While showing flickers of promise, smart homes -- residences that digitally monitor and regulate energy use and technology in the house -- have yet to take off in the U.S. But at the Solar Decathlon in Irvine, they're everywhere.
Almost every residence in the
"Now 'smart' is when the home is making decisions for you," Simon said.
The Canadian entry from Team Ontario, ECHO, has a weather station on the roof that essentially orders the house around. If winds kick up, it can shut off the air conditioning, open the windows and open the blinds. The house does have manual controls, but a student-developed mobile app -- also pervasive at the Solar Decathlon this year -- can control lights, windows, heating and even the television.
Ontario students have to use all their programming skills to make the app work seamlessly. There are lots of smart home tech companies now, including Control 4, a company started by Caltech alums who participated in the 2011 decathlon.
But the technology doesn't always play nice when it comes to compatibility.
The ultra-connected decathlon entry from
Or perhaps the next phase isn't digital at all. Team Capitol DC's sunscreens are made of a titanium and nickel alloy that expands and contracts when heated and cooled, so they open and close automatically.
"We put as much research into these screens as we did with the rest of the house," team member Amanda Stacy said.
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