The Home of the Future: 8 Innovations in Store

A peek at the typical American home in the not-so-distant future.

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Launch date: Susanka believes the "right-size" approach to home building will be a leading philosophy by 2019.

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3. Smart Metering: Even as energy costs become a mounting concern for Americans, few have any idea how much they consume until the electric bill arrives each month. That's because today's energy meters are typically located in hard-to-reach areas outside the home or in the basement and can be difficult to read. But with the emergence of "smart meter" technology, future homeowners won't be left in the dark. These user-friendly devices, with displays located in the home, provide up-to-the-minute tallies of household utility consumption. "Electricity, gas, and don't forget water too," says Brian T. Castelli, an executive vice president for programs and development at the Alliance to Save Energy. Simply by making homeowners more mindful of their consumption, smart meters will increase conservation and reduce costs.

But that's not all. By communicating directly with the utility, smart meters will alert homeowners to changes in energy prices, enabling them to better manage their consumption. At the same time, consumers will be able to use these devices to control their home's temperature remotely, from a laptop or Blackberry. "If you are at work and you forgot to turn your air conditioner off while you were gone, you can make that adjustment by communicating with the smart metering device," says Meg Matt, president and CEO of the Association of Energy Services Professionals.

Launch date: Smart meters are currently being used in Europe and in parts of the United States, such as California. Matt expects smart meters to be a fixture of the typical American home long before 2019.

4. Voice Recognition: A handful of emerging technologies will transform homes into interactive partners rather than static living spaces. Take voice recognition technology, for example. Rather than fumbling for the thermostat, future homeowners may be able to increase the temperature of a room simply by saying, "Heat room," says John Peckham, the executive director of the Real Estate CyberSpace Society in Boston. Voice recognition technology could apply to other common household functions as well, such as turning lights on and off. "There is going to be very little pushing buttons. Everything will be voice oriented," Peckham says.

Launch date: Voice recognition technology is already being used in the Innoventions Dream Home at Disney's Tomorrowland in Anaheim, Calif., and the Microsoft Home in Redmond, Wash. Peckham expects such components to be built into the average new home by 2014 and retrofitted into most existing homes by 2019.

5. Facial recognition: If you think talking to your home is impressive, wait until it starts recognizing your face. Although not yet as advanced as voice features, facial recognition technology could enable future homes to identify and interact with specific residents, Peckham says. For example, wall-mounted sensors may one day identify an occupant as he enters the bathroom in the morning, then provide the day's weather forecast and even remind him to take his Lipitor. In addition, Peckham believes future homes will use a combination of voice and facial recognition technology to let homeowners inside, making house keys obsolete. "What's a house key?" he says. "The kids won't even know what that is 20 years from now."

Launch date: Peckham says facial recognition technology could be included in the average newly constructed home by 2019 and retrofitted into most existing homes by 2024.

6. Smart fridge/cupboard: Tomorrow's major appliances could pitch in around the house as well. For example, future refrigerators and pantries could use a technology known as radio frequency identification, which deploys radio waves to tag and track goods, to take care of your grocery shopping. Sensors placed in refrigerators and pantries would monitor your food inventory. When the stock gets low, the sensors would notify the grocery store to have the food replaced. "When the milk and the vegetable bin and the eggs all reach a certain amount, the order is placed, and it is delivered," says Saul Klein, the CEO of Point2 Technologies. "It becomes more cost effective when you get a certain critical mass of need."