell-Kelly, Martin. 1996. Computer: A history of the information machine. New York: BasicBooks.

(11)Rocks, David. "The digital revolution is shaking up the packing order." 2002. (10 June, 2002).

(12)Negroponte, Nicholas. 1995. Being Digital. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Aspray, William and Campbell-Kelly, Martin. 1996.
Computer: A history of the information machine. New York: BasicBooks.

Dertouzos, L. Michael. 2001. The unfinished revolution.
New York: Harper Collins.

Negroponte, Nicholas. 1995. Being digital.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Wieners, Brad and Pescovitz, David. 1996.
Reality check: You've heard the hype we asked the experts. Here is the real future.
New York: Hardwired.

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