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Representation of modern technologies It’s time to wake up for school. Music videos begin to play on your television screen. Your bedroom lights come on gradually, the curtains slide open to welcome the daylight, and a soft voice urges you out of dreamland. No need for an alarm clock to jolt you from bed, you’re gently awakened by an integrated home automation system!

You hurry to the bathroom, where the lights come on as soon as you enter. The tile floor has been pre-warmed for your arrival. When you finish showering, you dry off with automatically pre-heated towels.

In the kitchen, your little brother says you’re out of milk, so you check your refrigerator to make sure. You don’t open the fridge—instead, you use a computer on the door to check its contents. At the push of a button, your refrigerator system automatically reorders milk via the Internet.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe not yet, but in the future it will be commonplace. Technology is now available to make lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, appliances, entertainment, and security systems all operate automatically by computer, telephone, or touchpad.

These “smart home” systems will not only make home life more fun and convenient, but can enhance home safety as well. In today’s homes, electricity can be accessed from any outlet at any time. In smart homes, outlets will provide power only upon request by a qualified appliance. If the computer system determines that all is well, the power will be sent to that outlet. If the network senses potential danger, such as a frayed cord, short circuit, overloaded outlet, or appliance incompatibility, the system will deny power to the outlet.

Similar functions will be available for natural gas appliances. In today’s homes, natural gas waits in a pipe under pressure, and when you turn the appliance on, a valve opens to let more gas in. In smart homes, any appliance requiring gas (like a stove, outdoor grill, or clothes dryer) could be connected to a smart gas outlet that will constantly monitor for leaks, improper connections, and other malfunctions, and will shut off gas when the situation is unsafe.

Smart, safe homes are not as far off as you may imagine. By the time today’s high school seniors turn 40, most new homes will have these technologies. Meanwhile, you’ll just have to rely on that alarm clock to help you get up in the morning.


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