Whether one chooses to call it the connected home, smart home, or home automation, it is the center of activity for connectivity and sensor solutions. ‘Smart Home’ technology is deemed to be the future of residential technology, designed to deliver and perform a number of services and activities within the house. This technology is primarily driven by connected devices, whose intelligence, as well as applications, are integrated and interconnected. These smart devices have the potential to share information with each other as long as they can access a broadband internet connection.
Basic household gadgets like refrigerators, lamps, door locks, etc., all come with the capability of connecting to the Internet, as well as with each other, using the power of IoT. Hence, ‘Smart Home’ technology has become part of the IoT (Internet of Things). While mainstream adoption may still be years away, we know this market is poised for growth. It represents an essential opportunity for consumer product manufacturers to deliver products that are differentiated with new functionality and connectivity.
Key Takeaways –
- Evolution of smart homes
- Drivers impacting the smart homes market
- Challenges of adopting smart homes
- Application of IoT in home appliances
- Benefits of adopting smart home devices
Table of contents
Evolution of Smart Homes
The concept of an automated home is not new: the idea has been afloat since the 1930s, with popular culture in TV shows and movies showcasing home life of the future, while influencing the public’s opinion about the benefits of home automation. The 1980s saw the emergence of revamped versions of the automated home making its way into the marketplace. It was around this time that the concept of ‘connected homes’ was first put into motion, forming the basis of what is currently considered to be ‘home automation.’ Connected homes showcased a new way to connect and control all the home appliances efficiently. However, considering the era, the concept was too expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to construct, and became limited to the very niche luxury market.
Despite the considerable progress achieved for the concept of ‘connected homes’ in the earlier decade, throughout the 1990s, connected home technologies somewhat stagnated – with the technology restricted only to luxury homes, and were often system-specific, limited only to controlling only the home’s lighting or entertainment systems. Integrating these technologies into a single, cohesive, easily controlled systems remained a challenge, which could only be tackled by the most technically capable systems integrators. During the same period, a do-it-yourself (“DIY”) market sprouted around powerline communication systems, and some market players introduced wireless products for home automation. Capitalizing on this trend, innovators started to develop self-assembling, ad hoc wireless network protocols that provided a platform for the development of modern technologies that came into existence at the turn of the century.
Early 2000 saw technology innovators develop a wide range of proprietary, wireless and radio protocols for home automation. These protocols are the driving force of home automation, and allow devices to interact with each other. As these protocols progressed, the concept of connected devices became a reality, driven by a growing need for sensors and actuators for closed loop, learning home automation solutions.
Role of Internet of Things (IoT) in Smart Homes
A smart home consists of automated and connected home assets, electrical devices, and appliances across several building and home components and functions. These devices operate within a communications network, facilitating enhanced monitoring, comfort, energy conservation, maintenance, home activities and security of its occupants. The residents/owners have access to the controllers, in the form of built-in wall displays, proprietary devices, and remote controls, as well as a computers, tablets, and smartphones.
What can be deemed as the perfect example of a smart home? Imagine entering a pre-cooled room after toiling hard at work or walking in by waving your phone to unlock the door, jiving to your favorite song in any room with just a click. The lights in your bedroom could dim on their own in the night to help you relax, and turn off gradually by dawn like an ambient alarm. Yes, all this is possible today, thanks to the power of IoT.
IoT relies on wireless communication with the help of antennae. The placement of the antennae typically dictates the communication between smart devices and any obstructions in the antenna path can lead to gaps in communication. A typical scenario could be when an occupant approaches the kitchen. A motion sensor detects the occupant’s approach and relays the information to the home energy control unit wirelessly, and the LED light bulbs in the kitchen are turned on. Also, the integrated temperature sensors communicate ambient temperature readings to the home energy control unit to regulate the temperature in the kitchen.
In today’s world, smart homes are not enough for the environmentally-conscious audience. For them, energy efficiency is a key. This is where IoT comes across as a reliable tool that connects both wireless communication devices and wireless sensors for heating and cooling requirements within the house. This essentially helps to manage energy usage better, as well as enhance the experience of living in modern homes.
Smart LEDs with embedded antennae not only help with energy efficiency, but also help the overall efficiency of the system (home) through wireless communication with other IoT devices. The implementation of such smart home devices necessitates the design of the individual units as well as their co-existence within the home environment.
Applications of Smart Home Technology
|Smart TVs connect to the internet to access content through applications, such as on-demand video and music. Some smart TVs also include voice or gesture recognition.|
|Apart from being able to be controlled remotely and customized, smart lighting systems can detect occupants in a room and adjust lighting as required. Smart lights can also regulate themselves based on daylight availability.|
|Smart thermostats with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity allows users to schedule, monitor and remotely control home temperatures. These devices are also capable of studying homeowners' behaviors and modify themselves accordingly to provide maximum comfort and efficiency for the residents. Smart thermostats can also report energy use and remind users to change filters, among other benefits.|
|Using smart locks and garage-door openers, users can grant or deny access to visitors. Smart locks can also detect when residents are near and unlock the doors for them.
|With smart security cameras, residents can monitor their homes even when they are away. Smart motion sensors are also able to identify the difference between residents and visitors, and can alert authorities about any suspicious behavior.|
|Pet care can be automated with connected feeders. Houseplants and lawns can be watered by way of connected timers.|
|Kitchen appliances of all sorts are available in the market, including smart coffee makers that can brew you a fresh cup as soon as your alarm goes off, smart refrigerators that keep track of expiration dates, make shopping lists or even create recipes based on ingredients currently in stock, slower cookers and toasters, and washing machines and dryers.|
Benefits of Smart Home Technology
Transitioning to a smarter home can facilitate improved control over every aspect of how your house functions, along with its improved safety and accessibility. Additionally, you can reap the benefits of a more efficient home, leading to savings in your energy and upkeep costs. The following is a detailed dossier on how smart homes can be beneficial.
Challenges Hindering the Adoption of Smart Home Technology
Adoption of smart home technology has been hampered by challenges related to the ease of use, installation, and control. The major roadblocks for widespread adoption are:
Data security is an issue for home automation and across all IoT connected devices at home. It is pre-empted that whenever a new digital system or product is released, it becomes a new target for cyberattacks. It is also unlikely that a preventive solution for cyberattacks on connected home systems will be developed in the coming years. However, today’s connected consumer is accustomed to these risks and accepts them in exchange for the benefits of connectivity.
The absence of cohesiveness and standardization among major market players may restrict the adoption of home automation technology. Consumers have communicated concerns about focusing on a particular framework that isn't interoperable with different gadgets – they find that after incorporating an appliance, it isn’t able to coordinate with different frameworks. These differences in compatibility typically restrict economies of scale. Luckily, hardware across networks remains the same – the hardware being developed will help drive adoption of home automation, regardless of the networks it will be utilizing.
Although most smart devices are available for purchase at retail stores, as well as online shopping platforms, many consumers remain hesitant about the value of these products. For example, a consumer who wants to buy a new refrigerator will need assistance from a knowledgeable sales personnel and comprehensive content on the Internet explaining the benefits and value of the connected home appliance. Lack of consumer knowledge during the sales cycle can result in consumers opting out, and the capabilities and value of connected home capabilities remain unrealized.
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