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Home Smart Home: The Shape Of Things To Come

Mark Gale

Mark Gale

Author

Technology

In-depth report commissioned by McCarthy & Stone predicts intelligent “Cognitive Homes” of the future will be able to assess and manage our needs and our desires in later life

In the first research of its kind to look into how emerging smart technologies will revolutionise how older people live at home, and deliver transformative benefits to health and wellbeing

Power suits, robotic assistants, self-stocking fridges, intuitive health care  and virtual GPs may all be provided in the comfort of the home - just some of the ‘out of this world’ features to look forward to in our smart Neighbourhoods of the Future 

Almost 32 million people will be aged 60 or over in the UK by 2039. But what sort of living environment do older people face when they leave the workplace and embark on the next chapter of their lives?  

McCarthy & Stone, on the 40th anniversary of the opening of its first ground-breaking retirement development, has commissioned a far-reaching report into how smart technologies in the home could transform independent living for future older generations.

‘Neighbourhoods of the Future’ is authored by the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA) – a campaigning social business committed to accelerating development of innovations that improve health and wellbeing in later life. 

>Download the report here<

The in-depth investigation concludes that, within the next 20 years, older people are likely to be living in an intelligent ‘Cognitive Home’ that is almost human, and which is able to assess and manage individual needs and desires.  It is the first ever report commissioned by the housing sector to look at the role new technologies could play in helping to manage the challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly ageing population.

Chief Information Officer at McCarthy & Stone, Tracey McDermott, said: “According to the recent housing white paper, helping older people to move at the right time and in the right way could enable them to live independently for longer and improve their quality of life, at the same time as freeing up homes for other buyers and reducing costs to the social care and health systems.

“The government wants to address the many barriers that exist to building more age-friendly housing, but to make sure the right type of properties are being developed, we need to draw on the know-how of a wide range of expert stakeholders to help deliver outcomes that are better for older people. New forms of technology and ‘big data’ present possibilities for everyone, especially older adults. However, their impact on those in later life is relatively unexplored. This is of great interest to us, and government, particularly how to support this age group to live better at home.

"New forms of technology and ‘big data’ present possibilities for everyone, especially older adults"

- Tracey McDermott, Chief Information Officer at McCarthy & Stone.


“We commissioned this report to influence our thinking, and the thinking of other housing providers. Our aim has been to summarise in one place, perhaps for the first time, what technology is on the horizon and consider how it could empower older adults. Looking to the future, we want technology to be inclusive – for the benefit of everyone – and ultimately to facilitate the creation of new homes that will support happier, healthier and, hopefully, longer lives.”

Welcome to the Cognitive Home
 
The report indicates how future retirees are open to the idea of a cognitive and empathetic home with human qualities. They also anticipate smart non-intrusive, secure connections with friends, family, GPs and/or carers who keep an eye on those who look after them. They expect transparency in relationships and information. They look out for value for money. 

They also want IT companies to think about consumers’ service experience and the journeys they go on. They love people competing for their business and do not like monopoly suppliers. They are getting used to and want more cool tech and, perhaps most importantly of all, they want providers to focus on them as ‘customers’, not as patients, end users, or care clients.

The home that welcomes, updates and warns you

When we enter our smarter houses and apartments of the future, we’ll expect an update on what’s going on, in and around our home, and share them with those who help us, should we need to. When problems are imminent, whether in our home or outside, we’ll expect to be alerted, in a way which goes far beyond the warnings about open doors or undone seat belts offered to us by our (current) cars.  Technology will update us on news and events in the neighbourhood and when the bus will arrive, all managed via our mobile phone.  Even our fridges will talk to us and make sure we don’t run out of ingredients by automatically keeping stocks topped up. 

Keeping agile and robots providing domestic support
With an active lifestyle acknowledged to improve wellbeing during retirement, mobility issues can affect independence, but advances in technology may well address this.  The introduction of assistive bodysuits and exoskeletons will remove the strain of undertaking tasks around the house and in the local environment for older adults.  Intelligent walking aids that combine intuitive sensors and e-drive functionality will support those keen to get about, and contact carers if someone falls, while the advent of a personalised mobility assistive robot could see it programmed to provide domestic service within the home.  


Safe and well
Specific health-related concerns, such as the effects of dwindling hearing or sight loss, or the growth of conditions such as dementia, will be supported through ‘sensory-loss’ technologies that make homes safer, easier to manage, lighter and more adaptable.  Sensitive design solutions using enabling technologies will help prevent incidents from occurring and address, for example, cookers being left on, baths overflowing or people becoming confused about their whereabouts.  Our personal digital assistant may help us to self-diagnose, sparing trips to the GP, or we may be able to talk to our doctors remotely.  And ‘holorportation’ may allow users to see, hear, and interact with others remotely as if both are present in the same physical space, via the use of 3D cameras.  

Flexibility is essential
Homes may also increasingly become intergenerational living spaces.  Co-living may become more common, with younger couples needing affordable housing and older generations nearby to offer and receive support as required. Good inclusive design and technology can help to create modern, flexible spaces that can be adapted in the event that adult children need to care for frail parents. 

