The typical smart home is comprised of internet-connected or Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, which enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems. Some of the most popular IoT applications in the home include security and lighting, according to a survey of 7,000 consumers across seven markets conducted by GfK in 2015. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1: The most popular smart-home applications
An IoT device can be any object or product that is connected to, and identifiable by, a digital network. At home, we can communicate with all sorts of devices that are connected to the internet. They provide many benefits such as comfort, convenience, entertainment, piece-of-mind and security. Using your smartphone, you can check the oven or the lights from the car and turn them off if you left them on. You can set the security alarm, check in on the dog, adjust the thermostat, and turn the lights and heat on as you head home from work.
How the smart home works
Any IoT device in your home that uses radio chips can be added to your home network and be at your command whether by voice, remote control, tablet or smartphone. The smart home works with a fairly simple system of receivers and transmitters. A receiver detects a signal from a transmitter that issues a command.
Each device in the network—a lamp, light switch, thermostat, garage-door opener, pool filter control and so on—has a unique code, selected from billions of options. When you program one of the controller options, it automatically detects the codes. Then, when you press the appropriate button, the controller sends a signal to the device telling it what to do.
Figure 2: The infrastructure elements of a smart home
Source: Friendly Technologies
The early history of the smart home
The history of the smart home can be traced back to the early years of the 20th century when electrical and telephone wiring was first installed in new houses. In the 1950s and 60s, the first smart-home infrastructure began to appear. In 1954, General Electric introduced the Mobile Maid portable dishwasher, and in 1967, Raytheon introduced the Radarange, the first popular microwave. The term “smart home” was first coined in 1984 by the American Association of Home Builders, according to a source.
The six drivers of the smart home include:
■ Convenience and Comfort: Smart homes give users remote access to a wide range of IoT systems including heating and cooling systems, intercoms, lighting, music and multimedia devices throughout the home.
■ Security: Smart homes include advanced security systems with cameras, motion sensors and door locks when you are not home.
■ Accessibility: For elderly or disabled residents, a smart home may include accessibility technologies such as voice-command systems that control lights, lock doors, and operate computers and telephones.
■ Energy Efficiency: Smart-home technology increases your home’s energy efficiency by remotely powering-off or powering-down systems and appliances when they are not in use.
■ Savings: Smart-home systems and appliances are only on when needed, which will be apparent by the savings in the first utility bill.
■ Peace of Mind: One of the biggest benefits from home automation is peace of mind. There is no more worrying whether you turned off the lights or locked the door.
Smart home facts and figures
A recent survey conducted by GfK of over 7,000 consumers in seven countries, asked consumers a series of questions, including:
■ Are if they ready for the smart home?
■ What are the key elements?
■ What are the main barriers to adoption?
■ Is there one trusted brand you’d buy to deliver the smart home technology?
■ How many of vendors are you aware of or know about?
■ What are the key technologies?
■ What are the most appealing areas for applying the technology?
Of the seven countries surveyed, China ranked highest and Japan lowest when asked what the impact of the smart home will have on their lives as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Ranking by country of the positive impact the smart home will have
Almost 91% of consumers surveyed said they are aware of smart-home technology, while 68% said they have some knowledge, according to the GfK survey. In addition, 51% said that smart-home technology is one of the most likely technologies to have an impact on consumer lives. Specific applications mentioned include health, appliances, security and control, energy and lighting, ventilation, Wi-Fi, entertainment systems (video and audio systems), automatic windows and curtain, automatic garage doors, intercom telephony systems and connectivity. (See Figure 4.)
Figure 4: The specific smart home applications mentioned by consumers
The survey also ranked the barriers to adoption of smart-home technology. The top barriers mentioned included:
■ 36% – Cost of implementation
■ 21% – Poor Internet connection
■ 20% – Ethical questions about privacy and data protection on the smart home devices 20%
■ 23% – No barriers
Over half of the consumers surveyed said they’d prefer sourcing their smart-home technology from multiple vendors or had no preference regarding the vendors.
Figure 5: Who would you prefer sourcing your smart technology from?
Future smart-home technologies
Smart-home technology is comprised of a set of emerging technologies that promise to enhance home security, entertainment, comfort and health. Today, the installed base of smart-home devices is estimated to be around 165 million worldwide, according to Mobility. In India, the smart homes solutions market is growing at a year-over-year rate of 30%, according to Sparsh. At this rate, the size of the market will double every three years. It is estimated that in the next 10 years, 90% of new homes in India will come equipped with some form of networking, programming and automation.