Design Goes Digital

Don’t look now, but smart devices are approaching Mensa-level IQs. They’re taking inventory of your refrigerator, taking note of your sleeping habits and taking stock of your creature comforts. Technology in the high-end residential market is creating a life of conveniences and experiences. The demand is there. According to a 2015 survey, 81 percent of U.S. adults polled say they would be more likely to buy a new home if smart technology was already installed.

It is a truism that the best home technology is the kind you can’t see, residing in the background and operating on autopilot – stealthy and intuitively. Where high-tech meets low maintenance is the sweet spot, buoyed by devices “that serve you and learn from you as they go and do,” says Campion Platt, architect and interior designer with offices in New York and Palm Beach. Platt, whose clients include high-profile celebrities, is known for his technology-driven and eco-friendly design approach. “That you don’t have to worry about it or second-guess it increases your  quality of life because it allows you the freedom to do other things,” says Platt.

Before the temperature of the thermostat is a thought in your head, for instance, wizardry is already on it. Brainier thermostats now have built-in sensors that pick up on your schedule. They can even tell if you’ve gone out and reprogram to reduce energy costs.

Appliances are becoming animated – thinking, talking and getting personal. This spring, the humble refrigerator goes Einstein when a model comes to market with a touchscreen command center. Among its many features will be cameras inside the fridge, snapping away whenever the door closes. Next time you’re at the grocery store wondering if you’re low on milk, you need only check an app on your smartphone to have a virtual peek inside.

Automation is reaching out to every room. Later this year, the sleep-deprived will be able to buy a mattress with biometric sensors that collect data on breathing, heart rate and movements and then suggest modifications related to diet and bedtimes to optimize rest. It’ll also be able to communicate with a smart thermostat to adjust to the right temperature for a good night’s sleep.

“Anything in your house that operates electronically or wirelessly can be controlled from anywhere in the world through your smartphone,” says architect Ralph Choeff, principal of Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design in Miami. “You don’t have to be in the room to flip a switch. In fact, the days of switches are almost gone.”

Home technology is influenced by environment and lifestyle. In South Florida, developers, architects and designers must build homes to withstand extreme sun, humidity, tropical storms and hurricanes. They’re also mindful of giving second-home owners the ability to control and monitor lighting, security and irrigation from afar.

Glass is an integral element in luxury Florida design. New types of high-performance glass cut energy consumption while offering up brilliant clarity. “Door and window manufacturers are in something of an arms race to produce the largest sliding glass door panels and fixed glass windows with the smallest profiles, to maximize views and natural light and withstand hurricane force winds,” Choeff says.

Want privacy in the bath or less sun from a skylight? Panels made with electrochromic glass, sometimes referred to as smart glass, can switch from transparent to opaque by way of an electric current.

On the horizon, next-generation architecture will embrace the science of small. Nanotechnology is the fast-growing science of manipulating matter at the molecular level. Though still in the embryonic stages, when applied to architecture and construction, its applications can improve building performance, efficiency and materials. The possibilities are far-reaching: paints with anti-stain and anti-pollution properties, self-cleaning windows and even self-healing concrete that fixes its own cracks.

A Jetsons world? Could be. “Advancements in technology have been so rapid even in the last 10 years, it’s unimaginable what we will be able to do in the next 10 years,” Choeff says. “Whatever we think is modern today, we’ll devise something that will make it look antiquated.”