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At Home: Life in a ‘smart’ home

By Marni Jameson
Correspondent
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Courtesy of Dais Technologies - COURTESY OF DAIS TECHNOLOGIES
This mirror on the wall really does know all: your weight, your blood pressure, and when you worked out last. It’s one of several home technologies becoming available to helping Americans be healthier at home.

I just toured a home so smart it tells you when you’re being stupid. The prototype smart home offers a peak at what’s to come. Hint: houses that talk back. Their mission is to help you eat right, exercise more and take better care of yourself.

The idea intrigued me, but then terror struck: Do I really want a mirror that tells me the truth? Or a refrigerator that tells me to eat this, not that?

“The idea was to design a home that uses technology to help those living in it be healthier,” said Michael Voll, vice president of Dais Technologies, the company behind many of the Intelligent Home’s smart features. Voll led me through the futuristic model, which is in Lake Nona, Fla., a growing health-centric community in Southeast Orlando.

The house represents big-time thinking from big-time companies like Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Cisco, Ashton Woods Home, Canyon Ranch and others. Together, they hope to reduce not just Americans’ waistlines, but also the $3 trillion a year this country spends on health care, 70 percent of which we bring on ourselves because of lousy lifestyles.

“Health starts at home,” said Voll. We start in the kitchen. There a color-coded refrigerator and pantry offers a low-tech way to make healthier food choices. A digital cookbook calls up recipes based on what ingredients are in the house. No eggs? No omelets.

Next we head upstairs, where a full-length, interactive mirror gives out like-it-or-not feedback, along the lines of, “Bob, looks like you’re up a few pounds, and your blood pressure is high. Better hit the treadmill and up your diuretic.”

“We want to program homes so they make people healthier by giving them information that makes healthier choices easier,” Voll said.

“Let me get this straight,” I said, fairly horror stricken: “You stand in front of a mirror that tells you how much you weigh, even when you’re fully dressed and have just eaten three slices of Lou Malnati’s pizza?”

Voll wisely moves beyond the subject of weight and runs through a series of options on the giant touch pad, where he can call up dozens of exercise routines from free weights to indoor cycle to yoga. While he amuses himself, I glance around for the inevitable ugly hardware – the black boxes, cords, remotes, monitors – that tends to accompany technology.

“Where’s the icky-looking stuff?”

“You won’t find it,” Voll said. “The technology is invisible and ambient.”

“Rats,” I said. There went my last good excuse not to like it.

Brace yourself. Here are some of the healthy home features and technologies that may be coming to a future near you:

Mirror, mirror on the wall: A look in this full-length, interactive mirror tells you not just if your slacks are wrinkled, but also your blood pressure, weight, body-mass index, hydration level, pulse oxygen level and when your next doctor’s appointment is. Tailored to each family member, the mirror serves as a personal health coach. (Joe, you’re down 2 pounds. Way to go, buddy!)

Personal trainer: The same mirror can then turn into your personal trainer, helping you track your workouts and see how you’re doing compared to your fitness goals. Some of the workout session videos have famous athletes leading you through routines. Afterward, your automated coach will let you know how you did: “Sue, that was your best yet!”

Color-coded pantry: Different colors of tape bordering shelves in the pantry and refrigerator offer an easy way to help family members reach for healthier choices. Items on the green shelf are for healthiest any-time foods; those on the yellow-coded shelf should be eaten in moderation, and items on the red – and hardest-to-reach shelf – make you think again. For those on special diets or with allergies, one shelf could be coded in blue for low-sodium or nut-free foods.

No more excuses: A GE Advantium oven cooks food up to seven times faster than a regular oven, eliminating one more excuse (not enough time) for not cooking at home. Advantium technology cooks the outside of food like a conventional oven, with radiant heat produced by halogen bulbs above and below food, so it browns. The halogen heat gets a boost of microwave energy, so foods also cook evenly and fast. Breaded fish filets that would take 30 minutes in a conventional oven are done in 4 1/2 minutes. Faster cooking means fewer fast-food meals, which leads to better control over the family’s nutrition.

marnijameson.com

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