How the smart home of the future could transform our lives
Switching to a smart meter is a simple step we can all take to help build a cleaner, cheaper and more energy-efficient future...
Our home lives are full of little objects and moments that make life that bit sweeter. The more time we spend at home, the more we appreciate small changes, like upgrading an old sofa or discovering a new box set you can’t get enough of. Another switch that could really help you save money and shrink your carbon footprint is having a smart meter installed.
As a piece of kit, it’s simple. It won’t listen to your conversations, it won’t talk at you without warning and it won’t spy on you. It simply measures in near-real time how much energy your household appliances are using. It then sends accurate information to your energy supplier and shows it to you on a handy display that you can keep anywhere in your home.
This allows you to see what’s using the most energy in your home so you can start making small changes that could save you money on your bills. You may find turning your TV fully off rather than leaving it on standby helps, for example, or that washing your clothes at a lower temperature makes a difference.
Change for the better
Just think about how many changes in our living rooms we’ve rapidly adjusted to over recent years. It’s easy to forget just how much of a military operation the simple act of watching your favourite TV show without interruption used to be. You’d have to unplug or ignore the phone, time your tea breaks to precision, and if the doorbell went, you’d had it!
And there have been so many physical changes, too. Where once we sat in front of big, bulky black-box TVs with only a handful of channels, today we enjoy sleek, slender monitors on which we can pause, rewind and record to our heart’s content, often without even needing to push a button. And given how many more distractions we have these days, the ability to pause our favourite show is more important than ever.
What’s more, as TV technology has become more advanced, it has also become much more energy efficient. And, as you’ll discover further down, when we want to watch shows in crisp high definition in the future, we might not even need a monitor in the room, and the smart meter can help all of the tech in our home become just as intelligent and connected as our TVs.
“The TV screen will vanish”
– BBC Science Focus contributor and tech journalist Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
But that’s not the only area of the home where our lives could be revolutionised with the help of the humble smart meter. A smarter energy system including off-peak tariffs will be able to work out what time of day energy is cheapest, so you’ll pay as little as possible. That means your battery-powered devices will always be charged and ready to use, your smart meter having made sure they charged using the most cost-effective power possible. So while you’re kicking back with your favourite box set in the evening, you can rest assured that your electric car will be ready for the morning commute.
In fact, with the increasing availability of solar panels and other clean energy-generating resources, your house could produce some of its own power, helping you and your family reduce your carbon footprint, and the country’s energy system become much more efficient. That smart meter doesn’t seem quite so humble now, does it?
A view of the future
BBC Science Focus contributor and tech journalist Jennifer Pattison Tuohy explains how we’ll be watching our favourite shows in the future, and how our smart homes will make our lives that little bit easier:
“The traditional black box TV screen will be replaced by ones that disappear when not in use, transforming the look of our living rooms. Powered by OLED technology they will be just millimetres thick and able to roll up out of sight, turn into artwork or even become transparent, so you can see right through them. Projectors are also making a comeback – Samsung just unveiled the Premier, a 4k ultra short throw projector the size of a DVD player that gives you a whopping 130″ screen with the touch of a button, no display required.
The smart home might seem like a jumbled collection of gadgets today, but tomorrow it will coalesce into the ambient home. Powered by technologies such as connected sensors, voice control, and artificial intelligence, your home will monitor your daily activities and respond appropriately – from when you turn on the kettle in the morning to when you go to bed at night. It will be smart enough to know when something out of the ordinary occurs and send an alert to a loved one or the emergency services. All the while, the smart meter will make sure all of this happens with the cleanest, cheapest energy possible. This type of smart home security will make it possible for the more than 80 per cent of Britons who want to stay in their homes as they get older to “age in place” with dignity, comfort, safety, and independence.”
Join the quiet revolution
It’s such a simple change to make, but a smart meter really can make a difference. Need convincing?
The average UK household spends an estimated £35 per year leaving devices on standby.
Britain could save a total of £5.6bn on energy bills in the next 20 years.
64% of people with smart meters feel more in control of the energy they use at home.