How will our homes be connected to the Internet five years from now? How will we? With keywords like “user-centric,” “holistic” and “experiences,” one of the smart home technology industry’s leading trade groups is bullish on a future that’s about much more than the latest gear. CEDIA’s members are the technology integrators who equip our homes for modern living and the association would like to see them transformed.
The group’s Integrator of 2027 White Paper proposes “a lesser focus on technology and product-centricity, instead moving to user-centricity and designing hyper-personalized user experiences to improve the human condition.” What does that lofty goal look like for experts trained more in tech than the Tao of life? The two are deeply connected in the association’s vision for our connected future.
Defining the Human Condition
The white paper’s authors, CEDIA’s Technology Advisory Council, see the human condition as encompassing our experiences, interactions and feelings. To improve it, the group breaks the experiences and functionality of our human condition into five tenets:
- Presence — Being mentally present. This could be meditation, connecting remotely with loved ones, collaborating with colleagues, etc.
- Comfort — Being physically comfortable. This could be temperature, air quality, quiet, or accessing an intuitive user interface.
- Health — Health is a state of being, whereas wellness is the state of living a healthy lifestyle.
- Safety — Being safe and secure. From a perimeter alarm system for peace of mind, to assistive living technologies allowing those with cognitive or physical impairment to live safe and dignified independent lives.
- Sustainability— Includes everything from energy management to product materials, life cycle, and packaging.
These tenets should guide industry practices and can overlap; for example, the authors note, users “cannot feel comfortable at home if they aren’t healthy or don’t feel safe.” They want practitioners to shift from being technology solutions providers to being experiential professionals.
“The integrator of 2027 will spend more time on consultation and holistic design,” the paper predicts. He or she should be a user-centric technology architect who understands “neuroscience of their clients and what makes them feel whole, nourished, and hopeful with the technology solutions that we provide in their home.” Put another way, the past president of your high school’s AV club may someday be your life tech guru.
The Holistic Interview
The integrator of the near future will be less focused on the solution than the inquiry, the white paper predicts. One of its authors, San Francisco Bay area integrator Gordon van Zuiden, suggests asking questions like, ‘Do the rooms give you a feeling of nesting?’ and ‘What would make you feel most comfortable about the home when you’re away from it?’ and ‘Can you feel a sense of harmony in all rooms when there’s nothing going on?’
Technology integrators already ask clients numerous questions, the report observes, so what’s new about this approach? “A user-centric mindset considers the users and their sense of comfort, presence, health, safety, and sustainability. It changes the perspective… before encompassing design… and product selection.” The desired outcomes are intended to benefit the homeowner and the integrator alike, offering a unique experience and outcomes “that cannot be rivaled by giant tech, big-box retail, or DIY.” Here are some of the possibilities of this approach.
The Multi-Functional Home
The pandemic turned millions of homes into workplaces, classrooms, gyms and nursing homes, accelerating a trend toward multi-function spaces with new tech needs. Pre-Covid, we already saw laundry rooms expand into pet centers and hobby zones. Patios got designed into outdoor kitchens and living rooms. Spare bedrooms became meditation spaces as people got stressed from chaotic news cycles, and primary bathrooms grew into connected home spas.
Technology has grown in importance in making these multi-purpose spaces more functional and enjoyable. For example, spa bathrooms got chromotherapy, smart speakers, TVs, enhanced bidet functionality, personalized digital showers and built-in chargers. Outdoor living rooms could now show the big game on weather-resistant screens while the grill master watches plays between smart phone alerts when the burgers are ready to be flipped. Comfort meets safety in CEDIA’s five tenets.
The organization calls on integrators to cater toward these tenets of the human condition – enabling comfort, safety and health – in creating multi-functional client spaces. This means familiar categories like shading and lighting will likely evolve into a holistic wellness category, including new options for water and air quality, noise control and soundscapes. The integrator becomes a wellness technology professional.
The Accessible Home
Another trend that began pre-pandemic was aging in place, with an increasing array of smart home features to keep older adults in their own homes as long as possible. Covid certainly accelerated that trend as nursing homes became super-spreader sites in the early months of 2020.
“Technologies to improve connectedness and safety enable people to live more independent, comfortable, and dignified lives,” the CEDIA paper notes. Technology makes remote caregiving and telemedicine appointments possible. “It is not just the users that benefit, as the peace-of-mind that this affords their extended families can be of immense value,” it notes. With a rapidly-aging population, this trend will likely increase and integrators can play an increasingly important role in keeping them safe at home.
Alexa may be the common gateway to our connected homes, but many clients (like me) balk at her privacy issues and others will seek more capability than this one platform offers. That provides a vast opportunity to serve an older generation of well-heeled cynics seeking enhancement of our human conditions. A new world of homeowner clients and designer referrals awaits the gear head turned well-tech consultant.
I’ll be hosting a CEDIA Expo preview and home technology conversation on Clubhouse Wednesday, September 7 from 4-5 PM Eastern / 1-2 PM Pacific. If unable to attend, a recording can be found on my blog the following Wednesday.