Finding the he(art) of smart living

Published September 1, 2021, 8:30 AM

by Johannes Chua

As the pandemic lengthens, many homeowners realize they need to upgrade their homes

HOME INNOVATION Smart living highlights technology and AI in fixtures and appliances to improve homeowners’ quality of life

A cursory online search on the term “smart living” will lead you to various definitions. But a unifying theme emerges—smart living is not only about having the latest technology at home. In short, you can experience smart living even with the barest of high-tech gadgets or appliances.

One definition that somewhat encapsulates smart living is this portion from a report by the European Commission. The report defines smart living as a “trend encompassing advancements that give people the opportunity to benefit from new ways of living. It involves original and innovative solutions aimed at making life more efficient, more controllable, economical, productive, integrated, and sustainable.”

The urgency of smart living is more pronounced as the world gets in and out of different kinds of lockdowns. We realize now that we are in this situation for the long haul and some health pundits have said that it would take another year or two before we can safely say we’re out of the woods. This is also the reason, even in a battered economy, the property market continues to experience robust sales, ditto with the positive balance sheets of home accessories shops, hardware stores, and DIY chains.

“It doesn’t take an expert to say that the prolonged pandemic has changed the way we live, work, or study. We all, in one way or another, have experienced it. We have realized the importance of our homes as we stay indoors most of the time,” says Florence Ang, an interior design consultant currently based in Singapore.  “That’s why we want our homes to be convenient for each member of the family.”

UNIVERSAL REMOTE Control of the house is centralized or managed in one integrated system for ease of use

As for smart living, Ang explains it is not just about the presence of smart furniture, smart gadgets, or smart appliances.  Smart living, for her, is about “quality of life, not just about the quality of the internet connection or the brands of smart appliances that you have.”

She explains, “It is about living well amid these uncertain times. Your home has to be ‘efficient’ to continuously and efficiently play a variety of roles—workplace, school, church, play area for kids, etc.  Then you support all these with the available technology such as having smart cameras or smart lights to help you save on bills and time and, generally, to make life easier.”

‘Your home has to be efficient to continuously and efficiently play a variety of roles—workplace, school, church, play area for kids, etc.  Then you support all these with the available technology such as having smart cameras or smart lights to help you save on bills and time and, generally, to make life easier.’

This observation is supported by Martin Kienzle, an electronics industry leader at IBM Research. In an article he wrote entitled, “Smart living, not smart devices,” it is clear, as he stressed, that smart living is not about what is possible, but about what is useful and valuable. “Most of us are not looking for new devices, but for ways to simplify our lives or, at the least, engage us. A device is significant only if it actually demonstrates value to us: entertains, educates, engages, is more convenient, or makes us safer,” he wrote.

Considering the various opinions, the heart of smart living is “you”—how it makes your life more convenient as you are confined in the four corners of your house and how it makes your family life more “coordinated” as you all go about doing different tasks at the same time. It goes above technology (though it is an essential part) and has a holistic long-ranging view (it is a never-ending journey as what is “smart” today may be useless tomorrow). 

“True smart living solutions are very personal. We all have our own views of what we’d like to watch and when we’d like to watch it, what peace of mind means for us, and which of our chores we’d like most to be taken care of,” says Kienzle. “Smart living solutions have to adapt to our situations, habits, and rituals, not just once, but continually—life changes.”

 
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