Robot butlers, interactive coaters, etc.
Smart homes have failed. They were thought of in the 1950s, but we are still waiting. Smart homes so far have been prescriptive, the house as a technological system. The people inside have been left out. The living space is missing. The people shift around the tech instead of the tech shifting around the living.
Evolution of technology in the home.
The emerging middle classes can't afford servants and electricity becomes usable. Technology is built to replace the help.
Central heating, electricity. Devices creep in and shape the behavior of people in the home. The idea is to have more free time, but when you have increased domestic tech, you are expected to have an immaculate home all the time. It backfires. You have to do more work to keep up appearances.
Women move out to work and devices come to fill in. Toasters, kettles, etc. We see the rise of the gadget, central heating, larger systems in the house.
Computers. The workplace moves into the house. The barriers between home and work are broken.
Technology has moved into the home, but not in a bigger, networked way.
Technology will not save you. The equipment is too hard to maintain. What if you smart house system breaks down or malfunctions? It's bad enough when your smart phone doesn't work properly, what if the system that is broken is one that is feeding you and controlling the heat and air quality of your home?
Smart home technology is often based on what has been done in smart offices, but families do not function like companies. They do not have IT departments (excellent point!) Also, families evlolve. Needs change as children grow. It's not static. Family members do not agree on what the right environment is.
Another problem is that most of us are living in old, existing housing. Making an old building smart is hard. We have to work with what we've got. Also, this stuff is expensive!
People like homes. They don't really want perfection. We love creaks and personal space.
How can people make their homes smarter? Forget top-down design? They took 6 houses across Europe: apartments, houses, rented, owned, housemates, children, alone... but no cats? They put together a standard arduino kit (WANT, NEED!!!!!) Then they paired the homes with local experts who can teach how to use the kits.
They are about a month from the end of the project now.
One thing the people built was a sound detector to let you know when you are getting too loud for the neighbors. (Could be interesting to have the music turn itself down automatically at 10 pm) People designed answers to very specific problems. A coaster that reminds you to take a break from work, for example.
Bottom-up design allows for iteration. Different homes have different needs.
(At first I was very excited about this project, but when I saw the lame examples of what they are actually doing, I was really disappointed. It's not particularly visionary. Nothing that any old person with an Arduino can't do. I think the real reason that the smart home has failed is that all the technology is prorietary. You can't make your toaster talk to your alarm clock because there is no Open Source protocol. Srsly.)
Note: Chris Musgrave pointed me to WeBrick as an example of an existing open protocol for smart homes. Thanks!