It’s 9.45 pm, and you’re running late from work. Overtime can be a hassle, but it definitely pays off in the long run. Now that you’re probably starved, what can we do to remedy this? The rain pounds down on your umbrella – the one that your house asked you to take along. The very same house that is now accommodating for your late timing, and sends a message to your smartphone asking when you will come home – since you’re probably drained of energy, it also takes into account your calorific intake and informs you that a nice, savory meal will be waiting in the next 36 minutes, given your route home and the weather. It’s probably gone and turned the heating up a notch – you must need warmth, walking in the rain.
Feel like you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone? You probably thought your house was a little too intimate in the amount it knew, and slightly wacky when it came to the things it was doing.
The conception of a house is altered when, with the Internet of things, it becomes one giant sensor with an array of other sensors contained within it, and the IoT transforms it into something way off the imagination. But this isn’t some weird fantasy – this is happening, and we call it the industry of Home Automation.
Smart homes have been a thing for awhile. We have already embedded technology in degrees when it comes to our own houses – a Bluetooth enabled speaker system, ambient temperature controls, intelligent cooling devices – the list isn’t exactly tiny. What sets Home Automation on another level that it incorporates all these pieces of stray tech lying around and makes them much more interconnected, much more powerful.
Besides, smart buildings have been in the market for a while now. Energy conservation manifestos and related measures demand the cutting down of emissions, and this is often done with the help of IoT enabled devices – HVAC systems are now connected to the web, monitoring electricity consumption and relaying it in the most efficient manner possible.
The control of all ‘things’ inside your house in an automatic, personalized manner over the airwaves is what home automation involves, and many new players are emerging. A large number of manufacturers are expanding their product portfolios, and the increasing importance of home monitoring from remote locations are expected to drive the growth of the home automation system market. This is also helped by the natural, and exponential growth of the IoT market in general.
The characteristic of Home Automation Devices is that they are typically electricity powered and are manually controlled (such as turning on the AC, dimming lights, managing entrance gate and cameras, operating smart appliances in a house, and so on). Modern day home automation solutions utilize high end digital technology for providing better performance and efficiency.
The global home automation system market was valued at USD 39.93 Billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.3% during the forecast period. The growth has been altogether too significant – from a mere 4.4 billion USD market in 2012, it is posited to reach a staggering figure of 21 billion by 2020. The compound growth here is 26% over the years.
The market has reached such a stage that the services themselves have to be classified into several segments. By type, home automation deals with Lighting, Safety and Security, HVAC, Entertainment and Energy Management Services.
The myriad of devices found here also involve a lot of different ways in which they can communicate – some are channel specific, like using WiFi, Z-wave, Zigbee and KNX technology – while yet others combine multiple channels.
In addition, these devices are also divided by other criterion – there are luxury devices which focus more on aesthetics and added comfort at a considerable cost, while others can be DIY-type devices that are more utility based. The market is also fragmented amongst some famous, and yet other upcoming names - Crestron Electronics, Inc.; AMX LLC; Control4 Corporation; Honeywell International, Inc.; Johnson Controls, Inc.; Siemens AG, Zigbee Alliance's, Vantage Controls, Lightolier, Inc. and Daintree Networks, Inc – are all examples of some prominent players.
How easy is this whole process anyway? Well, surprisingly, it’s not that tough – initially pocket heavy for the consumer, but highly efficient and recommended in the long run. On the provider's’ end, differentiation will be key as the market goes on flooding with yet other entrants. The availability of equipment is becoming easier to suppliers, and cheaper too – but most of the power lies with the consumer, who gets a plethora of choices to pick from. Personalization and meeting consumer expectations will be key drivers of growth, if one is to survive in this industry.
Automation is obviously a key aspect of an IoT enabled matrix. The same goes for this setup. While it will initially involve a ton of scheduling, further use will see to it that the home itself adapts to your convenience and not the other way around.
The second aspect is remotely controlling all aspects of your home. This can be done most effectively through a smartphone application, or a bunch of them that allow you to observe and alter your home’s workings. Regular alerts are part of any automotive program, so that you are kept informed even if you’re not actively keeping your eyes peeled on your phone – who has the time? Security, lighting, temperature, the front door – quite a few things can now be accessed, and transmit information to you remotely.
All these protocols and information channels seamlessly exist on the home network, which then creates a feedback loop with all the devices. Centralized, yet de-centralized at the same time.
If all of this was not enough, we’ve got more. As a consumer, you stand to gain significantly if you automate your home – it’s unanimously geared towards energy efficient systems. Gone are the days of the lights being on, the fans spinning in negligence, and voltage shocks. Every aspect being controlled means that everything will be suitably adjusted for when you need it most.
For a convincing argument to be made, we can take a glimpse at two existing devices – one is a general Home Automation system, namely the Samsung ADEPT (Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry) – and the other is a specific home device by the name of Aristotle, which is a baby monitor developed by Mattel using IoT tech.
In the spirit of going from the small-scale to a more integrated system, we can tackle Aristotle first. Raising a child can be a big challenge for any aspiring parent. While there’s obviously no ‘right’ way of doing that, a little help from technology wouldn’t hurt. Obviously, many would just flinch at the idea of your baby being near a robot that’s bringing it up – but we aren’t quite there yet.
Aristotle is a baby monitor designed by Mattel that combines a highly interactive camera, a nightlight, a speaker, a sound machine and integrates an app for an all-in-one inclusive solution.
Aristotle uses voice-activated, AI-driven technologies, including Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and IoT Stream Analytics. The power of AI, including Cortana Intelligence, brings Speech to Text, LUIS, CRIS and Text to Speech functionality, allowing the platform to learn patterns and autonomously act upon user habits to aid in child development and learning.
On the note of home automation systems, the systems making waves are Google Home and Amazon’s Echo – but we can dig deeper than those. IBM and Samsung recently presented a proof of concept for ADEPT (Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry) which uses the blockchain database to build a distributed network of devices. This enables appliances such as a dishwasher to initiate “smart contracts” which can even autonomously contact, say, a detergent retailer for supplies. These are essentially protocols that empower the device with the ability to pay for the order and later record that detergent was paid for and shipped.
With more flexible home automation systems, electrical outlets or even individual devices can also be automatically powered down during hours of the day when they're not needed. As with isolated devices like thermostats and sprinkler systems, the scheduling can be further broken down to distinguish between weekends and even seasons of the year, in some cases.
As a provider, we’ve already outlined the challenges. If you want to know more, you can always give us a call, and even if we are not Home Automation experts, we know people who definitely are – so it’s a win-win either way! Hope this article made the whole home automation aspect a bit more interesting and relevant, and we hope that you come back for more.