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Automation, Automation, Automation

For a tech-obsessive such as myself, smart home devices unlock new levels of excitement — not least, the anticipation of what might be coming next.

For the most part, the devices that exist already are common sense solutions to everyday qualms. For instance, a video doorbell allows you to see who is at the door, even from the other side of the world. It offers a heightened sense of safety, which feels like the next logical step from a security camera and alarm system.

A cartoon portrays a robot wearing an apron and using a feather duster, next to a person sitting comfortably on a pink armchair, engrossed with their smartphone, set against a neutral backdrop.

The sheer volume of articles depicting tales of mischievous, or downright disturbing, behaviour from delivery drivers and neighbours is testament to how well the concept works. Chancers may choose to steal the package awaiting you on your doorstep, but they’re much less likely to get away with it.


What interests me most, however, are the wilder ideas for automation. Inventors who have devised concepts that you wouldn’t have dreamt possible; devices that need to be seen to be believed or are just pure, unadulterated fun. 

Since my waking hours are dominated by designing “serious” systems, I thought it could be refreshing and fun to free myself from the shackles of scalable solutions and consider what I’d like to automate in my own home, no matter how outlandish! So, without further ado…

A Home Waste Management System

​Rubbish, garbage, trash — whatever you like to call it. There’s something almost cave-man like about the cycle of manually sifting through household waste to establish which items have value (as recyclables), before lugging bags to an outdoor receptacle over the course of a couple of weeks. 


I want a home waste management system that automatically categorises and divides what it ingests — compostable food waste, recyclables and non-recyclables. And self-cleaning containers to eradicate the need for bin liners. A robot assistant to put the bins out for collection would be ideal too, but come on now, let’s be realistic! Maybe in the 2020s…


The positive impact on the environment would be huge. 


By removing the fallible, often lazy, nature of humans from the process of sorting through waste materials, we could be assured of greater recycling turnover, less plastic waste and a healthier, cleaner world.  

A Post Sifter

Being a frequent long-distance traveller, there is something incredibly tedious about having to sort through stacks of mail every time I return home. It’s amazing how quickly the mound piles up, and it’s usually the last thing I want to plough through after a stressful few days on business calls and the like. 


A post sifter, as part of a larger letter box mechanism, could automatically categorise incoming mail based on who the addressee is, when it was delivered and whether it is perceived to have any value (sound familiar?). Promotional mail drops for discounted pizza could be automatically shredded, for instance, or at the very least filtered into a section that can be quickly checked over and disregarded on my return.


Even better — how about a device that can physically open your mail and send a scanned version to your smartphone wherever you are in the world? No more fretting about an update from your doctor whilst you’re on holiday, if that last-minute birthday gift has arrived on time, or wondering how your technophobic Great Auntie in New Zealand is recovering from her hip operation. 


Whilst many companies — banks, in particular — have made admirable strides in going paperless, there are still a great deal of envelopes and flyers pushed through my door six days a week. An effective, automated way to keep me in-the-know no matter where I am would be very handy.

A cartoon depiction of rice in a blue bowl. Approaching is a pair of pink chopsticks.

A Meal Maker

And no, I most certainly do not mean a housewife.


Whilst I’ve tried and enjoyed the various tasty options offered by recipe box services such as Hello Fresh, all of that chopping, garnishing and seasoning in the limited time between the kids' bath and bed time didn’t fill me with joy. How great would it be, then, to come home to a piping hot, freshly-made meal which has effectively prepared itself?


Now, my brain can’t even fathom how this would work in real-life, but I’m sure some clever bod in the future will fulfil this foodie fantasy. Perhaps with technology that hasn’t been invented yet.


When I think of automated food preparation, I am immediately transported back to Wallace & Gromit’s Cracking Contraptions — The Autochef. Released in 2002, the stop motion short depicts an egg-cooking, tea-squirting robot invention that goes awry...

Despite its obvious failings, the concept behind a machine such as The Autochef — one that removes the requirement for manual intervention when undertaking routine cookery tasks — would surely be a welcome one.


And this is not the first time that we have seen the affable clay duo experience life through a futuristic lens…


The Wrong Trousers, released in 1993, saw Wallace ejected from his bed, dressed and delivered a freshly-warmed, jam-covered slice of toast — all at the press of a single button, aptly entitled “Breakfast”. 

Perhaps I have more in common with four-times Oscar winner, Nick Park, than I thought(!) We certainly both entertain a vision of the future where automation is king, although in my version, I hopefully won’t end up with egg on my face!


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