A smart home isn’t one where everyone in the house holds a PhD – though that might fit a certain definition – but instead one that leverages connectivity to make simple household tasks much easier, whether that’s automatically switching on lights as you move through a home, sending audio to multiple rooms or keeping your home secure even when you’re on the other side of the planet.
It’s certainly not a new concept, but in recent years there’s been an absolute explosion in the quantity and quality of smart home appliances to pick from.
So, what’s going to be big in 2023, and which gadgets should you keep an eye out for?
Smart whitegoods will become more common
Of course, smart technologies can go a lot further than just that, and one area where you’re likely to see a lot more innovation in the smart home space in 2023 will be with more fully configurable smart home appliances.
This isn’t just a question of a smart toaster or kettle, but also fridges, ovens and dishwashers with better integration within an entire smart home. While again there have been smart larger whitegoods in prior years, they’ve typically only been at the very premium cutting-edge price point, where in 2023 and beyond they’re likely to become significantly more mainstream.
A focus on efficiency, not just convenience
A lot of existing smart home appliances and solutions focus primarily on making our lives easier, whether it’s asking the smart speaker to dim the lights or having an alert come up on your phone when that guy with the big bag labelled “Swag” wanders into your carport.
However, with rising energy costs and a general pinch being felt in just about everybody’s wallet, we’re also likely to see far more gadgets that focus on where smart home integration can save you money.
That’s not just smart energy meters, though that’s a good start to get a better picture of your energy usage, but also gadgets that can detect when they’re not in use, switching to low power modes or off entirely, or even alerting you via an app or smart speaker that they might not be needed at that time. Or smarter gadgets for more intelligently managing your home’s heating and cooling, saving power and your wallet in one simple step.
The security of your Smart home gadgets will be big – for all the right and wrong reasons
There’s a huge ease of use argument in favour of using smart lightbulbs, cameras and locks for your property. It’s genuinely useful to be able to check if you left the lights on, or whether that delivery person did drop the package at your front door as promised when you’re away from home.
However, that easy access also needs very solid security. You want to be able to check your in-home cameras, but you’re probably quite a bit less keen on the idea that online criminals might be able to. The “gold rush” period of smart home appliances, where we saw a lot of very cheaply built appliances has come and gone, and the issue that’s emerged there is that some of these devices aren’t being updated with new security software any more.
If you’ve got existing smart home gear that’s on the older side, you may – in the best-case scenario – be told by the manufacturer that they’re no longer supporting that device due to software issues. That’s typically a security bug that they either can’t or won’t patch, and it’s an emerging problem that’s only going to get worse in 2023.
The good side of this is that it’s shining a light on the security practices of the smart home device industry as a whole, which should lead to stronger standards and (hopefully) longer ongoing support for older smart home devices.
AI will play a bigger role in predicting your smart home needs
If there’s a buzzword for 2023 in general tech circles, it’s AI, or artificial intelligence. We’re seeing AI being incorporated into everything from search to Microsoft Office – no, really – but in the smart home sense it’s going to mostly be employed to track your usage and suggest (or even incorporate) useful functions based on your real-world patterns.
So, for example if you always get up a 7am and turn on the smart light bulbs, an AI-driven smart home might suggest setting up a routine to start gradually bringing the lights up from 6:45am, so that you can wake up in a more gentle fashion rather than being startled awake. You can do this yourself right now with many smart lights, but that involves setting routines within distinct apps. With AI integration – at least in theory – your smart home system may know to suggest them before you even think of it.
Matter: The new smart standard to get your gadgets talking to each other
There’s a lot of smart home devices out there, but typically in order to ensure that they will work harmoniously, you would have to stick to a single brand of (say) smart lightbulb, or at least hope that they had a logo indicating they worked with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Homekit/Siri. Even then it’s been a bit hit and miss – mostly miss – when it came time to turn on all the lights with your voice if they weren’t all the same brand.
That’s because the underlying technology these devices use tends to be quite proprietary. They can “see” each other on the network, but that different brand smart lightbulb might as well be a rock as far as the others are concerned. That kept consumers locked into a single provider, which might have been good for their balance sheets, but was a definite downer for consumers looking for choice, value and more complex setups.
There’s a new standard in town designed to eliminate this kind of problem. It’s called Matter, and it’s essentially a protocol that a huge array of big name tech companies have agreed to adopt on smart home products from now on. This includes big brands like Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, LG and plenty more. It allows Matter-compatible gadgets to talk to each other directly without specific need for a vendor app or hub device to speak of. As such, you could configure multiple Matter-ready lightbulbs, switches, air conditioners, smart plugs or anything else from a single interface, because each of them can actually talk the same essential language, identifying themselves and what they can do to your smart home app of choice.
Matter does have to be enabled on a device, but in good news there are some manufacturers who have committed to adding it to older products via software update where feasible, so it’s not automatically the case that you’d need to upgrade your smart home with all-new smart gadgets to get Matter working in every case.
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