I have been wondering what are the features that would make for an ideal smart home for me. What are the constraints that need to be fullfilled by a smart home?
A comfortable shelter
A home main usage is to provide shelter (protecting from the enviromnent) and comfort. So care must be taken on the environment layer1. Current solutions focus on steady control, while people have individual needs and enjoy thermal variations and gradients2.
Historically, fire and stoves have provides this function. We can adjust our distance to the heat source and thus our comfort. A well design envelope had also historically been a key, helping providing a good amount isolation, sunlight and ventilation depending on seasons. This is in opposition to sunlight maximising floor to ceiling windows of modern buildings.
Technology also offer possibilities of extending our senses to protect us: CO, CO2 and VOC sensors for exemple. Even though with proper ventilation it should not even be needed. But these can be input to a better ventilation control system.
Can a smart home help us reach thermal delight? That could be amazing. And to function properly as a shelter, it needs to be reliable (and simpler is generally better for that).
A long lasting and adaptable home
People need evolve with time (change in family size, work, hobbies) so good building need to be able to adapt3. We cannot over constrain the usages of a building or home with too tightly integrated smart devices for example.
But integrated smart taps and light sockets with power monitoring and switch function are relatively amenable to adaptation of usage (reprogrammable). It also provides a basic activity monitoring layer that can be used as control input for the home (while not as concerning as cameras or microphones, there is still a need to care about privacy and security of such data).
It should also last long, since scrape and rebuild is one of the most environmentally damaging habit in the housing industry nowadays. Control and electronics layers should provide a right to repair, and ideally rely on standardised mass produced boards like esp32, arduinos and raspberri pi. Those can be easily stocked for future maintenance need.
Finally, any smart feature should be cloud optional. I don't want my house to fail (heating not working, lights not switching on...) due to a network or server failures hundreds of kms away.
A home that contributes to the community
A building should also integrate amd contribute to its immediate environment and community, reinforcing its function rather than being a drain on it 4.
Water management (both excess and lack of water) has been a major issue in many cities. Roof catchment can mitigate both excess water and droughts while also helping as an insurance when disaster strike. Minimizing water use with local recycling (see https://orbital-systems.com/ for example) is also contributing to decreasing the scale of water treatment facilities. The potential change in ratio between water and pollutants (increasing concentration) is generally postive for treatment (either in facilities or septic tank) but can create issues for transport. It would also decrease reliance on external water resources (this could lead to increase in tap water cost, but likely acceptable if offset by brownstream treatment cost decrease).
Electric solar has somehow caused more issues than it solved at multiple levels: grid instability, hectic electricity prices... this is due to the synchronous aspect of it. In nature, this is solved by local storage (trunk, foliage) and the energy is transported as needed vs as produced. Buffers like batteries (with their own costs and risks), heat storage (hot water, room warming or cooling)... will be needed. Geothermy, where available, could provide a more steady inflow that can offset a baseload without causing perturbations.
A distributed intelligence layer for resource management is probably welcome here and could be a good fit for IoT/AI technology, but the solution might very well be simpler.
And let's not forget some more basic things not related to "smart" but essential: integrating in the landscape or city. This can be as simple as being beautiful, or providing shade in a street..
In the end an ideal smart home is not about gadgets or "cool" features but really about reinforcing what makes a good home. A home that can protect its users and adapt to their needs, while contributing to the local community. There are also social aspects that I didn't cover, like welcoming guests and conviviality. But some good seating and good food is usually all that is required. We did overlook the fact that the home is also a place to store and prepare food, but connected fridges and oven have mostly been gadgets so far. Helping produce food (indoor farming?) is also an interesting topic to explore.