Future-HomeFor as long as we've had science fiction, we've had sci-fi visions of what the future might hold. And before even that, we had books that guessed at the future and we were free to speculate in our spare time. Often this imagination would lead us to think about how our homes in particular might look in the future. Thus we all have an idea in our heads of what to expect when the future comes. And generally it involves robotic assistants that speak to us in smooth female voices, and that control our lighting for us and our heating before we even need to ask.

But unfortunately for most of us this vision is probably very wrong. Based on science fiction stories as these ideas are, they will often focus on the sorts of technologies that look good on the screen or that are interesting to read about – they don't take into account the various different economic, political or business factors that really drive our innovation. Read on to find out why your vision of the house of tomorrow is in all likelihood wrong…


According to the book 1984, we will one day all be watched and scrutinised by 'Big Brother' – that being a large corporation that will watch our every move and ensure we don't do anything out of line. We'll be innocently watching TV, but at the same time we might also be being watched by our TVs.

And of course people started to panic when Microsoft unveiled plans for their new Xbox One system to include an 'always on' Kinect with built in camera and microphone. Was Big Brother becoming real?

The answer is fortunately a resounding no. While governments might well like the idea of watching our every move, there's no way that in a democratic society with freedom of speech they would ever get away with it. Just think about how hard everyone came down on the press after the phone recording scandals.

The only real threat from a device like the Kinect would come from hackers – and defeating them is as easy as throwing a blanket over the lens. Problem solved!

Minority Report

Minority Report is famous for one scene perhaps more than any other: the scene in which Tom Cruise used that incredible 3D, gesture controlled interface to look up information as though conducting an orchestra (with classical music playing in the background of course). Subsequent films have imagined how the same might be true one day in the home – and already there are Smart TVs you can control by pointing at the screen or even looking at where you want to click.

But again, this is unlikely to catch on in quite the way that people imagine. Why? Because gesture controls simply aren't that viable for intense computing. If you've ever tried using a smart TV with gesture input, or a Leap Motion for that matter, you'll know how hard it is to keep your hand steady, and how hard it is to keep your arm in the air for that long too. A mouse is simply quicker.

Will our primary form of interface with machines change around the home as we move forward? Probably. Is Minority Report a good demonstration of how that might look? Probably not…

The Smart Home

One of the most popular visions of the home meanwhile is the 'smart home' that uses the cloud and the 'internet of things' to ensure all your technology can communicate with each other. That means your hob could start boiling the pasta just as the beef was ready in the oven, or that your fridge could tell you when the milk was out of date.

And the internet of things is likely to become a reality thanks to cloud computing and the ever decreasing size and cost of computer chips. The only problem? In order for that technology to ever become real, businesses would first have to agree to work with one another. The company that made the milk would need to agree to a universal standard for conveying information to the fridge manufacturers – and this is what's likely to hold that back from ever happening.

Having windows that are smart in their own right is likely, and we are likely to see more and more automation. But until there's huge financial incentive we're unlikely to see everything truly connected at once.

Today's contributor, Shruti Vaghe, is a freelance blogger currently writing for Vinyl City Windows & Doors Inc., providers and installers of double hung windows in Toronto. Shruti has a great concern for physical fitness and loves skiing and snowboarding.