Imagine the house of the future . . . creating and storing its own energy, every gadget speaks to a smart phone, the bathroom cleans itself, and the AC system senses your exact perspiration level--channeling just enough air to keep you perfectly comfortable.
Such a "smart house" is no longer a character of sci-fi fiction. Its here and its the top priority of the world's leading consumer electronics companies, utilities, even electric car manufacturers all hoping to cash in on a global trend toward integrated technologies and energy efficiency.
Earlier this month, I had the exciting opportunity to take a closer look at this smart technology as I accompanied consumer electronics giant Panasonic on a "green tech tour" of Japan. One stop on the tour was a visit to Panasonic's "Eco Home"--a concept house integrating renewable energy creation, on site energy storage, efficient appliance management into an average sized house with . . . well . . . a huge brain.
The house is "intelligent" because its computer systems can monitor and therefore respond to so many aspects of daily living--everything, from the home's plasma TV to ceiling lights to the toilet seat are rigged in a sophisticated domestic network. Coded signals are sent through the home's integrated wiring to an information technology hub that remotely operates appliances for optimum use and energy efficiency.
Checkout my favorite elements from the house here:
The air conditioner uses sensors to detect your movement within a room--not only automatically turning on when you enter, but also detecting your activity type and perspiration levels. For example, less air is released to a person who is reading and moderately more and cooler air is produced for a person doing housework.
The home%u2019s toilet automatically cleans itself after every flush, and reduces water consumption by nearly 60% in comparison with a regular toilet. For extra fun, the toilet%u2019s seat instantly warms upon touch.
A solar power generation system generates electricity by converting sunlight to energy in a direct current (or DC volt)--significantly reducing conversion loss.
Demand not met by the solar panels, is covered by Panasonic's latest fuel cells.
Energy is stored in household based lithium-ion batteries as well as inside the home-owner's electric car.
All appliance and energy management data is consolidated in a Home Energy Management System (or HEMS) display. Families can therefore easily monitor progress toward energy-saving goals, while taking advice from the systems supporting software system.
Sensors detect indoor air humidity levels--drawing fresh air in or out for optimum circulation.
The LED lighting system syncs with the homes automated blinds. It also senses outside light and adjusts accordingly. But don%u2019t worry, hopeless romantics can still %u201Cset the mood%u201D with the flick of a switch.
Perhaps most exciting is that the house--a constant work in progress under Panasonic's engineering team--is en route to be completely CO2 emissions free by 2013. Today, the house supplies and stores its own energy via a combination of solar power generators, fuel cells and storage batteries, but does not yet offset to CO2 neutral. By 2013, however, increased energy-saving performance of home appliances, building materials with better insulation and an improved energy creation, storage and management fuel cell system will net a comfortable lifestyle of zero emissions.
You can learn more about Smart Home Technology and the Panasonic Eco Home here. Or, next time you're in Tokyo, see for yourself . . . the house is open to the general public on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays (excluding public holidays on which Panasonic Center Tokyo is closed).
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