Smart home design is highly gendered

Smart home technology has been dramatised and anticipated for years now. Like much technological foresight, however, smart home technology has struggled to keep up with its projections.

The Conversation undertook some analysis regarding who smart homes are really targeted at. They came to the blunt conclusion that smart homes are designed for men, and men alone.

Because the STEM industry is dominated by men, it makes sense that this is the case. Women continue to struggle with discrimination and under-representation in male-dominated industries. If men are envisioning the blueprint, the resulting product will naturally incline more towards their wants and needs.

This perhaps explains the awkward absence of domestic chores, often assumed to be ‘women’s work’, from smart house designs. While a smart fridge will text a shopping list to a dweller, it won’t do the shopping for her. A washing machine will send out an alert when its cycle is finished, but someone is still needed to operate that cycle.

smart home cannot complete domestic chores
Smart house technology won’t actually do chores for housewives; an alert that something needs to be done will be sent out. (image: lifegrid)

Blueprinted smart houses will be connected to the internet. This means a person can communicate with their house online in a similar way to other humans or bots. Lights, television, security procedures and air conditioning, for example, will be operated via a smart device both inside and away from the home.

smart home has many opportunities for internet connection.
The idea of non-human objects having online connection is called “the internet of things , or IoT (image: instructables.com)

The outsourcing of domestic labour has a long history. The most prominent aspect of this is electricity. The electric refrigerator, along with appliances like irons and vacuum cleaners, was marketed to women as a means of saving time around the family home. The IoT refrigerator is marketed to men and connected to leisure time; the fridge can inform them how many cold beers are available.

It is not yet apparent whether the smart home will shift in design toward the house-keeping spectrum or remain a ‘boy’s toy’. More women ought to be included in the research and design process in order to create domestic technology which can be utilised for both genders.