We’ve all spent more time than we might have anticipated in our homes over the past year. Even with many countries now reopening, it seems likely that the future will comprise more of a balance between home and the office. Our houses will almost certainly therefore (need to) become smarter.
For one perspective, go to see what IKEA is up to. Say the name to most people and you have an image of self-assembly furniture, but the Swedish business has been experimenting with smart home solutions for some time. Imagine furniture which could wirelessly charge your phone or an ecosystem of speakers, lights and blinds which might communicate with each other. ‘Everyday Experiments’ is a project IKEA launched last year where it partnered with a research lab named SPACE10 with the intention of developing AR/VR initiatives that would help extend the possibilities of what your home might be able to do. Although still conceptual, there is powerful potential in ideas such as being able to designate parts of your home as ‘silent rooms’ or perhaps enlisting the help of a digital avatar to warn of potential privacy threats.
The IKEA approach has generally been one of build-it-and-they-will-come. If digital avatars or smart devices sound too much like the stuff of science fiction, then consider the growing ubiquity of LED lightbulbs. Back in 2015, IKEA became the first major retailer to sell LEDs exclusively. These constitute an easy win for future homes, making them more sustainable. LED bulbs use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Now, over a third of homes in some developed markets use LEDs. By the end of the decade, this figure could be at least double (per data from Statista).
Of course, it may be frivolous to be discussing either digital avatars or LED lights when 20% of the world’s population lack adequate accommodation (per the United Nations). Against this background, how to build homes cheaply also matters. If they can be environmentally friendly, then even better. 3D-printing represents one potential solution. Holcim – the world’s biggest cement-maker – and a UK government development venture are now able to print houses using 3D techniques in just 12 hours. Under a joint venture called 14Trees, houses come off the production line at a cost of around $10,000. They apparently generate 30% less carbon dioxide than competing techniques. Go to Malawi and you can see them live. Other similar projects are underway around the globe.
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