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Texting fridges and leak-detecting pipes to be in the homes of the future


David Charron, president and CEO of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS, writes an occasional column about the Washington-area real estate market.

Thousands of homes come on the local market every year, but for some of us, we truly remember the ones at the cutting edge of innovation. A recent trend is automated living spaces, where people control everything from window curtains to the temperature of their bathwater from their handheld device.

Morgan Brennan of Forbes recently reported: “Home automation technology has been around for several decades in luxury dwellings. But the industry as a whole has been slow to take off. Blame it on clunky, hard-to-use systems with sky-high prices that require professional installation and a lot of upkeep. But as smartphones and tablets become increasingly prevalent, smart home tech is becoming easier to use and dramatically more affordable.”

[A California family talks about what it’s like to live in an experimental house of the future in Saturday’s Real Estate section.]

Brennan is absolutely correct and this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showed us what living spaces could look like in the near future for homeowners of all price ranges. It featured a variety of home-focused inventions, most of which shared the common theme of connecting everything to a smartphone via WiFi.

Hitting the market are refrigerators that send pictures of what’s inside to our phone so we would know if we need to pick up anything at the grocery store; glass mirrors and counter-tops that provide us with traffic, weather, e-mail and video chats; and WiFi-connected ovens that allow us to download recipes.

Imagine fridges that come equipped with ultraviolet lamps in the vegetable drawer that facilitate the conversion of ethylene into carbon dioxide and water, resulting in vegetables that stay fresher longer. If you have to throw away things that were left in the fridge too long, you can turn them into compost in under 24 hours with a food waste decomposer. It dehydrates what you put in it and reduces the weight of food waste by about 90 percent.

Home security systems have really upped their game this year. They now come with facial recognition cameras and sensors that can alert your phone for anything from people entering the house to specific drawers being opened.

All this phone usage means there needs to be an easier way to keep them charged. So, naturally, there are plenty of in-home wireless charging stations. Some have enough power to charge up to 24 phones in the home at once.

Preventing flooding is another area where technology can help. Several companies have created products that can sense when pipes have leaked and turn off the main water source automatically.

Another helpful invention just starting to make its way into homes is smart windows. Some come with remote controls so you can close them from the couch. Other types have sensors to tell when it is raining so they close automatically. There are also windows that block unwanted solar heat while letting in plenty of sunlight.

These are all going to become more popular in D.C. since the smart window market is a good match for high-density, multi-family buildings that come with many windows on each façade.

The D.C. metro area hosts a busy, tech savvy population that always stays connected. It is a prime spot to incorporate many of these housing inventions.

An oven that can practically think for itself, fridges that send us pictures of what’s inside, windows we don’t need to remember to close and all these other innovations will free up our time. So when we come home, we can truly relax.

With all the new construction happening in our city, I expect some of these new features to quickly become standard offerings in many future real estate listings.

Previously from David Charron:

What home buyers can expect this spring in three hot D.C. neighborhoods

Five real estate trends to watch in 2015

Where condo sales are hottest in D.C.

How first-time homebuyers can beat the odds

The three hottest D.C. neighborhoods for condos and townhouses

How buyers can stay competitive in a low-supply, high-demand market

Higher interest rates will slow housing market growth in 2014

What buyers and sellers need to know about the end-of-year market

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