Welcome to Intel’s tiny connected home of the future

Having left London 14 hours earlier, the bed would almost certainly drawn away my focus from the connectedness. Fortunately, at just 210 square feet, Intel’s Tiny Connected Home is so small that there’s no way a bed can take up valuable real estate all of the time. Instead, it was neatly tucked away from sight, underneath a platform that houses the main all-in-one computer that acts as just one of the possible hubs for the company’s vision of the connected future.

And that’s what we had traveled to San Francisco to see: a glimpse of future living. Although the company were keen to emphasis that the the building currently housed nothing too revolutionary in terms of functionality (we’re all aware of smartlocks, smart lighting and the various arrays and sensors that make up the Internet of Things), the way they joined together to create an actual evolving IoT playground was certainly an impressive sight.charging_bowl

In fact, none of the sensors on display were actually pioneered by Intel, but the technology linking them together is – and that’s an important distinction. To move to a clear Internet of Things future, it’s important that everything can communicate with everything else – something that is very easy to forget when dozens of competitive tech companies are in a race to deck out our future living rooms. “We’re doing what Intel does best,” I’m told.

The Tiny Connected Home is going to be the playground for getting the most out of this new technology. A ‘living lab’, as the company describes it, where developers can show off  and test new functionality over the next few months. Were I to come back in two years time, the chances are the functionality will have changed beyond all recognition.inside_intel_tiny_connected_house

It’s early days for the living lab though, and for now we’re shown a handful of small, but impressive ways of controlling everything: some via traditional tablet inputs, others via voice and yet more entirely voice activated. The way these work together is quite clever as well: if a water sensor detects a leak, but you’re away on business, you might worry that your house will flood. But in the case scenario provided, the imaginary home owner gets a remote notification, and can then immediately hire a plumber via Yelp, and remotely let them in via the smartlocks and camera to fix the problem, ensuring their home will be less soggy than if they had to wait.

It’s easy to imagine a house being built from the ground up to be an Internet of Things hub, but what about real world case studies where consumers are reluctant to chuck out their old alarms and coffee machines just because they ‘don’t speak wireless’? Intel is well aware of this dilemma and is looking at ways of making ‘dumb’ devices smart. Smartplugs, for example, can switch on a coffee machine remotely, even if it’s from the dark days when expressos could only be made with direct contact.

More clever is the use of microphones to read between the lines: the main computer has been trained to recognise sounds, like the crashing of a window (so you can switch on the cameras to see if you need a glazier, the police or both) or a smoke alarm chirping, so you can get the fire brigade in, even if your smoke alarm isn’t equipped to make the call itself.computer_above_bed_intel_connected_house

One of the problems they’re trying to conquer is the idea that lots of this can be done now – but that the world of ‘If This, Then That’ kind of programming is still too niche and techie for mass adoption. Leaving the Tiny Home, you can say ‘Hey Computer, I’m leaving’, and the doors will automatically lock – a few seconds after you close the door. It could also lower the thermostat and turn off the lights: it’s all in the hands of the consumers and the developers coming up with clever products to deck out the house over the next couple of years.

It will be fascinating to see what developers using the Intel Smarthome Development Acceleration Platform will be able to come up with given the time. For now, the Smart Tiny Home is a glance of the future – but it could look positively primitive in 12 months’ time, and that’s a really exciting future that Intel is right to want to work towards.

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Lead Image: Business Wire

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