Other Gadgets

Welcome home the connected future

Vinay Kamath | Updated on December 10, 2014

Magic mirror: The smart mirrors can show you how your clothes would look under different lighting conditions, or give suggestions. PRATAP PADODE

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We experience Panasonic’s offerings to the $100-billion smart home market





Imagine a kitchen where you can ‘order’ the kettle to boil water or have a dialogue with your cooking range. Or, a smart mirror that can tell you how your clothes will look under bright sunlight or indoors. Or, and this is probably scarier, a bed that tells you how loudly you’re snoring or the heavy breathing you do when asleep. These interactive gadgets are not in the realm of the future as consumer goods giant Panasonic has developed and is testing these concepts even as it looks to take it to market by 2020.

Visiting the Wonder Life-Box 2020 at the Panasonic Centre in Tokyo was quite a revelation then. A guided tour takes you through the cloud-based technologies that Panasonic has developed for home appliances and equipment, which it says will be all part of a smart home a few years hence.

All around the house

The new tech begins at the gate with what it calls as smart locker service. You don’t have to wait interminably for a delivery boy to come, whether it’s a pizza or ice cream. In the future, the courier person will come equipped with a smart card with pre-loaded details obtained via the cloud. Flashing it on a reader, an appropriate locker opens up, a freezer box if it’s fresh produce, or if it’s a book, in another locker at room temperature. The lockers can maintain three different temperatures. When you’re home, you can open the lockers, even from the inside, and take your purchase.

Then there’s the entrance to the house. Visitors don’t need a key if you aren’t at home. Facial recognition tech in the camera can match information with a pre-registered list of approved visitors in the cloud to open the door automatically. As our English-speaking Japanese guide points out, it makes home visits easier even when nobody is at home or if an elderly patient is in bed.

We are led into a futuristic kitchen, a web of cameras, projectors and microphones. Many functions are voice-activated. Want to make a gourmet dish? At your command, a cloud-enabled projector searches for a recipe and, presto, projects it on to the kitchen counter. What’s more, your voice can order the tap to fill the kettle to the brim and another command can set it to boil! It sure makes cooking more fun.

In the living room, you can flop down in front of your TV and have a conversation. Built-in voice activation tech will enable you to find and book a travel destination through the TV or you can even book a table at a new restaurant for a nice meal.

We’re upstairs now, in a smart bathroom. You can measure your body weight, body fat percentage and heart rate just by standing in front of the mirror. It checks your health every day with data stored, where else, but on the cloud. If you’re not a bit unnerved by a mirror that tells the naked truth, try the bedroom. GPS sensors can project a star-lit night on the ceiling. Roof-mounted sensors can measure your body temperature, how often you roll over, how loudly you snore and breathe whilst you sleep.

As our guide points out, “data is then managed in the cloud to provide support for home care or health treatment at home.” Talk about hi-tech home remedies.

Tech for vanity

Then there’s the ‘magic’ mirror. With mere gestures it can change the colour of your clothes and also show you how your clothes will look at different times of the day, in bright sunlight or in indoor light. The mirror can also offer make-up suggestions based on the colour of one’s clothes. And, one can change accordingly.

After that smart home visit, one needed some steaming coffee, half expecting a robotic arm to help you sip your cup. The future beckons.

The writer was in Tokyo on the invitation of Panasonic India

Published on December 10, 2014

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