Yes, 'smart houses' are upon us.

I have this really bad habit of checking every. single. freaking. power point before I leave the house.

Mostly, it’s just things that pose a real threat to the house burning down: namely the iron, the hair straightener, the heater, etc. I check. I re-check. I take photos of the power points. I leave the house only to walk back and check again. It’s a tiresome process. I can’t help it.

But, imagine if my house was able to do the checking for me? And reassure me that everything was off, automatically? Or, better still, what if my house just took care of the power points as soon as I shut the door?

All of this and more is on the horizon thanks to the IBM smart houses of the future. Dubbed ‘cognitive environments’, smart houses can be programmed to suit your needs. We’re talking automated-everything, from your office environment to your bedroom ambience.

Temperature, music, food, beverages, directions to the bathroom… Yep, your house has just been transformed from your traditional bricks and mortar into your very own living internet beast.

(One problem: WiFi usage!?)


According to IBM, houses are sitting ducks when it comes to the amazing amount of information they could potentially store. Everything from air-conditioning usage, to movement sensors, would give precious insight to how we behave inside the space we call ‘home’.

Can you hack it? Home hacks. (Post continues after video)

“Cognitive computing enables the systems within your building to understand, reason and learn from the data they create,” says IBM.

“Imagine a house that knows your schedule better than you do; an office space that works like you do; factory floor safety equipment that pulls its own emergency stop before you get injured; or a next-generation concession operation at the stadium that has someone placing a cold beer in your hand just as you sit down before kickoff.”

Replace ‘beer’ with ‘wine’, and ‘stadium’ with ‘couch’ – and we’re sold.


Here are our top five favourite things the houses of the future can do you for you. (It only seems fair, considering most of us are paying well above six figures for the darn thing.)

Come home to the perfect temperature.

Thanks to our omnipresent smartphones, your house now can detect, via location tracking, when you are 20-minutes from home and adjust the temperature accordingly. Never come home to a freezing cold house ever again! On a side note, I don’t know what’s worse – coming home to a freezing cold house, or coming home to a house warmed by Artificial Intelligence because it’s the only reliable and loving relationship you have in your life.


Throw away the keys.

No more hopping around your front door with heavy shopping bags whilst fumbling for your house key! No more passive-aggressive tapping on the kitchen window for your bone-lazy housemates to let you in! Thanks to facial recognition technology, your house will let you in with just a glance. But, if you want to remain hands-free, you better steer clear of too much ‘nipping and tucking’. If not even your front door knows who you are, you’ve got a problem.

Don’t forget your dinner plans.

“Reminder: dinner plans with mum, 6.30pm”

Dammit. Your favourite excuse – “I forgot!” – is going to be rendered null and void once your house starts reminding you about calendar events. Whether it’s to pay a bill or return a call, it’s going to be really hard to avoid a 2,500-square-foot structure telling you to “go to dinner with your mum, NOW”. Or else it’s locking the freezer so no ice-cream until after dinner.


Would you like the car?

Sure, it doesn’t seem like an extremely difficult task to pick up the keys and walk to your garage. But, just remember how tedious it feels to to enter your PIN post-tap-and-go. It’s actually the LONGEST PROCESS EVER. Well, everything is about to change, in the walking-to-the-garage department. Cognitive homes will soon to be able to bring your car around the front, engine started, and ready to go. Just like a chauffeur. An invisible chauffeur, at that. Creepy…

Help finding things you’ve lost.

‘Virtual assistants’ are designed to help with the difficult, laborious tasks, such as, er…helping find the cat?

Nuance has created a program to talk to a virtual robot that’s been tasked with finding a cat,” reported tech magazine Quartz. “You can ask it to look under the couch, and follow up with, ‘What about behind the curtains?’ Nuance’s language-understanding API allows the program to derive context for the follow-up question without needing to be told again about the missing cat.”

Other voice-recognition assistants can answer all your other non-missing-cat-related questions, such as “…hotel and flight booking information from Expedia, weather data from AccuWeather, sports scores, exchange rates, stock prices, and other things people are generally interested in.”

Missing cats are definitely up there.

Like it or lump it, smart houses are on the (very near) horizon. IBM is totally pumped about that, and are already hyping up the hordes of people who are no longer happy for a house to merely shelter them from the elements and store their collection of vintage Dolly magazines.

“Cognitive buildings can delight us. They can sound the alarm, and send help when something is out of whack,” says IBM.

“They can also anticipate the things we need before we know it. In a sense, they become our active partners in all things, whether that is at work or when we walk through the front door.”

Oh, god.

“It’s a partnership that is just beginning, but as with so many technological assists, we will look back – very soon –and wonder how we ever managed without it.”

Are you there, House? It’s me, Maggie.

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