Tracey McDermott, added: “It is clear from this report that advances in smart technology will play an increasingly pivotal role in how we look to support those entering retirement living over the coming decades.

“As the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder, we recognise the potential of the concept to revolutionise our industry and we hope this report will inform the thinking of all residential developers as well as the related service and product suppliers.  We will be reviewing how its findings will impact our next generation of developments and look forward to the infinite possibilities that 'Cognitive Homes' offer for older adults.”

The future is closer than we think
Ian Spero, founder of the Agile Ageing Alliance which has been leading the Neighbourhoods of the Future project, said: “Some of the ideas covered in our report could be mistaken for science fiction, but they are all based in reality. In the words of science fiction author William Gibson: The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.

“If housing providers are willing to listen and act, we can look forward to the growth of a new breed of smarter homes in our Neighbourhoods of the Future. Enabling our older selves to enjoy more meaningful, healthy and creative lives, which will in turn facilitate life affirming opportunities for personal development and social engagement.”

Exterior 

As we near home, our personal drone(s) will fly ahead to ensure there are no surprises waiting in store. We will have kept up to date via the screen mounted to our electric bike, or our smart watch as we stroll with assistance from our friendly smart walk assist device. If it’s been a particularly hot day, our thermostat has adjusted accordingly and our solar shaded windows will have recalibrated to let in just the right amount of light.

The Honda Walking Assist 
A device that reduces the load on leg muscles and joints utilizing an easy-to-use structure consisting of a seat, frame and shoes. 

Sonte - Solar shaded glass  
Digital technology applied to glass – Sonte can alter the levels of transparency or opaqueness of windows either automatically or remotely (eg. through an app).   

Drone security
Here are some of the best personal drones available now:

Communal living space

Rather than being isolated in technically-gilded apartments we envisage an open lounge where we will meet with neighbors, friends and family.  Or we may just want to hang out quietly, catching up on our favorite hologram series. If we are feeling more energetic we could take a virtual cycling tour in the country or around your favorite city; and we will do this knowing that should anything untoward happen if you are alone, someone in the vicinity will be immediately alerted. 

Future Humanoids
The new generation of ‘robots’ - being developed to assist –not replace - humans in their everyday tasks.   

Holographic / touch table 
A multipurpose table which can be used for holographic projections or its surface used like a giant tablet. Doodles produced on the table can be ‘selected’, saved and sent to someone etc. Sony's Future Lab demonstrated an interactive table top concept at the USA’s SXSW festival in 2016, employing sensors and motion tracking to know when objects are placed on the table.

Smart mirror

If you are not up for a trip to the city and want something a bit more bespoke than online shopping, a ‘smart mirror’, will let you shop virtually and try different clothes. Alternatively, it can also be used for motivational purposes - for example it could show you a potential new body shape after sticking to an exercise routine. Here you will find some of the best smart mirror concepts to dream about 

Smart weather station
Everything you could possibly want to know about the weather in real time. Here are 10 of the best wireless weather stations for home reviews

Solar building shades  
Shades that adjust automatically to the time of the day and aspect - to maximise views and daylight, but limit the amount of solar glare in summer months to avoid overheating are already in use. In future they will become the norm rather than the exception. 

Ciclotte Stationary Bike 
The first exercise bike to use an electromagnetic resistance system with a transmission that replicates the effort of pushing on pedals when riding on the road.

Fall detection floor  
A smart floor that detects falls and immediately sends an alarm signal to a designated carer. In future, these systems are likely to be able to identify scenarios that will help to avoid and softer falls.

Soft Moving Walkway
Modelled on the principle of an airport moving walkway we envisage a smart walkway in the home environment providing a convenient and safe means of moving about.  

Kitchen living space

If we want to give the robotic chef the night off, we will find it much easier to reach pots and pans thanks to spring-mounted, pull-down shelves, while the smart fridge makes sure we don’t run out of ingredients by automatically keeping stocks topped up. And we will be able to grow our own herbs and vegetables on our very own indoor biowall.

Pull down shelves 
Existing technology which allows users to literally pull down storage without the use of a stool - making is safer for both older adults and young people.  

Eco Fire Line  
In the future, there will be more ways to enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of a fire, safely yet realistically. According to Plankia “Creating a long line of real fire wouldn`t be possible without Burning Ethanol Vapours (BEV) technology, which ensures the highest level of safety, fuel combustion efficiency and allows the presentation of a unique fire - natural, golden flame with ideal shape and height. 

Active Chairs 
Hospitals are stressing the importance of smart chairs on elderly care wards to ensure patients are encouraged to remain active during their hospital stay. The chairs allow older patients to spend more time out of bed thanks to their built-in pressure management cushions and adjustable back and leg rests.

Looking to the future, active chairs will not only support and empower older adults in their own homes, they will also look great.

Full Zone Induction  
Allows you to take advantage of any part of a worktop surface for cooking - without specific ‘hob’ zones.  Looking to the future we envisage that surfaces and counters will be multi purposed. Here is a video for an early Gaggenau system

Kitchen robotic arms / robotic chef 

A compact stationary robotic device that can prepare meals to any digitally acquired recipe.

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