Biophilia and Smart Home Technology

We’ve seen an abundance of interest this year around biophilia in the home technology space. What is it and how can we best leverage it in homes simply, reliably, and cost-effectively? I’ve spent the last six months researching the latest trends and wanted to share my findings.

What is Biophilia?

Biophilia refers to our innate love of being in nature. In other words, the closer we are to the natural world, the better we feel and perform. Biophilia’s definition certainly rings true for me. I’m an avid outdoorsman. I cherish waking up with the sun on a campout, or hiking miles of rugged backcountry trails in solitude.

If we’re all better closer to nature, then how can a home better mimic a natural environment? And can we get there without recreating a scene from Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are? We all experience the world through our five senses. I’ve approached integrating biophilia into my company’s technology integration services by focusing on each faculty. This means testing the products available, rejecting most of them, and offering our clients carefully selected solutions.

Biophilia and Hearing

According to a 2018 study published by the International Journal of Cardiology, German researchers found that people who reported being annoyed by sounds such as the rumble of a car, construction vehicle engines, and horns in their neighborhood had a higher risk of atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots and stroke.

Numerous studies in recent years touted the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep as a key to wellness. We all use myriad methods to get our eight hours of rest. Sound machines, leaving the TV on, or jamming in earplugs are techniques we know all too well. While we try to reinvent the wheel, it’s hard to beat the quiet murmur of the woods or ocean. Luckily there are a ton of great solutions out there to bring the outdoors in to the bedroom, including:

Engineering firms like Steve Haas-led SH Acoustics specialize in isolating bedrooms and other key areas in the home from traffic, construction, and other stressful sounds. SH Acoustics’s focus on noise prevention helps clients sleep better, accomplish more in their home offices, and improve overall wellness.

HoMedics SoundSpa products deliver white noise or a variety of nature soundtracks, including Campfire, Ocean, Brook, Wind Chimes, Thunderstorm, Summer Night, Gentle Rain, or Everglades. Existing home audio systems can do double duty by adding nature or white noise soundtracks. (Normally an easy $0 biophilia add-on.)

Sense of Smell

Some nature smells are great, and others are best left outside. How do we strike a balance? There are a ton of biophilic design resources showing how to best transform spaces with vegetation from edible garden walls to portable planters. Today’s solutions are a long way from the early days of Smell-O-Vision and are oriented around promoting wellness and fresh ingredients on the dinner table.

Living walls are an emerging trend encompassing decorative plants to salad greens. Design ideas abound on sites like Pinterest and can be a fun way to engage the family in gardening while injecting new smells into the home reminiscent of spending time in the backyard garden.

DARWIN Air Purification by Delos claims to help filter contaminants and pollutants from the air while removing harmful toxins and pathogens. It’s part of the Delos DARWIN Home Wellness Intelligence platform, which also includes features such as circadian lighting and water filtration.

My company tries to keep things simple, encouraging our clients to brighten up their homes with plants, decent air filtration, and features like garden walls. DARWIN by Delos is still in its infancy and not a mainstay for us (yet).

Taste the Difference

I’ve noticed a huge difference between eating processed food from large fast-food chains and fresher ingredients from fresh burger joints. The same holds true for tap water, and there are a variety of water filtration systems out there claiming to deliver great taste and toxin-free refreshment for consumers.

DARWIN by Delos offers water filtration, which can remove toxins and improve the taste. Delos points out that our tap water can often fail to meet the Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG) set by the EPA.

Carbon filtering improves taste and eliminates bad odors. Eliminating hard water can improve appliance efficiency and prolong service life.

Biophilia and Touch

In a world where we cocoon ourselves away in technology, touch and contact have never been more important. Paper books, handmade furniture, and vinyl records are experiencing a renaissance. Why? It’s human nature. While many of us may be introverts, we all crave connection with each other through shared experiences. Luckily there are some easy technology recommendations that complement our standard solutions nicely.

Record players like Mobile Fidelity’s UltraDeck are experiencing a surge in demand because we like the sensory experience of handling vinyl, caring for LPs, and sharing
new (or old) albums with each other. Listening to 45s and 33s forces us away from our touchscreens and into a mode of solo or shared listening. Think about it like opening a nice bottle of wine.

Products like the Lena sound sculpture from Leon Speakers incorporate sound and sculpture together in a way that begs for human interaction. Each soundscape is designed around the client’s vision, yielding a result that teases touch, vision, and hearing simultaneously.

Biophilia and Vision

Last but not least, light is our biggest area of opportunity for biophilic design in the home. Fixture and control manufacturers are clamoring to claim the high ground around wellness.

Colorbeam’s LED lighting solutions can produce millions of colors, including a mode designed to mimic a complete sunrise-to-sunset day bathed in natural light.

Lutron’s Ketra Natural Light technology mimics the properties of sunlight and can be combined with their ability to time lighting from dawn until dusk, especially useful in rooms where there isn’t much available sunlight.

Darwin Circadian Lighting by Delos promises to improve hormone balance, appetite, sleep, energy, and productivity by mirroring natural light patterns throughout the day. Their lighting, water filtration, and air quality systems all work together to form a platform for improving sleep and wellness.

While it’s still early days with biophilia inside the home technology world, it’s encouraging to see so many emerging players. We look forward to refining our offerings for the five senses as more solutions become available.

This article was originally posted by Henry Clifford on