Technological and digital, but they are still our homes

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Open spaces with bright colours, very shiny plastic material, hidden buttons to activate concealed devices, that are nevertheless always available when needed. In the sixties, when Gruppo Romani first started, imagining the house of the future was a hobby for architecture, sociology and sciences enthusiasts. However, nowadays we know that it’s a different story, that our houses have indeed changed, but have not been revolutionised, and that materials like ceramics have been capable of adapting and reinventing themselves, accompanying us to the present day and laying the foundations for years to come.

In the middle of the Twentieth Century, household appliances started blending technology with home spaces. Washing machines, fridges, radios and televisions have gradually entered our homes and changed our daily habits. Housework has speeded up, the functions and intended uses of certain spaces are different, as well as postures and movements required in order to interact with “modern” devices.

In the eighties, next to increasingly powerful and efficient household devices, the personal computer also entered our homes. It was a new device that allowed us to carry out different activities, modifying our relationship with living spaces yet again and that, with the coming of the Web and internet connections, has subsequently made utopias such as remote working come true and created innovative distance socialising dynamics.

However, all these technological insertions have not altered our homes’ traditional structure. The bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room are still valid and useful functional partitions, in which ceramic surfaces firmly retain a key role given their technical characteristics of resistance, hygiene, adaptability to innovative solutions such as underfloor heating, and thanks to the broad aesthetic and style ranges they offer architects, designers and final customers.

What has truly changed, requiring a significant evolution in the approach to architectural design, is systems design, the digital skeleton of homes that enables us to partly transfer our houses beyond domestic walls and to interact, if necessary, with single devices that make our daily lives comfortable and safe.

The frontiers of home automation have gradually shifted, to an extent that we consider a well-established practice to be able to alert – with Wi-Fi signals – light, heating and cooling systems in order to find ideal conditions when we go back to our homes. Once the weekly menu has been decided, it is more than plausible that fridges and kitchen robots interact and send the shopping list to our smartphones. Not to mention alarm systems that warn us immediately about what is happening inside and outside our home.

In this scenario, the building shells themselves will become smart devices that contribute to the safety and wellbeing of dwellers, thanks to Gruppo Romani’s Smart Tiles. The porcelain stoneware slabs, traditionally used for covering floors, walls and work surfaces, have become a high-performance option also for the installation of raised floors, ventilated and glued facades, contributing to the improvement of buildings’ energy performance. And today, that they have become “intelligent” tiles, they continue along their technological path increasingly protecting consumers’ safety and quality of life.

Hence, the future of home automation design will include the installation of active ceramic tiles for monitoring building structures. Gruppo Romani has created the technology that holds, in a special compartment created on the back of the tile, a microelectronic card fitted with MEMS (micro electromechanical system) sensors, permitting the transfer of collected data to Cloud. Specifically, data on temperature, humidity and dew point or on shocks or strains caused by earthquakes that can provide precious information on building condition and, consequently, on the safety of dwellers. Similarly, the floating floors made with Smart Tiles can detect possible overload or monitor the presence of people, activating perimeter alarms, or interact with the lighting system and ensure that lights are automatically switched on upon detecting intruders.

There are countless potential applications that could significantly change our way of conceiving not only the home, but any building we enter in our daily lives, from offices to restaurants, from factories to schools. Let’s imagine a shopping mall capable of understanding, through floor sensors, which articles customers find most attractive: it will target its market strategies more accurately and facilitate product layout. Or complex structures like airports and railway stations capable, thanks to sensors, to direct the movement of groups of people, guiding them to the right gates or platforms.

So, our future homes, originating from Gruppo Romani’s ceramics, present spaces apparently similar to those we already know today, but increasingly smarter and 5.0, connected, integrated, designed to meet the need for ever changing lifestyles and continuously facing pervasive technologies, albeit at our disposal.

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