Smart Home Technologies Increase Independence
By Ellen Kampel & John M. Williams
For Jason Marlowe, who lives with MS, "smart home" technology allows him to operate household appliances directly from his wheelchair.
Marlowe says, "I use a remote control similar to one people use for TVs." His control is unobtrusive and easily mounts on his wheelchair, allowing him to utilize a number of household appliances at the touch of a button.
For 40-year-old Anne Black, this technology allows her to maintain her independence and stay connected to the community. For example, to reduce fatigue, Black uses a robotic vacuum cleaner, which allows Black to clean floors and carpets, under beds and in places where upright vacuums can't go, all without lifting a finger.
Black and Marlowe are part of the "smart home technology" revolution.
Smart home technology makes electronics act "smart" and allows electronics and appliances to communicate with each other, consumers, and even manufacturers. Nearly all major appliances in the future will take advantage of this technology through home networks, a system of computers in the home that communicate amongst each other and the Internet.
Many consider a smart home to be one that is wireless. Others think it is a home that has appliances that allow the consumer to do less work. In reality, a smart home is all of this and more, ultimately making life less strenuous, especially for people with MS.
Electrical engineer Thomas Canady, who has MS, says, "Bathroom tools such as electric razors, hair dryers and showers will soon be integrated into the smart technology revolution."
Electric razors will automatically adjust to different types of skin to make shaving smoother. Hair dryers will be able to detect an individual's hair thickness. Sensors on showers will determine when water should turn on and automatically adjust to an individual's desired temperature.
The ability for devices to communicate with each other and with the Internet will provide new functionality to just about every device in a home – refrigerators, microwaves, washers and dryers, stoves and sewing machines. Devices will even be able to request service when needed.
While smart homes exist in small numbers today, in less than a decade most new homes and apartments will be built with smart home technology at little to no additional cost to the consumer. People will be able to push a button to buy products immediately after watching a commercial, stay connected with family members and friends by watching them on TV, and even communicate with doctors' offices for monitoring and treatment from home.
Smart homes will satisfy the motto that people should think and machines should work. Most importantly, they will enable people with disabilities to function more easily and efficiently in their own home.
To learn more about home automation visit www.homeautomatedliving.com
Ellen Kampel is the public affairs manager for the Accessibility Business Unit at Microsoft. John M. Williams has been writing about assistive technology for 28 years. He coined the phrase assistive technology.