Remember the days when your mother bragged that the kitchenware that she bought in the 70s was made of the same material that was used in rockets going to the moon? Probably not, considering that these days the average smart phone contains more technology than those used to put the first pioneers into space. Most of us are more concerned with the size of the flat screen on our new television than with the technology that has allowed manufacturers to build ultra slim sets which can be mounted on the wall. Things are moving at an incredible rate and, in a nutshell, computer technology is moving so fast that had the automotive trade kept up, cars would be driving at supersonic speeds while consuming virtually no fuel whatsoever. The problem with technology these days is trying to keep up with what’s hot, what’s not, what’s in and what’s out.
Global warming is beginning to affect the way we live and with this in mind, computer companies are developing labour and energy-saving devices aimed at making life easier and cheaper while using less of the earth’s valuable resources. Security issues have also become a primary concern for people around the world. Again, technology has come to the rescue with a number of cell phones now featuring programmes which can turn on lights, set the alarm and view CCTV footage of the property whilst the homeowner is absent.
First we had smart cars, then smart phones and the latest buzzword appears to be smart homes. Essentially these types of homes are run by computer chips, which control different devices throughout the home, programming what time the lights come on, what time to turn on the stove and turning on heating or cooling systems as needed. Homes specifically built for the elderly in the UK suffering with dementia are being designed with this technology in mind. Systems implemented in these units determine whether the stove is turned off, alerting the owner when medication is due as well as warning live-in caregivers if their charges have wandered off the premises.
In the US Hewlett Packard has designed a show unit which clearly indicates just how far technology has come. The good news… sweating over a hot stove could be a thing of the past. Gadgets such as an oven that doubles up as a refrigerator means that food can be prepared, left in a cool environment until a pre-set time, when it will switch to an oven and cook the dish. The fridge will also tell you which foods are going off, as well as keeping an inventory on what products are running low or need replacing. A microwave oven has been developed by Samsung that “reads” the cooking instructions (barcode) on the packet and cooks the food accordingly. Similarly, a Sharp model using a mixture of super-heated circulating air and microwaves cooks food 80% faster than conventional models.
Entertainment has also been revolutionised by technology. Television sets that can download movies from the Internet or play home videos are the latest rage. Because the device networks with all the computers in the house, finding the right song, favourite photo or DVD stored on any of these machines is as simple as pressing a button on your remote control.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, reportedly spent $100m on smart technology in his Seattle home. Everyone entering the home has an electronic tracking chip attached. As they move through the house, lights come on ahead of them and fade as they leave the room. The chip determines the wearer’s favourite songs and television shows. Keeping track, the chip makes adjustments as it learns the preferences of the individual wearer. When two people are in the same room, the system will compromise, finding something to watch or listen that both people enjoy.
New technology unfortunately does not come cheap and anyone installing any of these gadgets or systems can expect to pay a premium for the privilege. However, with technology seemingly moving at the speed of light, it shouldn’t be long before large numbers of South African homeowners have systems with some of these features in place. If all goes well, perhaps soon a robot will be invented which washes the dishes made from the same material as that used in Apollo missions.