Leona O'Neill

Leona O'Neill has been a journalist in Northern Ireland for over 20 years working with, among others, the Belfast Telegraph, Sunday Life, Daily Mirror and the Irish News. She is also a news reporter on Q Radio, a weekly columnist with the Irish News and a commentator for the BBC. She is a mother of four children - two of them teenagers - and as such is also a full-time professional worrier.

I recently found myself in a lovely kitchen showroom being shown the latest in designs for the modern home.

As we walked around the array of marble, granite and matt finished worktops and shimmering lights the lady showing us the sights mentioned that we might like a smart cooker for our kitchen.

She said the cooker could be controlled from our phones so you could ping ahead on the way home and heat up the oven. Your cooker is connected to your wifi and could have your dinner waiting on you when you come in through your door. This is certainly one up from the slow cookers you have been able to control with your phone for the last few months, bringing your kitchen fully into the 21st Century.

We heard that there are now the fridges with the cameras on the inside that take pictures of the content of your fridge every time you open and close the door so that you can tap in and see what you need when you’re actually in the supermarket. This is also one up from the Alexa enabled fridges which allow you to make shopping lists as you run out. Many fridges are now linked directly to Amazon, in partnership with Mastercard, which allow you to shop directly through your fridge.

Our vacuum cleaners and our washing machines have been conversing with us for a few years now. It seems the era of talking to our appliances and our appliances talking back is fully and finally here.

Technology that helps us at home and makes our lives so much easier will be coming thick and fast in 2019.

Take fitness, for example. We have trackers which monitor our sleep and our heart rate, watches that tell us we need to get up and move more and now we have an inconspicuous piece of jewellery that will bring digital fitness to whole new levels.

The Motiv smart fitness tracker ring can be unobtrusively worn on the finger for three days without having to be charged. It is made from titanium and high-durability plastic and measures steps, heart rate and the quality of sleep. It is waterproof so can be worn in the shower. It is truly amazing that the company have reduced sophisticated fitness tracker technology so much that it fits on a small piece of jewellery. It can also be used for two-step security verification for online banking, emails and social media. Handy, in every sense of the word.

Last month many of this year’s big technology hitters were at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 in Las Vegas. The best gadgets and news were rolled out at the world’s biggest tech show.

Something else which was rolled out was the world’s first rollable OLED TV which ‘seems to magically appear and disappear, a revolutionary innovation that seems to defy logic”. The LG smart TV, which you can control from an app on your phone, rolls back up like paper when you’re done watching Coronation Street.

Awe Inspiring Technology

More awe-inspiring technology rolled out at the CES show were digital taps with Alexa features – Delta Touch20 – that you can control with your voice. The range allows you to run the sink or indeed a bath using voice control and an app. Presumably these taps can also tell you the weather and the latest news headlines and have a conversation with you while you’re relaxing in the bath.

Another highlight was the smart autonomous suitcase which can follow you around the airport, leaving you hands free to handle everything else. ForwardX Robotics’ Ovis follows a tracker worn on your wrist and uses computer vision to avoid bumping into obstacles as it travels at speeds up to 6mph.

And Luxury bedmaker Dux has also incorporated Alexa into their beds. Teaming up with smart speaker brand Stelle, they say they are delighted to bring voice and technology to the bedroom. Now there is no need to leave your bed to dim the lights or put on your favourite music.

And also dazzling the crowds at the CES show was the smart toilet – the Lumi 2.0.

It is also Alexa enabled and will play music while you conduct your bathroom business and can be flushed using voice commands. There is also an app that will allow you to heat the seat and initiate a built-in cleaning spray. It has a dryer, a motion activated lid and you can control LED lighting for colour changing to create a ‘more immersive experience’.

It seems that everything is going digital these days and there is nowhere, not even your bathroom, where you can go to escape Artificial Intelligence.

Technology certainly makes our lives better, easier, more convenient, but are we in danger of it making us lazy? And with every single aspect of our lives online, there is also concern over security risks. Nothing is infallible. It’s one thing having your emails hacked, having your toilet hacked is a whole different matter altogether.