6 biggest innovations in the home of the future – pineapple sofas included
June 09, 2015
A TV you roll up? Pineapple sofas? ‘Smart’ dining tables? Surely not..? Materials and design guru Chris Lefteri lists his six top innovations in our Home of the Future series. Prepare to be amazed…
We asked materials and design guru Chris Lefteri to look into his crystal ball to predict how modern technology, materials and processes will transform our homes in 10 years’ time.
We won’t all be living in super-sleek metal pods, or driving space cars, contrary to the future predicted by old sci-fi movies. “During the 20th century, there were huge innovations in materials, with the creation of aluminium, plastic and new types of ceramics,” says Lefteri.
“But we’re not seeing new strides being made in the manufacture of new types of materials; it’s more that people are now thinking of new ways to use existing materials created by breakthroughs in how they are being processed.”
Odour-eating paint, heat-absorbing plaster
The home of the future won’t look much different than today’s house. But the fabric of the house will be packed with smart materials that are invisible but which will perform specific roles, such as controlling temperature, humidity or pollution. Lefteri says: “You could put textile wall coverings in the shower or carpets on your terrace, because by treating them with hydrophobic coatings they will never get wet. Odour-absorbing paint in your kitchen will do away with the need for an extractor fan, while the walls of your home could absorb heat during the day and then release it during the night.”
A house that thinks for itself
The growth of smart materials will enable people to control their homes in a way they never thought possible, thanks to the Internet of Things. “People are now able to control the temperature and lighting in their cars very subtly, and that raises their expectations,” Lefteri explains. “They will soon want that same technology in their homes. Nest, the smart thermostat, already controls a house’s temperature, through electronics. But I think there will soon be other similar devices that will automatically regulate the atmosphere of your home, through collecting data from the smart materials impregnated in the walls.” Your home will effectively run itself, without you even being near, as well as keeping itself safe, by sensing whether the house is too hot or cold, or if a pipe is leaking, a fire has started or a burglar has entered.
A TV you roll up
The way of making glass hasn’t changed fundamentally since it was invented thousands of years ago, but new hi-tech processes mean a sheet of glass can be made that is so thin it can be rolled like paper. The new product, known as Willow Glass, is a mere 0.1mm thick. This fundamentally changes how it can be used, and means glass has perhaps the greatest potential for innovation over the next 10 years. A film of glass that looks and feels like clear plastic can be laminated onto tables, counter tops or walls to create a surface that is very hard, durable, and easy to clean. It also means that just about any surface can become a computer screen.
“We’re now so used to interacting with screens, through smartphones, tablets and computers, that it is changing how we expect to use screens in our home,” says Lefteri. Ikea is developing a smart dining table that senses which foods you place on it and can help you to cut and cook them, and will even suggest recipes for you and display them. Also, the television as we know it may not exist in 10 years’ time. “Rather than just sitting in the corner of the room, the TV might be unrolled and hung on a wall, then put back in a tube when we don’t need it,” argues Lefteri.
A kettle that powers your phone
With energy prices spiraling upwards, tomorrow’s smart materials could cut the cost of powering your home, by recovering energy that had previously been wasted. “The same piezzo technology used in kitchen lighters is being tested in other materials to convert impact into current,” says Lefteri. “For example, the energy created by the vibrations of your washing machine, tumble dryer or vacuum cleaner could in future be converted into an electrical current. Another technology is also being developed in which heat differentials generate power, so your boiling kettle could be used to charge your smartphone or milk frother.” Lefteri adds: “I think the use of this smart technology to cut the amount of energy we use around the home is going to be the next wave of the green movement.”
Nettle curtains, pineapple sofa
Apart from new technology that harvests energy from appliances, waste products are increasingly being used to supplement existing materials, using less natural resources, as well as cutting down on processing and shipping. “Increasingly textiles are being made from the by-products of other industries,” says Lefteri. “The Ministry of Supply, a US company, is making clothes with coffee-infused polyester, while replica leather is being made from pineapples and fish scales. Nettles are being woven into fibres, reducing the need for cotton.”
Soon, consumers will not be able to tell the difference between sustainable products and their traditional counterparts. “The period of products made from recycled materials which looked slightly crunchy is over. The technology has advanced to such a stage where, for example, a plastic made from wood fibre will look the same as conventional plastic made from oil.” Also, new greener building products could replace their environmentally unfriendly predecessors. “A material made from the mushroom root is being developed which may replace the use of polystyrene in home insulation,” says Lefteri
The smallest room will be a spa
The role of the bathroom will be transformed in the home of the future. Soon, it will become a personal spa, which is a haven from the stress of everyday life. “I think we will increasingly see the bathroom become a place of escape for people. New materials will change the way in which the room looks: it won’t be full of cold, hard surfaces, but will contain materials that don’t mind getting wet to make for warm, sumptuous, cosy spaces. The use of lighting that isn’t affected by water will be important. Fibre-optic lighting is being developed in which the fibre illuminates itself, which means you can have lighting integrated much more cleverly within your home. It will be able to be altered subtly to change our moods, which will help us to unwind.” Already, space-age toilets in Japan change the lighting in the room and even play music when they are sat on.
Fancy a sofa made of fish scales? Which innovations are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments below.
Other articles in our Home of the Future series:
To view the full report visit: Hiscox Home of the Future Report
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