Smart toilets? No **** Sherlock!
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Smart toilets? No **** Sherlock!

Smart toilets? No **** Sherlock!

Posted on 10th July 2019

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Ford EscortEver since I was a boy I have been fascinated by technology and what it can do.  In 2019, I am just as amazed, especially when I think back to my childhood. I know my grandad had a Mark I Ford Escort.  The Escort was a very popular car, now long since gone (morphed into the Ford Focus I believe).  The differences between a Ford Escort and almost any car you might buy today are enormous.  From inertia-reel seat belts to Bluetooth to airbags and self-driving cars powered by electricity or hydrogen, the world of motoring has changed and continues to change beyond recognition.  Of course, we want a vehicle to get us safely from A to B, but increasingly we want DAB radio, Bluetooth, wi-fi and every modern convenience to smooth our passage as the computer plots our course amidst the other driverless cars.

The impact technology has on our lives is said to be changing faster than ever.  Like cars, what’s inside our houses has also changed significantly over the years. I don’t just mean changes in furniture fashions (hands up those with mahogany wardrobes, pine tables and avocado coloured bathroom suites?), but rather the introduction of technology into our homes.  The much lauded and politically sensitive 5G roll out is now underway and the internet of things is promising to revolutionise the ways in which we live. What’s interesting for me is not just the technology itself, but also the challenges it throws up, for example in the ergonomics of building houses, offices and industrial facilities - and in the way they are marketed. 

At present, home/office/industrial unit designs are predicated on how humans interact with and live inside these buildings.  While that will still be the prevailing orthodoxy, the rise of the robot and the need for more connectivity will govern much future thinking. The materials from which our homes and offices are constructed are changing too, as can be seen from the development of smart paints that are not just tough and long-lasting but also wipe-clean. On a more fundamental level, 3D printing is already being used to build the actual structures in which we live, and does so in less than 24 hours.

The internet of things will bring smart ovens, fridges and the like, all ordering our lives.  VR will bring the far-flung world into our living rooms, while robot waiters (on the go from 2006 in China) and cleaners will bring order and comfort to the mess and untidiness that we humans seem to like so much.

Even in the bedroom we are cannot escape from technological change. Rather than having to drift off to sleep to the noise of passing cars and planes overhead, the introduction of directional audio, beaming sounds with laser-precision, offers the opportunity for one partner to nod off to the sounds of an immersive, self-sculpted 3D soundscape – with tropical waves lapping at their feet and soothing birdsong in the background, while the other person might prefer a cooling summer breeze or the bucolic sounds of an English meadow. There are even mattresses which claim to tell you if your partner has been unfaithful!

Perhaps more useful in the bedroom are Bioadaptive lamps which tune into your body clock to gently lull you to sleep, or wake you gently. These were recently installed at the Technology & Innovation Centre of the University of Strathclyde. 

Bath frogs

No room is immune from the impact of technology, with firms working on smart toilets that can analyse your excrement to alert you to any health issues. You might also want to use a skin scanning device in the bathroom (with the inevitable iPhone app) to help keep your skin looking at its best.

The sources of energy that power our homes are changing too.  We’re all familiar with PV/solar panels, but with climate change the need for super-reflective tiles for those living daily in scorching temperatures will become obvious, while roofs generally will work much harder – for example, with more use made of biosolar roofs that combine habitat for pollinators with energy-generating panels.  In our increasingly smart cities, the pavements can convert footfall into energy to power lighting and other devices.

There are, literally, hundreds more ideas being developed for changing the way we interact with our homes. This is where the impact of technology will be evident to most people.  Simply living in homes is no longer an option.  And to return to my car analogy, those housebuilders who recognise that their customers will increasingly want not simply four walls and a roof but a host of gizmos will be the ones who continue to prosper. It’s an area tech companies are investing in and one for which there is an almost limitless market.  

Michael Phair, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion

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