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These days most mobile devices, like «smart» phones and tablets, are digitally connected and control many home systems. And what will your smart home look like? It should look just like what you’re living in now if that’s what you want. What is an ‘eco house’? It seems there is no single definition. It seems there are also a number of interchangeable terms used — from ‘eco’, often taken to be an abbreviation of ‘ecologically sensitive’, to ‘sustainable’ which typically refers to using materials from well-managed sources, and the more obligatory terms ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’. In basic terms, an eco-house, by design and construction, minimizes its environmental impact. This could mean the house is designed to minimize energy consumption and/or replaces the ecology lost when the house is built through, for instance, the inclusion of a green roof.

smart house is a home that has highly advanced, automated systems to control and monitor any function of a house — lighting, temperature control, multi-media, security, window and door operations, air quality, or any other task of necessity or comfort performed by a home’s resident.

With the rise of wireless computerization, remote-controlled devices are becoming smart just-in-time. Today, it’s possible to pin a programmed chip onto any occupant and have systems adjust as a person passes by and through a smart house. But is it really smart? A smart home appears «intelligent» because its computer systems can monitor so many aspects of daily living. For example, the refrigerator may be able to inventory its contents, suggest menus and shopping lists, recommend healthy alternatives, and even routinely order groceries.

The smart home systems might even ensure a continuously cleaned cat litter box or a house plant that is forever watered. The idea of a smart home may sound like something out of Hollywood. In fact, a 1999 Disney movie titled Smart House presents the comical antics of an American family that wins a «house of the future» with an android maid who causes havoc. However, smart home technology is real, and it’s becoming increasingly sophisticated. Coded signals are sent through the home’s wiring (or sent wirelessly) to switches and outlets that are programmed to operate appliances and electronic devices in every part of the house.

Home automation can be especially useful for the elderly, people with physical or cognitive impairments, and disabled persons who wish to live independently. Home technology is the toy of the super-wealthy, like Bill and Melinda Gates’ home in Washington State. Called Xanadu 2.0, the Gates’ house is so high-tech that it allows visitors to choose the mood music for each room they visit. The key challenge when designing and building an eco-home is deciding what you actually want to achieve. In many ways, an eco-house can be anything we want it to be, as long as it offers some improvement on ‘standard’ house building.