Smart homes versus smart gadgets

September 25, 2014

The cover story of Time’s July 14 issue is a 39-page special report, “The Smarter Home.” Naturally, I had to read it. There’s a lot of talk about smart gadgets, such as a toothbrush that tracks your brushing habits and a slow cooker that lets you cook remotely. There are also profiles of people who are utilizing smart technology to improve their lives, like the woman with Parkinson’s disease who lives with her son and has a variety of sensors attached to her pillbox, key chain, etc., to alert him to irregularities in her schedule.

It’s pretty cool stuff, and it’s presented in an appealing way. Of course, things like roof gardens and home automation systems that let you control your HVAC, security system, lighting, and so forth via cellphone don’t grab readers as much as the yard that keeps you active, or the app that dims the lights and turns on soft music to create a romantic atmosphere.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Americans are too focused on gadgets and not focused enough on the big picture: making our homes stronger, healthier, more energy efficient, and less wasteful of resources. I was struck by the deck on the opening spread of the Time article: “The dwellings of the future will make you calmer, safer, richer, and healthier, and they already exist.” Safer and healthier … yes. Richer? Well, it’s always nice to save money on utility bills, and being able to sell energy back to the utility is icing on the cake. Calmer? That’s an intriguing thought. Are we there yet?

Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas