Smart homes are the next big thing for every household. Soon, the dependency on the internet and wireless technology is going to reach our homes all the way. Home automation which is also a part of IoT (Internet of Things), has taken over the latest home appliances and hand-held gadgets trends. These devices work in an integrated system, primarily which gives the control to the owner.
Origin of Smart Homes
In 1975, X10 a communication protocol came into existence in home automation. A device with radio frequency(RF) 120kHz, to control the home devices with programmed switches and electrical outlets. So the signals travel through the electric wiring to command a specific device to switch on at a particular time. It was almost spooky yet revolutionary technology that introduced the concept of machines being controlled without physical human intervention. However, it was a one-way system that takes commands and does not send back.
Since 2005, the home automation companies started working in combining the programmable electric wiring with the wireless signal technologies. Nest Labs in 2011, released the first smart thermostat, which can be connected to your smartphones via the internet. Therefore, it gives more control to the owner in regulating the temperature of the house.
Recently, big tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, and Google are also contributing to smart homes. Apple has launched their Apple Home Kit which helps the user to control through their iPhones. Also, Google Home pods are picking up with the home automation rapidly. They have been a rampant success in IoT and home automation. Similarly, Amazon echo is also a huge contributor. Amazon voice assistant Alexa is even compatible with household appliances. The owner can ask Alexa to make popcorn, and the smart microwave will start popping some corn. Thus, revolutionizing the home automation system.
Smart Homes Implementation
The technologies used in home automation are different and needs to compatibility for an integrated home system. Most commonly used platforms are X10 and Insteon. Recently, Bluetooth and WiFi setups are also very popular. Other than these, the mesh network-based technologies such as Zigbee and Z-Wave are also very popular. They are short-range low-power radio signals.
Usually, for a smart home, all devices must work on similar technologies. Usually, they are connected to a master controller called Smart home hub. It is a central hardware device that senses, processes and communicates the data. Plus, machine learning and artificial intelligence enable them to adapt to the user and the environment. Artificial intelligence is more of a proactive response technology. They study the usual pattern and behavior of the user. Thus eventually become a part of their lives.
Examples of Smart Home technologies
- Smart Lighting: Smart lights that detect the occupants in the room and adjust the brightness accordingly. Also, these lights can adjust brightness according to the daylight. Phillips Hue lighting system is the new smart lighting system which can be controlled from a smartphone.
- Smart TV: Televisions with internet connectivity, voice/gesture recognition and connectivity with Smart Home Hub.
- Smart Thermostats: Thermostats by Nest Labs Inc has wifi which can schedule, monitor and control the room temperature. It can even learn the residents’ behavior and modify its settings accordingly.
- Security cameras: these smart cameras can monitor homes with smart sensors, identify the difference between residents and burglars, notify authorities if needed.
- Locks and Garage Doors: There are NFC or Bluetooth enabled smartphone door locks operated by a smartphone. The system can identify its resident near the vicinity and open the locks by itself.
- Kitchen appliances: Smart coffee makers for dorm rooms, refrigerators that keep a note of expiration dates and even suggest recipes based on present ingredients. Smart Microwaves with smart-enabled precise cooking times.
Pros and Cons
(+) A peace of mind to the homeowners. Smart homes can counter dangers associated with forgetfulness.
(+) Safe monitoring for elderly people. They can establish a digital home care with great convenience. Moreover, all the gadgets and the systems can monitor their health and can inform the doctor right away if they are connected to their medical supervisor.
(+) Overall, it can improve the efficiency, by reducing the electricity consumption, or water wastage. With a smart AC regulator, temperatures can be under control. And a smart lawn irrigation system can help in reducing the water wastage in watering.
(-) The system could seem complex for non-tech savvy people.
(-) If the system goes down under repair, other household process stops.
(-) For ease of operation, the devices must work on a single platform.
(-) There is always a concern with smart home security. Hacking of network may become a major concern for the homeowners.
(-) Moreover, residents are concerned with their data with the companies. As the smart system tend to study the lifestyle of the resident and stores the behavior patterns. This data about millions of Americans could become a threat if falls under wrong hands.
AI and Machine Learning
With more and more demand for refinements in the IoT technologies, there is a need for the machines to work and understand the user. Since the IoT machines generate huge amounts of data every day. Data collected by millions of interconnected sensors and devices. Therefore, data could be understood and be read in a meaning manner. Machine Learning helps in changing the raw data into something useful.
Making the machines understand the need, and taking an active step accordingly is the highest level of the technological advancement. Till now! Hence the ability of machines to make decisions without a human intervention is Artificial Intelligence.
Therefore, in the next coming years, home automation and setting up of smart homes is going to be next big thing. Soon humans and their machines will start living co-dependently.