Emily Cho
Sci-Fi Visions

Dubai’s High-Tech, iPad-Shaped Apartment Could be a Troubleshooting Nightmare

This requires a new level of tech support.

Leslie NemoMay 17th 2018

After almost 12 years of construction, a building called “The Pad” (previously called the iPad tower) is set to open in Dubai this year. Each of its 231 apartments will be equipped with the latest smart home technology (which is somewhat ironic seeing as the building’s design is inspired by a docked iPod, a product that’s decidedly out-of-date).

Architect James Law hopes the apartment building will convince others that technology is an essential design tool. Architecture “used to just be about the concrete, steel, and the glass, and the shape of a building. But now I think we’re living in a world where those materials are just the basic materials. There are now new materials like technology, smart material, bytes of content, and interactivity” Law told Business Insider. 

Credit: James Law Cybertecture International

Every apartment in The Pad is filled with screens, monitors, or sensors. Some walls are linked to iReality, a virtual reality system that projects 62 different world destinations into your living room. The bathroom holds biosensors that give users their weight, blood pressure, and internal body temperature. Lights embedded in the apartment ceilings change to signal incoming phone calls. Even the front door replaces a traditional key with an RFID tag.

The one thing Law hasn’t demoed, though? How the building will be properly maintained. In this new era of technology, we’ll likely need even better tech support when our high-tech homes malfunction.

In 2004, German research agency Öko-Institut found that only seven percent of household appliances needed replacing within five years. That number jumped to 13 percent by 2013, reports The Guardian. Some of these products might stop working because of “planned obsolescence,” or the idea that companies design products to break and be replaced. Hopefully The Pad doesn’t go with that business strategy—this is someone’s home, after all. Still, that reasoning doesn’t account for all the broken tech. 

Current companies who troubleshoot smart-home devices do so on a much smaller scale than would be required for The Pad. Amazon’s Smart Home service, for example, handles gear like smart security cameras and thermostats. These products are pretty popular, but aren’t essential for a home to function. Much of The Pad’s tech is one-of-a-kind, and it’s unlikely there’s staff on call 24/7 trained to fix all that might go wrong. Some of it, like the RFID entrance, needs to work all the time. 

So far, there haven’t been any announcements about an on-call service team for The Pad. And seeing as Amazon would rather you call their own trained professionals to set up a single camera, it’s likely the tech of this apartment building is beyond what typical plumbers and electricians handle. Until a troubleshooting team appears, who knows how The Pad will cope when resident’s screens start cutting out. Or even worse—when the power goes down.

Disclaimer: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

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