Your Coffeemaker Is Watching You
Half a century ago, the House of the Future was a marvel of plastic and fiberglass. The $1 million model home, built for an exhibition at Disneyland in 1957, had four cantilevered, capsule-like rooms arranged around a central column, so that it appeared to hover about five feet off the ground. Inside were appliances that receded into countertops when not in use, an adjustable-height sink, an early prototype of a video telephone, and a heating-and-cooling system that emitted the gentle scent of saltwater breezes or pine needles. Best of all, instead of a refrigerator and freezer, the house had three “cold zones,” chilled compartments that could be lowered from the ceiling with the push of a button.
Refrigerator design hasn’t changed that much in the decades since. Nowadays, though, smart fridges almost always come up in conversations about the Internet of Things, a term that describes a network of Web-connected objects designed to perceive their surroundings and communicate with one another.
Today, the refrigerator of the future is an appliance that, yes, keeps your Chablis chilled, but also adjusts its temperature based on the kinds of food it contains, reminds you to drink more water, and automatically orders a gallon of milk from the store before you run out. Which makes it a pretty good proxy for an ongoing shift—one poised to accelerate in the decades ahead—in how people interact with their homes. Here’s what that shift will look like.
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