From the outside, the newly renovated apartment looks just like all the other charming older dwellings found in the German harbour city of Hamburg’s Rotherbaum district. But step inside and you’ll get a glimpse of the future: The owner, Lars Hinrichs, has completely digitalised the building.

The one-time Xing owner, who became a multimillionaire with the sale of the social media network, has brought together several leading appliance and engineering companies to build a smart house, garnering praise from the German IT world who call it a “pioneering work”.

Whether the building lives up to its ground-breaking reputation will be seen later this year when the first renters are set to move in.

Do potential residents have to be tech know-it-alls in order to live there?

“If you know how to use a smartphone, then you’ll be just fine,” Hinrichs says.

Several apps act as high-tech versions of a butler, monitoring the apartment’s temperature settings and telling users when the lift has arrived.

“The kitchen lets you know the best way to prepare a cut of beef,” adds the 39-year-old Hinrichs. And when you turn the stove on, the exhaust hood automatically springs to life as well.

Residents can turn on their washing machine even when they’re not at home. The appliance can determine how much soap to use based on an analysis of how dirty the laundry is.

The various technologies are combined into one sleek central hub from which the homeowner can control the environment.

The various technologies are combined into one sleek central hub from which the homeowner can control the environment.

Or perhaps you want to take a hot bath when you get home? Just tell the apartment and it will start running the water for you. It also knows when a window is open, thanks to sensors, and cuts off the air coming from the vents (or allows air in, depending on your instructions).

Even the lights know what time it is and will adjust accordingly. Mornings mean brightness while evenings have a more candle-light-like atmosphere.

“The entire house is in the cloud. All the devices, whether the ventilation or heating systems, the lights or the door technology – all of it’s in the cloud, on different servers,” says Hinrichs.

Speaking of doors: There’s no need to carry a bundle of keys for this home. The apartment can be opened with a Bluetooth connection to the resident’s smartphone.

The smart home’s letter box will also send an alert whenever a package or letter has arrived.

What some might see as unnecessary and overpriced bells and whistles are for Hinrichs a deliberate investment, even though he won’t say exactly how much he’s spent, nor how many rental leases have been signed.

For now, whoever is willing to pay US$3,850 (RM17,000) per month or more to live in Hinrichs’ building will remain incognito.

Kai von Luck, a professor of applied computer sciences in Hamburg who works with technology in the living space, signalled his respect for Hinrichs’ work: “He’s created a prototype that must now be able to function in real-life situations.”

While some appliances have here and there already started to incorporate smart home technology, Hinrichs is the first to combine them all into one, explains Prof Luck. – dpa/Almut Kipp