By Eve Picker
We’ve always thought of housing as shelter and little more. Now we are on the cusp of a massive cultural shift here in the United States, and soon we’ll expect our homes to be much more than a place to hang our hat at the end of the day. It seems that the possibilities are endless and that they are very much in our grasp. Now is not the time to limit our collective imagination.
In the near future we’re going to be able to interact with our homes in a completely different way than we do today. Smart Homes and the Internet of Things have already changed how we listen to music in our homes, connect with digital assistants like Siri and Amazon Echo, how we control the climate of our homes with smart thermostats, how we open our doors with smart locks and many other digital-age upgrades that are changing the way we use and enjoy our homes.
And getting smarter is not just about gadgets and ease of use. Homebuyers and renters are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact while saving money on their mortgage or rental payment at the same time. More and more luxury homes have integrated technology solutions that combine solar panels with battery systems like Tesla’s Powerpack to essentially turn their home into a mini power plant. Power is generated for every day household use, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles and even provides a credit on your electric bill by sending surplus electricity generated back into the grid for the rest of the community to use as needed.
Builders and developers have an opportunity to embrace these changes in order to increase the appeal of their projects, attract technology and growth investors, and make a positive environmental impact on the community at large at that same time.
Smart City infrastructure
All these smart new home features allow city planners, builders, and developers the potential to integrate each home into a smart city net, which is essentially a series of homes that send relevant data back to a central processing area, so that various city and municipal professionals can parse that data.
Cities are already processing metrics which include energy/electricity and water use, and some municipal internet/fiber monitoring. Increasingly cities are also installing sensors that measure air quality, sunlight coverage, traffic monitoring sensors, pedestrian trackers, and many other data points that may be used to improve the community at large. Many of these sensors are not fixed in place – they are attached to city vehicles, buses, police and fire vehicles, so that data can be collected in and around the city’s geographic area.
Developers have the opportunity to incorporate these data collection systems into new real estate projects in order to allow residents to benefit from increased efficiencies in energy, water, and internet delivery. Rather than merely building houses, builders and developers can be a potent force for improving the lives of residents in an abundance of ways.
As we shift towards homes as a hub for the devices and networks that we use every day, there is an opportunity to integrate new transportation modes into development projects as well. For example, as the use of ridesharing soars, particularly in dense urban cores, developers may opt to allocate less space for traditional solo-use parking spaces, and instead create a designated area for rideshare apps like Uber, Lyft and others. Or they may include more charging stations for hybrid or electric vehicles. Or more bike racks. Or they might even consider providing a shared vehicle for the use of property residents. Space that is typically set aside for ground level parking can instead by used for indoor or outdoor common areas and other such community enhancing features.
To remain relevant, developers and builders must embrace Smart Homes and Smart Cities. As the technology scales up, features that are now primarily seen in luxury homes will soon become part of middle and even lower-income housing markets. Everyone stands to benefit from the economic and energy efficiencies offered by smart grids, better and more efficient mobility options, and smart and sensible integrated housing systems.