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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a seismic shift in the way organizations and offices operate. Working from home has become a preferred option for countless businesses and millions of employees around the globe. The work from home trend might continue in the future too, as it has proven not to affect business productivity adversely. Additionally, as per a McKinsey study, up to 278 business executives plan to reduce their office space by 30% even beyond the pandemic. Work from home is a seemingly viable option for employees for a variety of reasons, one of them being the possible arrival of the metaverse, a concept that will make traveling to a specific location for work redundant. This will affect one particular part of employees’ personal lives—domestic chores. There are more than a few reasons why IoT for smart cities and homes will play a significant role in optimizing household chores.
Why Domestic Chores Need to Be Automated
Domestic chores are an unavoidable yet necessary part of individuals’ personal lives. For instance, tasks such as cooking meals, managing laundry work and making timely lighting and plumbing repairs are hard to overlook, even if an important virtual business meeting is going on. In simple words, tasks such as cooking, cleaning, maintenance and task management act as distractions that stand in the way of remote organizational work. Resultantly, the productivity of remote employees is seriously affected by domestic chores. To state the obvious, remote working blurs the boundaries between the workspace and personal life. Work hours increasingly blend into the time that would normally be associated with completing household tasks. These are remote working problems that you probably know. The biggest problem of remote working is how it has regressed gender equality and the involvement of women in prominent positions at the workplace. This may result in workplaces being increasingly male-dominated in the future.
Despite the strides made in gender equality, household chores are still primarily considered a woman’s domain. Additionally, as the pandemic has affected domestic workers the hardest globally, the availability of domestic help for executing household chores is still depressingly low. So, a wife will be expected to do the cooking, cleaning, caretaking for children and other chores even when both she and her husband are working from home. Generally, it has been observed that women carry out a greater amount of unpaid care work compared to men.
These are just some of the reasons why domestic chores need to be automated. As remote working is expected to remain a possibility for the foreseeable future for millions around the world, the ideal tools and applications must be utilized to facilitate this automation. The use of connected IoT for smart city and smart home applications makes it possible for individuals working from home to fully focus on their work while relying on smart home tools to schedule, manage and carry out domestic tasks.
How IoT Applications Will Define the Future of Domestic Chores
The tools that utilize IoT for smart city-based applications can be configured so that they can facilitate the smooth execution of domestic chores.
1. Laundry Management
One of the real “unavoidables,” washing clothes and laundry management, in general, take up massive amounts of time and effort to be executed properly. Smart, connected washing laundry management systems automate the process, meaning that a physical presence is not required when clothes are being washed. Such systems use IoT-based sensors to assist individuals with laundry management. Smart and connected washing laundry management systems include IoT-based washing machines. Such machines can be regulated via a single smartphone app which provides a unified platform for users to monitor and control parameters such as machine speed and number of washing cycles completed. Additionally, such applications are also useful for managing laundry allocation and washing schedules. So, if certain clothes have been worn multiple times and need cleaning, these applications can execute their washing autonomously.
Such machines can sense the “dirtiness” levels in different types of fabric (workwear, school uniforms, linen clothes, denim) and accordingly set the washing and drying speed. IoT-based washing machines are also environmentally friendly as they can regulate power usage based on the workload.
Laundry management also includes smart wardrobes and cabinets. Such IoT-driven applications use RFID technology to manage clothes and issue alerts to residents regarding schedules. Laundry dispenser cabinets in smart closets facilitate faster accessory access and garment retrieval.
The involvement of IoT for smart city and smart home applications does not end here. As you know, IoT and AI networks can be used to connect several devices. So, the autonomous heating and ventilation systems can activate once clothes are cleaned in a smart washing machine. This makes it possible for washed, moist clothes to dry quickly.
IoT will continue to influence the future of laundry management in smart homes. Apart from making laundry management easier and completely autonomous, the use of IoT for smart city and smart home applications will also reduce power consumption, boost environmental sustainability and reduce carbon emissions in smart homes.
2. Home Cleaning
Like laundry management, home cleaning represents another unavoidable group of chores. Already, there are robotics-based applications available to carry out autonomous cleaning. One of the more futuristic smart home concepts involves autonomous robotic home cleaners, which use specialized mapping algorithms to clean floors and walls more efficiently. Such devices do not require human intervention at all, as they can detect obstacles and use sensor-based outputs to regulate power usage and autonomous cleaner movement. Mapping-based vacuum cleaners also use wall mapping to suck dust and cleanse walls, narrow crevices and cubby holes in houses. Such devices will be controlled via voice commands and integrated AI assistants. Normally, vacuum cleaners are among the major power consumers and contribute heavily to electric bills every month. Robotic cleaners, especially the ones which use intelligent obstacle avoidance, can regulate power usage efficiently. Also, as such systems do not cover more cleaning areas than what is required, they tend to use lesser energy for running. All users, even those with visual impairment or individuals who are bedridden, will be able to get their homes cleaned with these IoT-based devices.
Mapping-based robotic cleaners, with their level of autonomy and energy efficiency, are seemingly the future of smart home cleanliness.
3. Chore Management for Children
Blockchain is yet another vital component of an IoT-based smart home network. Essentially, blockchain is a decentralized ledger system that can be used to carry out secure transactions. One of the applications of blockchain is indirectly motivating children to complete their chores—eating meals on time or finishing any assignments brought home from school, among others. While parenting in itself cannot be considered to be a chore, kids’ chores also become the responsibility of parents.
Blockchain-based IoT tools in smart homes enable parents to reward their kids for completing their chores. For instance, a parent can create their own chain with end transactions and rewards—monetary allowance, access to movies or games or online music. So, if their child finishes a certain task—say, revising for a math test by a certain time—they can unlock the reward at the end of the blockchain transaction—say, online comic books. In short, blockchain ensures that kids perform their tasks with sincerity.
More importantly, the process is automated, meaning that parents can focus on their work while their children diligently focus on theirs.
At times, it may seem as if remote working has thrown up more problems than solutions, especially when you consider the domestic side of things. One thing is certain—working from home cannot co-exist with a normal domestic life. Work could pop up at any moment in remote working. Therefore, as much as possible, household chores need to be automated. The future of household chore management via IoT promises to resolve the problems of distraction and improper work-life balance. Once these problems are addressed, wider issues, such as gender inequality in homes and reduced gender diversity in workplaces, can be resolved too. The current and future involvement of IoT for smart city and smart home applications can bring about these improvements indirectly.