Fancy an extra two-and-a-half weeks' free time?
It's not holiday, exactly, because you'll still have to go to work. But there is a smart way to score an extra 100 hours (two-and-a-half working weeks) of free time per year…if you're smart.
What are we talking about? Smart houses, that's what.
In a recent Samsung survey, about one in four New Zealanders (23 per cent) believed they could save 2-3 hours per week by using smart technologies and devices – and the remaining 77 per cent said they could save somewhere between less than an hour to two hours.
The smart home phenomenon is gathering pace – but there is still a long way to go. A major US study shows that, while there are billions of smart devices in use worldwide, people have yet to fully grasp the idea of a truly "smart home" with interconnected devices, able to talk and work together. The 2017 study, part of the PwC Consumer Intelligence Series, says consumer interest is increasing but is far from a new way of life.
Giants like Google, Amazon and Samsung are investing millions upon millions of dollars into AI assistants, like Samsung's Bixby, that control an integrated network of smart appliances.
Okay…but apart from having a few snazzy networked appliances, what is the incentive for homeowners to build a "smart home"?
Well, for a start, there's up to two-and-a-half weeks of free time that would have been spent doing household tasks.
The Samsung survey showed convenience as the main benefit most Kiwis thought accrued from smart technology, followed closely by energy efficiency and cost savings.
Nearly 78 per cent thought "more leisure time" and "reducing power consumption" were the biggest societal changes that could be achieved – and "taking some time for myself" or "spending quality time with family/friends" was how most would spend that bonus free time.
Two out of three New Zealanders (67 per cent) said they spent between 2-5 hours (or more) doing household chores like cleaning, grocery shopping, washing and the like each weekend.
Those are the chores which can already be assisted or taken care of by smart appliances, scheduled to run at pre-defined times. Samsung's Family Hub fridges, for example, can alert householders when vital supplies – like milk, eggs and so on – are needed and can be ordered online, via the built-in touchscreen, to be delivered to the door.
Smart vacuum cleaners do what they do best even if the householder is not home; smart washing machines not only take care of that chore but are smart enough to alert you on your smartphone when the cycle is finished.
Samsung's New Zealand's Director of Consumer electronics, Jens Anders, says the survey shows New Zealanders are beginning to realise the benefits of a smart home extend further than domestic convenience and into the realms of health and work-life balance.
"What we are really talking about is a whole new way of life," he says. "The smart home, in time, will be a controlled and connected ecosystem, part of a whole community and social future that is already on the way."
Samsung's SmartThings' Future Living Report details that future.
Anders says: "Many people are working harder than ever. There are any number of surveys and studies showing how people are working longer hours and juggling professional and personal roles. Connected devices integrated with intelligent software can be part of the solution."
Rachel Kelly, Director of Ethical AI and Deputy Chair of NZTech Industry Association, says: "As working hours and the need for dual income increases – and the more automation products and technology evolve – so there will be some really simple improvements in life.
"People want more leisure time," she says, "and, if done right, technology can enable that. There is a delicate balance between home automation and its effectiveness and how these tools give us the outcome we want – a really healthy ability to spend more family time, to go to a movie, to unwind.
Companies producing smart appliances will continue to find new and better ways of doing that, she says, "so consumers want to buy those products."
She noted the Samsung survey rated automated security systems as the most desirable product for a smart home – with 61 per cent of respondents finding them appealing or very appealing.
Kelly says: "Our homes are sanctuaries, our safe place, yet people opting for a smart home and the technology that goes with it need to understand that all the data generated by automation is going into a central system that has no moral code but has full access to your house and family.
"People need to question what happens to that data, how it is shared and being used – and the company that gives us the convenience of a smart home and the confidence our data is secure will do very well indeed."
Anders says Samsung are already looking closely at issues around privacy, building platforms and authentication systems that offer the highest levels of security.
He sees the evolution of the smart home as like the way the mobile phone has evolved to help people connect, share and work more efficiently: "Applying the smart functions and intelligence first seen in our smartphones to other products we make, like our Family Hub fridges, is helping people free up time to do more of what they want."