When you think about technology in the home your mind might go to smart TVs in the living room, perhaps nifty cooking gadgets in the kitchen – but what about the bathroom?
With many of us turning to the bathroom as a place to relax and unwind, it’s becoming ever more important for tech to help us turn this room from a place of necessity to one of calm and convenience. It's also an area of the house that, like the kitchen, benefits from some of the new, hands-free interfaces in the smart home.
Companies like Dornbracht have been pushing forward spa-style technology in the bathroom for some time, but more mainstream names are getting on board with new multi-functional and app-controlled products designed to make life just that little bit easier.
Voice control is having a huge impact on shaping the direction of the smart home and is starting to make its way into the bathroom as well. You don't need specific items, so with an Amazon Alexa device, for example, you could adjust the bathroom lighting through the Echo or Echo Dot if it’s linked to smart lightbulbs, creating that calm, spa-like experience or simply select your favourite music to listen to while chilling in the bath. Some smart speakers like the Tichome Mini are small, portable and water resistant so make a neat bathroom companion.
Bathroom and kitchen company Kohler has taken voice activation to new heights however, and at CES back in January showcased innovative products, including a shower and toilet, that are connected together and controlled via the Kohler Konnect platform (US only launch at present). It’s able to support voice assistants for a more hands-free experience – the Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror also has Alexa built-in so lighting, as well as other Konnect products, can be voice-controlled.
As Kohler's efforts suggest, clever mirrors that do way more than just show your reflection are set to make a splash this year. Martin Carroll, managing director at Duravit, explains: “Space is often at a premium so a mirrored cabinet needs to offer practical storage, discreet shaving sockets and sensor lighting that can be activated with a wave of the hand, which will be bright enough to apply make up yet can also be discreet enough to act as a nightlight.”
Shown is the Luv mirror by Duravit (around $1,960) which has a touchless control panel to operate the LED lighting, dimming function and mirror heating – simply wave a hand over the buttons to activate. Looking further ahead, smart mirrors in development from tech startups Duo AI and HiMirror will offer up everything from personalised beauty feedback on your appearance to onscreen news, weather and alerts as part of your morning routine.
All you music lovers out there will appreciate being able to listen to songs no matter where you are in the house, and now bathroom manufacturers have got you covered too with built-in speakers. If you enjoy a good old sing-song in the shower and the wall radio isn't quite cutting it, then Kohler has the Moxie showerhead complete with a built-in Bluetooth speaker (from $199).
Roca is also embracing products with multifunctional uses and just launched the Stratum-N base unit (pictured) which has Bluetooth connectivity and integrated speakers so that you can listen to podcasts, music or whatever takes your fancy while you go about your routine. It's priced around $2,998.
Fiddling around with the shower controls to get your preferred pressure and temperature can be a thing of the past by investing in digital shower controls. Highly responsive, they can feature LED lights that change colour as the temperature adjusts so that you are always aware of whether the water is hot or cold.
Crosswater’s Digital valves, for example, flash red when the water is heating up, blue when cooling down and white once it has reached the right temperature, which is an especially handy feature when washing children to avoid any potential scalding. Pictured is the Digital Belgravia dual outlet valve processor, $1,108.
You maybe wouldn't think it, but the bathroom can be the perfect place to relax after a long day. Hansgrohe’s senior marketing executive, Chloe Wesenlund, tells us: “When it comes to wellbeing and mindfulness, bathroom design is moving away from a simple clinical space and becoming a more prominent feature in the house. 2018 will bring new advancements in water methods that promote wellness by creating a relaxing showering experience that engages the senses.”
Rather than scheduling in a day at the spa, the same zen-like experience could be had in the home whenever the mood strikes, and one intriguing piece of bathroom tech is the chromotherapy shower. Chromotherapy is the idea of using light in the form of different colours to promote emotional and mental wellbeing, such as yellow for happiness. While these products have been around for a little while, a renewed emphasis on wellness is bringing them into the spotlight. Shown is the Zucchetti Kos Shower Plus hanging shower head with two rain jets, light and transformer, from $8,000.
One of the biggest developments for the bathroom for this year is the smart shower toilet – because why would you go to the effort of flushing the loo yourself when technology can do it for you? Primitive toilet paper be gone, as these toilets are said to give you the ultimate feeling of cleanliness with oscillating shower spray that can be set to personal requirements.
There are lots of companies out there now offering these toilets, including Geberit, with the new app-controlled AquaClean Tuma Classic model that comes with Whirlspray shower tech, soft-closing lid, adjustable spray arm position and even temperature settings. Prices start at $1,878.
While many products are there to aid comfort and convenience, it’s also worth thinking about your eco credentials. We don't just want our bathroom essentials to look aesthetically pleasing and have great functionality – water saving is also a key issue, especially when it’s so easy to want to stay for hours under that luxurious new chromotherapy shower.
We are all guilty of keeping the tap running while brushing teeth or washing faces, so tech that can address that habit is a winner in the modern bathroom. Grohe offers infra-red sensor-operated taps where the water only starts flowing when hands are placed over the sensor. This means less water is ultimately being wasted. Grohe's Eurocube E taps start from $1,194.