The homes could monitor a person’s patterns and could play a hand in their health.

By Kyle R. Cotton
The Shorthorn senior staff

Zooming around in a flying car may seem like a stretch, but as smart technology gets incorporated into homes and apartments, a Jetsons-like lifestyle may not be too far off.

While smart homes and apartments aren’t necessarily practical for college students, the future of smart-home technology could break down barriers for students with special needs and disabilities.

Most smart technology relies on control and input from a user, said Manfred Huber, computer science and engineering professor.

Huber has worked on UTA smart home research such as the MavHome apartment, which focused on the creation of an intelligent and versatile home environment, and the SmartCare Technology Development Center, which makes it possible for at-risk seniors to live on their own.

Eventually, homes and apartments will be designed with smart technology in mind and will act on the patterns of the inhabitant through algorithms, rather than the inhabitant acting on the technology to do something, Huber said.

“We basically build algorithms that go through this data, learn what patterns people use and then automate things like turning lights on and off,” Huber said. “At some point, if you came into the living room and you sat down in the chair, it would turn the lights on and the TV on.”

This automation goes so far as to regulating temperature and other house functions to optimize energy consumption while people are away from the home, Huber said.

“Not something you need to program, something that programs itself,” Huber said.

The technology can even detect when the inhabitant leaves something like the stove on and monitor a person’s health, Huber said.

Huber said in a smart home environment with health detection capabilities, the technology can recommend going to a doctor if it detects an illness based on multiple factors about the individual that is monitored.

“The goal would be for it to be able detect that something is not right,” Huber said.

Retrofitting a full comprehensive system isn’t really an option for students though, since they typically rent rather than own their residence, said Aaron Searle, Vivint Smart Home senior public relations manager.

However, the technology could level the playing field in regards to educational opportunity for students with disabilities or special needs, Huber said.

“You can provide a lot of assistive functionalities, I mean in terms of how they interact with a computer, with study materials, how they can access facilities, all of that can benefit from smart home technologies,” Huber said. “The assistive part is really kind of to level the playing field and allow them to do the exactly the same things with about the same level of work.”