Houses that think are in the future

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya and Sun Yuanqing ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-08-26 07:16:00

Houses that think are in the future

Guillermo Monro / China Daily

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Cutting-edge technology developers are gearing up for the day when appliances in Chinese homes will interact with the Internet, Satarupa Bhattacharjya and Sun Yuanqing report.

A refrigerator that can tell fresh food from stale, and a light bulb that switches off on cue from other energy-saving bulbs in a housing community, are elements of an era awaiting China. In the coming years, new home appliances are expected to sprout that will "think" for themselves, prompted by devices on an integrated wireless platform. The resulting "smart home" will make people's lives smoother, its promoters say.

Some companies expect a smartphone and a router to be all it will take to remotely control homes - whether securing the doors or guarding against pollution - even from locations outside the country, with the exception of space, perhaps.

Although still a concept in China, accounts of experts in its technology-driven industries suggest smart homes will likely define the future.

Thomas Tang, 36, project director of Xiaomi Router, for instance, knows when his wife surfs the Internet at home, while he is at work in Beijing's Haidan district, some distance away. "I know if she has turned off the computer when she leaves the house," he says, adding jokingly that he doesn't know what she is viewing.

Updating Tang on what's going on in his house is a wireless router, with a 1TB (terabyte) hard disk and cloud computing ability, that Xiaomi chairman Lei Jun described to his colleagues as their "new toy".

It was released for sale in April following months of testing. Priced at 699 yuan ($114; online only), the router is accessed on cellphones through the "Router Quick Connect", an application tool. At present, the router can run up to 5G-speed but is evolving, Tang says.

The young Chinese company that has created a buzz with its smartphones and a "stay calm" attitude - literally inscribed on the walls of its offices - has patented the router, wishing to make it the "data heart" of a smart home.

Its desire is partly fueled by predictions that many of China's more than 1 billion cellphone users will own smartphones in the future.

Related: High-tech lends edge to urban planning

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