Only 15 years before robots do the chores, says report

  • July 21, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Within 15 years, families could be eating meals designed by AI while robots do household chores, according to a report by the UK government’s Smart Energy GB campaign.

The report predicts that many of the most seismic shifts in the energy, mobility, healthcare and AI industries, including key steps towards tackling fuel poverty, could arrive over the next two decades with advances in data, decarbonisation and decentralisation.

The Future Smart Energy Consumer, written by Foresight Factory and commissioned by Smart Energy GB, is an investigation into how smart meters are laying the groundwork for many future innovations. It explores how many smart, innovative products and services could dramatically change how consumers live their lives in just 15 years’ time.

By 2035, the report predicts that some individuals may be living in fully automated smart homes. Innovations currently seen in sci-fi films are predicted to be commonplace within these households, such as domestic robots and security drones. Sensors that detect individual indicators such as body temperature will be linked to an ever-learning AI, enabling the home environment to be automatically adjusted to a consistently comfortable temperature.

Getting caught out by a broken washing machine may well be a thing of the past as the smart home will understand the digital signature of different appliances, and will use energy data patterns from the householder’s smart meter to predict when the machine is going to fail.

Additionally, the report speculates that power and authority over energy could change dramatically, with renewable energy predicted to be joined with smaller, more local energy grids to provide cheap and efficient power. Individual households and communities may also potentially be supported to generate, store and sell their own energy. These brand-new opportunities, made possible by smart meter data and smart-enabled products and services, will help people live more sustainably, while collectively addressing the climate emergency.

Vulnerable and low-income consumers in this smart-enabled future are predicted to have a range of tools and services at their disposal to take advantage of opportunities in the face of continued challenges: rent discounts for responsible management of their energy and water use; saving money or generating income through peer-to-peer energy selling; free or subsidised home battery storage; automated energy saving programmes; energy supplier switching; and government support schemes such as hot weather payments. These are some of the opportunities provided to vulnerable customers and could be key towards eliminating fuel poverty.

The report also investigates how Generation Alpha – those who are due to reach adulthood by 2035 – may experience a very different world to the one in which their parents grew up. With an increasing necessity to look at alternatives to home ownership and with climate change an ever-growing threat, this generation will pivot to more sustainable ways of living such as shared 3D printed, low carbon apartments.

The secure use of data is also predicted to enable them to live a greener lifestyle, generating tailored incentives for environmentally-friendly behaviour and rewards for living in a sustainable way.

Older citizens are also predicted to benefit from this smarter future, through advances in wearable technology and new modes of living. Smart bracelets could measure bodily indicators of health. With clear consent, datasets could be connected with each other – from wearables, implants and smart tech in the home – to provide a full picture of the individual’s wellbeing.

For example, changes in energy consumption patterns, identified by smart meter data, could be an indicator of a bigger health issue. This would provide an additional lens through which to assess and improve wellbeing, particularly for older or vulnerable consumers.

Underpinning this whirlwind of innovation will be a modern, efficient energy system, enabled by the smart meters being installed today.

“We are on our way to a net zero future and this report gives a fascinating insight into how data, decarbonisation and decentralisation will revolutionise our day-to-day lives and our energy usage in just a few short years,” said Dan Brooke, chief executive at Smart Energy GB. “Artificial intelligence, smart homes and appliances will be able to react to our needs and help us in our increasingly busy lives. This revolution is happening in the energy sector now and will benefit both the climate and us as consumers.”

He said there would be more renewable energy from wind and solar, widespread use of electric cars and less reliance on oil, gas and coal for energy generation.

“There will also be many more tools and services available to vulnerable and low-income customers, to ensure that they can participate in and benefit from the new innovations and technologies, and to help them build resilience against the continued challenges they will face,” said Brooke. “These innovations are within tantalising reach, and every smart meter installed in Britain takes us one step closer to the modern, efficient energy system required to enable this greener, smarter future.”