Get smart about your bathroom with these app-based ecosystems
When the home technology sector first offered up the ‘smart house’ — we imagined a totally digitally connected environment. I saw nothing short of the Star Ship Enterprise with augmented reality (AR) and intelligent assist (AI) helping out with everything from stocking the larder to monitoring teenagers returning from school.
With a raft of pioneering products already launched, customers are responding to the new intelligently automated home. However, our tastes have emerged as app guided, sensible in reach and very specific to need.
With the desire for accurate water thermostat control, reactive heating and lighting and short bursts of indulgent comfort on tap, the bathroom appears to be a perfect platform for future interconnectivity.
UK company DigitalBridge, a Manchester based software developer for the bathroom and kitchen industry, surveyed 1,100 consumers in the spring of last year. The researchers asked what homeowners would find useful in a smart bathroom.
What stood out amid some hilarious ideas like drone mirrors to help style the back of the hair, was that 68% of those questioned believed their bathroom tech’ was seriously outdated. Forty-six per cent of those surveyed by felt that smart-tech was perfect for the bathroom. Beyond the expected remote programming was a surprising request for interactive facial recognition software to personalise the brilliance of the mirror light (18%), and the inclusion of voice-commanded tools (16%).
David Levine, company CEO, remarks that “the race is on for suppliers to innovate quickly, in order to take advantage of this captive audience.”
Roland Boal, head of industrial design for Mira Showers UK, took part in a corporate conference in November of 2018 — The Future of Technology Within the Home.
Mira’s invited experts claimed, “As we approach 2020, homeowners will increasingly adopt app-based smart eco-systems which trigger multiple smart home functions by single commands to one touch-screen. This will provide centralised control of everything, from the heating and water to more personal settings linked to your bathroom, home entertainment and so on — hidden but helpful.”
Boal and his colleagues argue that for most of us, a fully functioning internet enabled screen in the bathroom might be an intrusive, step too far. “Whilst the tech world always loves to see a screen — home designs which feature them everywhere and therefore provide a very obvious technology presence are not welcomed.”
Mira also cites the danger of buying into “early adopter products” — technology in its very first edition that could be quickly overtaken.
So, according to the survey of DigitalBridge and the Mira team, with the exception of some very good basic AI products including mirrors and programmable thermostats operated through apps) we are seeing only the first wave of development of the truly intelligent bathroom. That’s worth keeping in mind — the potential obsolescence of some first round buys. If you are planning on some expensive retrofits beyond touch sensor taps and simple remote control shower and bath controls — perhaps, don’t jump yet.
Kohler, a sister company of Mira Showers, claim the world’s ‘smartest bathrooms’. Their developing product line is fascinating if you dream of a more than a bald, manual thermostat.
Just as predicted by Roland Boal, Kohler are backing the proven success of voice activation. Their Konnect range once released in the US will arrive sequentially to the UK and European market. It’s a teasing look at what we can expect in a high tech cleansing environment.
Konnect strings together the shower, bathtub, toilet, mirror and faucet in one dedicated app controlled network which can team up with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assist. Using your device , you can tap in your individual choice in Kohler DTV shower settings for sound, water flow, steam and lighting, and fine tune the light from the Verdeta mirror.
The toilet in the network is controlled by their Touchless Response technology – hand free flushing, a warm seat and a night light for dark trips to the bathroom. This super loo is still in the R&D phase, and may feature other detailing when released, for example a light guide to show men and boys to point-and-shoot when using the toilet in a darkened bathroom.
There’s also the option of a Cleansing Bidet with a lid that lifts up by itself, which could in theory make toilet paper redundant.
Kohler’s Perfectfill bath fillers, dispense with the conventional tap entirely in place of an intelligent valve, which can be preset to fill the bath to your chosen depth and temperature at a simple voice command. Some products soaking both style and technology are already are on offer, and are moving towards the person specific tools of the future.
Bluetooth connected speakers (working through an app with your phone or mobile device) are now commonplace, and are really just waterproof versions of the transient models we now stage around the home. You can screw these directly into the shower head and add remotely programmed lighting for a club experience at 7.30am. Infrared (hands-free) sensor control to turn on taps and flush the toilet is delivered by many upscale brands and we like their practical, sanitary smarts.
A new bathroom is intrinsically pretty smart. Given that your zone controlled heating and MRHR should be handling heat and humidity, the rest of the tech’ is currently limited to the shower or bath thermostat (time, temperature and flow rate), and the star of the 2019 bathroom – the interconnected LED illuminated vanity mirror.
DAB radio and your favourite hitlist can be channelled straight to a mirror’s Bluetooth speaker using Alexa, Echo Dot and other voice operated home hub apps. This can also change up your lighting by voice, using smart light-bulbs.
A new mirror being developed under patent by Amazon using ‘blended’ reality will allow users to overlay clothes on their image. Watch this space.
HiQu from Aqualisa has made bold moves on bathroom performance but these are digital improvements, not quite the smart app based intuitive, behaviour predicting technology based on personal behaviour coming soon and identified by Roland Boal.
HiQu is remote control preset showering with a heavy serving of sensors. Delivered with a brushed steel digital control pad on the wall, it’s a winner for anyone tired of getting prematurely soaked while dialling up a manual control.
Aqualisa also include a Proximity Sensor to the shower range which reduces the flow as you step away from the shower — a clever bit of water saving. Showers from €1091. Their self-filling HiQu smart bath filler is extremely practical and as with the emerging Kohler bathing range, ditches the classic tap (no voice activation as yet). From €602, taps4less.ie.
Both Mira and Triton electric showers offer stunning, affordable precision control. We love the Triton HOST range which marries a electric shower to fully digital remote start, and 10 flow levels. From €403, tritonshowers.ie.
For full app control of a non-electric shower, try the products of Smartap based in the UK. Their thermostats following ‘learning’ technology which adjusts to your habits we’ve come to know through Nest home heating controls. From €800, smartap-tech.com.
Geberit Aquaclean and Grohe Sensia’s fantastic preset technology offers toilet innovation way ahead of their time. They don’t perform as part of any home-network (God forbid) but include the new design standard or rimless bowls and dedicated automation, lighting and seat warmth with remote control and a full wash facility. From €1,500 for a royal flush by Geberit and €1895 for Grohe products, geberit.co.uk, grohe.ie.
Longing for a toilet to weigh you and analyse your personal waste?
I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a year or for those technological joys. Still, they are in the pipeline.