Smart Ideas for Smarter Homes

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The idea of a smart home – and smart buildings in general - has been a feature of popular science fiction for decades. But while cinemas have shown us visions of apartments that talk back to us and gadgets that are almost part of the family, the real homes we live in have been getting incrementally smarter.

The Domestic IoT

It wasn’t that long ago that Internet-enabled television was a vision of the future. Now it’s the norm. Once the idea of controlling our homes from a single device was far-fetched. Now we walk around with the Internet in our pocket and an app to control our lighting and entertainment systems.

Home automation products that focus on reducing energy consumption have also been around for some years. As sensors and compute modules get smaller and more powerful, so the potential becomes so much greater – and now the possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) are upping the game still further.

Comfort and Security

Current platforms are now expanding beyond energy efficiency to include safety and comfort features. For example, Yoga Systems (a member of the Intel Internet of Things Solutions Alliance) is using the Intel IoT Gateway to create an intelligent smart home platform that connects to nearly anything: wired and wireless security detectors, cameras, thermostats, smart plugs, lights, entertainment systems, locks, and appliances.

With most current home automation systems, appliances ‘talk’ (via applications) to residents or building managers who can then take action. By creating a domestic IoT, however, appliances could start talking to each other. So instead of thermostats being adjusted by an app, they can respond to a window being opened or a door unlocked. A cooker hood could switch itself on or off according to heat rising from the hob.

The IoT is all about connecting devices, collecting data and ‘crunching’ it by applying advanced analytics. This analytics capability makes it possible for trends in behaviour to be identified. This creates real potential for example in the area of assisted living, where motion and heat sensors can monitor the activity of vulnerable people and raise rapid alerts in the case of unexpected changes to the routine.

Real Homes. Real Lives

In fact, our homes are where most people are likely to have the most direct interaction with the IoT. It’s all about building intelligence into the fabric of the building. But to get consumers really engaged with the possibilities, the following are crucially important:

  • World-class security and data privacy. This requires hardware and software-level protection to secure data between the home, the cloud, and any mobile devices being used.
  • Interoperability. As with any IoT implementation, there are plenty of players likely to be involved. Consumers want to retain choice about what goes into their homes, so all technologies need to work seamlessly together.
  • Form factors. Building intelligence into the fabric of your home is one thing, turning it into the Millennium Falcon is another. People will want technologies that slot seamlessly and invisibly into their daily lives and domestic environment.
  • Ease of use. Early adopters of home automation systems have tended to be technologically savvy with a general interest in the latest developments. But for widespread adoption, the ‘chic’ factor has to outweigh the geek factor.
  • Scalability. No one wants to rip out and start again when it comes to technology in their homes – making it scalable and flexible is the key.

 

Visit Intel’s stand at Smart Home World, London, June 23-24 to find out more about the IoT in Smart Homes.

Rob Sheppard is IoT Product and Solutions Manager at Intel EMEA.

Keep up with him on Twitter (@sheppardi).

Check out his other posts on IT Peer Network, or continue the conversation in the comments below.