We are obsessed by our gadgets. Devices which were once, parts of the mis-en-scene in science fiction movies, are now all around us. Everything has become ‘Smart:’ our phones, our watches, our televisions, computers, games and it all seems perfectly normal. As a member of Generation ‘X’, if you had told me at 15 that I would soon be able to run my life from a hand held telephone I would have marveled. If you had told me that that phone would be able to talk to the floor I would have laughed. That day has come. The Internet of Things has added a new communicant to its contact list – Smart Flooring. The applications are fascinating and so far I marveled rather than laughed. Here are a few of the newest innovations in flooring technology:
Sensfloor (developed by the German company Future Shape) is an ultra-thin (2mm) textile embedded with sensors. It is placed beneath the carpet and is therefore not visible to the user. Its sensors measures the electrical disturbance that occurs when people move above its surface and this information is then relayed to a control module.
This technology has much potential – particularly in the field of surveillance – some of which could be useful or Orwellian depending upon the application. The area for which Future Shape is currently developing this technology is fabulous; they are focusing on using it as a tool to take care of vulnerable elderly people who run the risk of falling.
Placed in a nursing home/ sheltered housing / or a clients own home, the flooring alerts caregivers when a person has either fallen, not risen from bed, or in the case of dementia sufferers – left the premises.
This is just one potential use. With a reduction in production costs Smart flooring could find itself a staple part of a next generation home automation set up. We could have flooring that knows when are entering a particular room and so instructs doors to open, the lights to come on or the blinds to close. Science fiction is becoming science fact.
Scanalytics Inc. are an American company who are applying smart flooring technology, which they call SoleSensor, to a retail/corporate environment. The sensor studded mats can be placed under flooring in a variety of key areas and used to measure customer footfall.
Placed at the entrance, the mats can analyse how many people come into a store. They can also ascertain how many people dither on the doorstep and then depart. Once they have entered, the path of customers can be tracked – Where do they head to first? Which counters and displays attract the most attention? Are there any unexpectedly busy periods over the course of a day/ week/ month? How long are people waiting at payment points? All of this data can be viewed either historically or in real time and can provide retailers with information they can react to. Smart flooring could lead to a much better shopping experience for the customer.
Robot Vacuum Cleaners
If you have spent a fortune on floor coverings (Smart or otherwise) it goes without saying that you will wish to keep them in peak condition. Robot vacuum cleaners are starting to make their presence felt in the market place – particularly with the recent, hotly anticipated launch of the Dyson 360 Eye.
Robot vacuums use sensor technology plus digital camera work to navigate their way around, and some of the more expensive models are a lot more advanced than others. Simple, cheaper models adopt a trial and error approach to finding their way around – bouncing off obstacles and redirecting themselves. Other more expensive cleaners have NASA style navigation systems that actively map the terrain.
Most robot vacs come with a docking station that they will automatically return to when they need recharging but some cheaper models will still need to be ‘plugged in’. An expression which suddenly sounds rather primitive.
The question is – are they any good? Can they get into nooks and crannies and can they do stairs? The answer to the second question is ‘no’. This might lead to a real difference of opinion in answer to the first question. At the end of the day they do have the footprint of a mini Dalek. Common sense will tell you that they cannot squash themselves into tight (dust infested) spots and until they learn to levitate, you will have to do the stairs yourself.
The new Dyson 360 eye is a step closer to ideal. It has 360 degree visual mapping, tank style track wheels which could negotiate a shallow step or two (not a flight of stairs) and it’s full width turbo brush will reach to edges of a wall even if it can’t poke into corners. In addition it can be controlled remotely via an app on your Smartphone (of course it can) Give it time and your Smart floor will be able to tell the Smart vacuum when it is dirty and the whole process will happen without you. However – you may still have to grab a hand held and tackle the stairs yourself.
Ruggie(TM) – Smart Bedroom Rug /Alarm Clock
This rug has been designed to help those who cannot resist hitting the snooze alarm a dozen or so times every morning. In other words it helps those who love their beds to get out of them. It looks like an ordinary soft bedside mat but it has a small digital time display in the corner. You program the alarm embedded in the rug to go off as you would your traditional alarm and go to sleep. When it goes off the following morning you will have to stand and apply full body weight to the mat for 3 seconds in order to switch it off. By this time of course – you are out of bed. Cynics may suggest that positioning your conventional alarm on the other side of the room has pretty much the same effect. But as a bonus, the rug has an inbuilt speaker that can deliver pre-programmed inspirational messages. These are designed to encourage a positive mind-set and hopefully prevent you from clambering back under the duvet.
Author bio: This article was written by Louise Gornall from Rugmerchant.co.uk. She is passionate about home decorating and loves to discover new ideas to make any home look more aesthetically appealing.