Smart technology, and the concept of the smart home, is one of the fastest growing product segments in the home improvement space, with demand from homeowners looking for innovative ways to make their home more efficient and their lives easier. To date, most of the technology has been focused on heating and cooling, televisions, home networking, and safety & security systems, and now the trend has hit the bathroom. In this post, we will give an overview of smart tech for the bathroom, some of the benefits and drawbacks and some of the exciting products being introduced.
What are Smart Bathroom Products?
To be considered "smart", a product is connected to the internet (typically through Wi-FI or Bluetooth) to enable the ability to automate or control the product's functions. While some manufacturers have proprietary apps and systems for remote access and control of smart products, most are now making sure they also support Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple's Home Kit to enable the power of voice assistance and voice controls.
Smart bathroom products are WiFi connected versions of common bathroom fixtures such as toilets, bath tubs, showers, faucets, mirrors and medicine cabinets so you can personalize your bathroom experience and use your voice to turn on the lights, start a bath, and have your fixtures automatically clean themselves. With voice activation a common feature for smart bathroom technology, these products integrate existing voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Siri.
What are the Benefits of Smart Tech?
Like most smart home products, connected bathroom fixtures are designed to make your life a little easier and efficient. Here are some key benefits to consider:
- Convenience - Ever wish you could save a few minutes during your morning routine? With smart tech now in your bathroom, you can use your voice to start your shower from your bed so it is warm by the time you step in, to catch-up on your emails, weather or news while brushing your teeth with an Alexa enabled mirror, or to brighten lights without needing to touch a dimmer with your wet and soapy hands.
- Hygiene - Voice activation means you can do many of your daily tasks touch free and avoid having to touch the handles, buttons, levers where germs love to hang out. Think how much cleaner you will feel not having to touch the toilet when you flush. Some toilets also feature auto-clean capabilities that prevents waste adhering to the bowl, and deodorizes to ensure your toilet always smells fresh.
- Energy efficiency - With smart showers, you can reduce how much water you use by letting the shower run until it gets to temperature, and then pausing until you step inside and tell it to turn back on again. With faucets, you can simply tell the faucet how much water you want poured.
- Personalization - With most of the smart products on the market you have the ability to customize settings to your preferences and have the product remember, so next time you use it, everything is just as you like it. Personalization is now possible in your bathroom, with you able to specify how hot you want your bath and how deep, or preset your favorite music, steam and body spray settings for your optimal shower experience.
What are the Drawbacks?
Smart bathroom products may not be for you, at least not quite yet. Here are some reasons you may want to take a wait-and-see approach before buying your first smart product:
- Newness - There are a few smart bathroom products on the market, though 2018 is the first year manufacturers like Kohler and Moen are releasing products integrated with voice assistants like Alexa. With any new technology, there will be bugs that need to be figured out and some unknown about the reliability of these products.
- Security - As more products go online in your home, there are simply more points of access for a hacker to try and intrude. For some, this may be a concern, for others, it may just be a new norm.
- Price - Smart bathroom products are not cheap, and likely cost prohibitive for most homeowners at this time. As new products and capabilities are released, prices should begin to decline, making smart bath tech more widely accessible in the future.
- Installation - Most showers, bathtubs and toilets have never needed to be powered before, so most bathrooms are not wired for the installation of smart technology. As this is an emerging product line, there are also fewer contractors with experience installing smart tech in the bathroom. These factors add up to a more expensive install and greater risk of problems along the way.
What Smart Products are Available?
Smart tech for the bathroom is in its infancy, with only a handful of products available on the market today, though Kohler and Moen have announced significant product launches for later in 2018. Currently, there are several smart toilets available including the Numi by Kohler and the Neorest by TOTO, though the current versions are not enabled for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple Siri.
Kohler has announced the launch of Kohler Konnect later in 2018, which will be the largest introduction of smart products for the bathroom. Kohler plans to introduce smart vanity mirrors & medicine cabinets, bathtubs, shower systems, toilets, and kitchen faucets, all on the Kohler Konnect platform and integrated with Amazon Alexa, Apple Home Kit and Google Assistant.
Kohler is not the only manufacturer launching a smart bath product in 2018. Moen also announced U by Moen, a smart shower system that connects with Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri.
Are Smart Products Worth the Additional Expense?
It is really too early to say if you should spend the money on smart bathroom technology because so few products currently available and the products that are coming later in 2018 haven't been priced yet. As with any new technology, it is safe to assume that the new smart bath products will cost a premium and have additional installation costs. Most homeowners will probably need to wait a few years before smart tech for the bathroom becomes a viable option.