Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

Advances in technology over the last four decades have come a long way. Today, smart home devices are more affordable and offer seamless integration between various compatible products. Also, the paradigm shift away from facility care as the most likely alternative for housing to aging in place in the home has heightened the demand for a wide range of in-home technology to keep individuals connected, healthy and safe.

With everything from Internet-connected light bulbs to cameras that let us spy on our pets from the office already available, experts say that a decade from now we’ll move from controlling lights with our voices to total immersion in the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT, including smart home technology, has advanced for people with physical and cognitive impairments, with utility for fall prevention and for wheelchair users of all ages. IoT provides clients with independence and autonomy by integrating electronic aids to daily living (EADL) and a wide variety of smart devices and appliances through hardware and smartphone apps such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa Smart Home products. The benefits of IoT include access to health care, transportation and home safety through tracking and wearable devices.

The beginning of modern-day smart home technology can be traced back to 1975, when the release of X-10 home automation platforms using radio frequency was popular for remotely controlling devices. Imperium and Multimedia Max were two early X-10 environmental control units used in homes for persons with disabilities. Fast forward to 2005, when the Z-Wave platform was introduced as a radio frequency technology that did not interfere with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless technologies. Non-Z-Wave products can be networked by plugging them into Z-Wave accessory modul.In 2014, Amazon released its first Echo (with Alexa), realized its potential in the smart home market and released further products. Google also released its own voice-activated virtual assistant, “Hey Google,” Samsung also entered the smart market and now offers the SmartThings app, which allows connection with appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, and clothes washers and dryers. Today’s Uses EADLs include various devices that help individuals with physical, visual, hearing and cognitive impairments perform daily routine tasks safely within their environments and communities.

Smart home devices may control appliances, televisions, interior and exterior doors, power window blinds, garage door openers and durable medical equipment such as electric hospital beds.

EADLs include emergency devices like fall detectors, movement sensors and hearing aids. Smart home devices may be touch, touchless (motion sensor switch activation) or voice activated, and integrate with multiple devices and hardware, such as smart displays (Alexa Echo Show and Google Nest), smartphones, watches, outlets, light bulbs and speakers.

In a situation where a person uses a power wheelchair with an alternative drive control and cannot touch a button or use their voice to activate an automatic door opener, a sensor switch can be placed on the power wheelchair to automatically open the door when the power wheelchair approaches the door at a certain programmed distance.

Smart home technologies have helped individuals with sensory impairments keep up with news, listen to and watch TV, do grocery shopping, maintain a calendar and perform other tasks in their homes and communities, reports The Braille Institute, which provides resources to people with vision and hearing impairments.

Smart home technology is constantly evolving, and the world of interconnected smart home devices is only the tip of the iceberg.

Various industries have integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into their operations, which will likely become increasingly prevalent in the smart home world. AI has begun to play a significant role in the evolution of smart home technology, like AI-powered smart home devices that can interact and communicate with each other, allowing them to learn human habits through data collection.

Smart homes will become even smarter using IoT sensors, machine learning and AI-powered devices. It will certainly be interesting to see how these technologies develop in the coming years.