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Do you remember the Jetsons?  I do.

For the uninitiated (read: those far younger than I), the Jetsons was a cartoon series that featured George Jetson and his family living in the futuristic world of 2062.  Complete with flying cars and hyper speed teleportation, it showed what Hanna-Barbera thought the world would be like 100 years from when the show was initially aired in 1962.

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Turns out though Hanna-Barbera was something of a genius and actually predicted a lot of the technologies that are already in existence today.  I put together a list of just a few of the more popular ones that are in existence today and was gobsmacked:

  1. Drones

  2. Holograms (Tupac performing from beyond the grave at Coachella has my vote)

  3. Jetpacks

  4. Robots

  5. Smart home automation

  6. Smart watches

  7. Video chat

  8. Tablets

  9. Smart shoes

The show also featured flying cars, and whilst we don't have them at present, they are only estimated to be 2 years away from being piloted.  No mention of driverless cars (which we do have) - but its not bad for a kids cartoon originally made in the 60’s eh?

This got me thinking - if this kind of technology was dreamt of in the 60’s but delivered it in a much shorter space of time than imagined, what does the future hold for us in the next 20, 30, 40 years?  Or the more important question, how will we as humans have adapted so that this kind of technology becomes part of our way of life, as opposed to a far fetched, cartoon fantasy?  We quite happily live with smart phones, smart watches and TV’s at the moment as they enhance our quality of life somewhat, but there is a fine line between being enhancing and intrusive. 

With some of the latest developments aimed at helping us humans to lead a better life through positive nudge theory, will people be as happy to move with the times and live like the Jetsons if it means actual personal habitual change?  

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In the Lab, It’s a subject we’re really interested in and have been doing work on, particularly around deploying the right smart home technology solutions to not only help improve our residents lives, but also improve the services we deliver and quality of our housing stock.  One thing we’re currently scoping alongside our counterparts at Halton Housing is what a future home could look like, as well as testing smart home products to see what works for us and identify potential gaps in the market to help facilitate collaboration with interested parties.  We feel this is very important, as we want to understand in more detail not just what might be available, but how this may affect customers. 

Snazzy functionality - for example turning your heating on remotely - may sound attractive - but does it really deliver value to customers? Whilst the data these products collect is useful to us, we need to consider residents feelings towards what happens to all the data being collected and how this will be used for good as opposed to becoming a ‘big brother’ situation.

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As we already know, smart home automation isn’t a Jetsons pipedream.  Products like Nest and Hive are already active in the general consumer marketplace and offer a platform from which you can automate not just your heating and hot water, but also smoke detectors and lighting.

Imagine then, if you will, a product that could do this as well as integrate with items such as carbon monoxide detectors and humidity sensors at the cost of no more than a standard digital thermostat.  Further imagine that this system could be powered by an intelligent AI assistant that can send text messages to a resident, telling them when the property is too hot, too cold, too humid, due a gas service, as well as deliver diagnostics back to you that allow you to make repairs more proactive and efficient, as you would know exactly what the problem is and what parts are needed.

Products currently in the market aren’t there yet, but believe me, it's not far off and when it gets here, we need to seriously consider how we are going to promote this and encourage our residents to embrace this.  Think about it.  Whilst it is clear this technology enables improvements for all parties, the crux of this is that we are asking our residents to potentially make habitual changes to their lives to get the maximum benefit, when the most we have to do is make the investment and learn to evaluate and interpret the data being received in the most effective way.

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The Lab have already done smart tech tests but our challenge now is to bring these into a fully connected vision of what the home of the future looks like to residents - and to Bromford. 

The questions we want to explore are:

  • How might we ensure that items get to customers in the most efficient way?
  • How might we find a better balance between planned and unplanned repairs?
  • How might we support customers to play their part in looking after their home?
  • How might we make repairs efficient whilst also providing a positive experience for customers?

Our scoping work is at very early stages at present, but from what I’ve seen so far from companies such as Switchee, Secure Meters (creators of Beanbag), Hive and Nest to name but a few, I’m really excited as to what the future will bring.  

Stay tuned Lab lovelies!  

Perhaps the best use of holograms EVER!!!

Perhaps the best use of holograms EVER!!!

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