For just over 100 years, air conditioning has been hailed as a revolutionary, life changing technology embraced by people living in subtropical conditions or in warmer countries. In the United States and Japan, more than 90% of households have air conditioning, and by 2050 it is anticipated that globally, the number of air conditioning units in use is expected to quadruple, increasing from 3.6 billion today to 14 billion in 2050, according to a new report published by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. People can’t deal with the heat the old fashioned way, it seems, and air conditioning is just too simple a solution.
But now there is a competitor to challenge the traditional AC unit: that of the ‘smart’ portable air conditioner. Controllable via phone or remote, these quiet portable air conditioner models are small, compact and highly efficient, and can be integrated with intelligent home systems with the click of a button. To enable smart features such as remote control via WiFi and voice control with Google Assistant and Alexa, all that is required is the download of a smart compatibility app like SmartThinQ, and upon setup it is possible to control your air conditioner from afar. This means that on your way home from work in the evening, you can switch on your AC via voice control from your car, and by the time you return home your kitchen, office or bedroom will be cooled to a comfortable temperature.
In terms of energy efficiency, this is serious progress. We all know the environmental ramifications of excessive air conditioning use, particularly if your house is fitted with central air conditioning or a unit that isn’t energy efficient. The chemical compounds known as HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons that are responsible for keeping air conditioners and fridges running on hot days – or any days – represent a significant contribution to our planet’s global warming. In America alone, more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are released every year because of inefficient air conditioning units. To be able to control a unit remotely, and switch it on only when needed rather than leaving it on all day and guzzling up unnecessary energy is a wonderful thing. Game changing, from an environmental perspective.
But newer models and devices aren’t only being designed with remote control in mind – they also offer features including a “follow-me” function, that can measure the temperature of both the unit and the remote control to get a more accurate estimate of the room’s temperature before setting the unit to the right temperature. Some also come with a ‘Sleep Mode’ feature, meaning that you can set it to turn off automatically after one to seven hours – making it ideal to use in your bedroom overnight. Others come with built-in air purifiers, or the ability to send you mobile alerts when it’s time to to clean the filter.
No longer is an old-school, energy guzzling air conditioner going to make the cut, it seems. People want new, they want efficient, they want affordable and they want smarter air conditioning, something that syncs with the rest of today’s smart home device offering and voice enabled assistants.
Science has even brought us to the point where retrofitted air conditioners could potentially convert carbon dioxide into renewable hydrocarbon fuel. The idea was pitched in a comprehensive piece published by the journal Nature Communications by Roland Dittmeyer of the Karlesruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and has excited developers and researchers worldwide. Imagine if a seriously smart AC machine could – rather than perpetuate the problem – solve the problem of global warming instead?
The future of home living is smart. There is no doubt about it. With health sensors embedded in bathrooms to detect signs of illness, electric cars recharging in the driveway, automated smart-enabled shower heating systems adjusting shower temperatures according to the outside temperature, voice-controlled smart air conditioning and alarm clocks synced to users’ Google calendars, our homes will soon become highly evolved, highly intelligent technology hubs.
Swedish research firm Berg Insight predicts that 63 million American homes will qualify as “smart” by 2022, and, according to advisory firm ABI Research consumers will spend $123 billion on Internet of Things (IoT) products by 2021. As consumers adopt more and more devices, most of which are compatible with the two most popular smartphone devices in the world (Samsung and Apple), and as global availability of products and services increases, homes will only continue to get smarter. It is as though we as humans can’t regress: once we have become used to a certain level of comfort and technological prowess, we can’t go backwards. Once we truly begin nailing artificial intelligence and robotics, there’ll certainly be no going back. We are truly addicted to ‘superior’ technology, and in future experts predict that homes will be built ‘smart’ from the outset, just like plumbing and electricity are today the first considerations in building a home or building.