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An Opportunity to Address Accessibility with Smart Home Technology

Stephen Ewell, CEA Foundation

What is the future of smart home technology?

While smart home technology has been around for decades, the market is really growing on a global scale and so are the successes.

On June 10th I hosted a panel at the 2014 mEnabling Conference. I spoke on behalf of smart home technology and its potential impact for people with disabilities. I was pleased to be joined by four other panelists: Kevon Kothari, Senior Director of Global Corporate Development for Intel-GE Care Innovations; Kevin Meagher, VP and GM of the Smart Home Business Unit at Lowe’s, which includes the Iris platform; Greg Rhoades, Marketing Director of Leviton Security & Automation; and Steve Tyler, Head of Solutions, Strategy and Planning at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Innovative products in smart homes are becoming more accessible due to broadband and smartphone adoption, which has opened the door for new growth in this market. Consumers can control almost anything in their house thanks to smart home technology.

Technologies range from controlling the color and intensity of lights, temperature through your thermostat, unlocking and opening doors, tracking laundry, pre-heating an oven or turning on a crockpot and many more.  All of these can be accomplished through a user’s smart phone.  Because of accessibility features built into mobile operating systems, users, regardless of accessibility needs, can easily integrate accessible technologies to ensure access and control their home.

By integrating the technologies, lights can flash or change colors to indicate an alert for deaf or hard-of-hearing customers. This is offered at a much more affordable rate than traditional assistive solutions.  Blind and low vision consumers can use their phones to easily receive updates from and control appliances.  These technologies can also enable family to support older loved ones around the world by ensuring they are staying safe and healthy. 

The mEnabling Conference panelists acknowledged that we will likely see more interoperability between the providers of these solutions.  We are at an exciting point in this industry and expect to see more innovative products in this space at the 2015 International CES. We look forward to the future of smart home technology and are excited for the growth and expansion to continue.

How do you think smart home tech will help people with disabilities?