Comfort, safety, and efficiency are three important concerns to homeowners and residents. As automation can improve them, they are after smart homes. Innovators have been taking advantage of technologies to bring increasing automation at home. They are attaching sensors, placing software into microcontrollers to gather intelligence, and connecting them wirelessly over the Internet. Devices like door locks or smoke detectors, and appliances are getting smart enough to understand the situation, report to residents, and also take actions autonomously. As a result, automation has been turning our residences into smart homes, making them more comfortable, safer, and more efficient.
Consequentially, the market of smart home devices, automation engineering, kits, and systems has been expanding. According to some estimates, the Global Smart Home Market size was valued at USD 98.24 Billion in 2020. Estimates also suggest that it will be growing at a CAGR of 23.59% from 2021 to 2028, to reach USD 495.15 Billion by 2028.
Smart home evolves from home automation. We are very much used to sensors and controllers for monitoring, detecting, and controlling home attributes. Some of them are lighting, climate, entertainment systems, appliances, access control, and alarms. The availability of microcontrollers, microsensors, and wireless internet connectivity has opened the door to add intelligence to both sensors and controllers. As a result, conventional home devices and appliances have become smart and the internet of things (IoT), turning our residents into smart homes. Consequentially, homeowners are benefiting from comfort, safety, and efficiency improvements. A home automation system connects intelligent sensors, detectors, and appliances to a central smart home hub in smart homes. Standard options for the user interface are wall-mounted terminals, tablet or desktop computers, and a mobile phone application with Web interfaces.
History and evolution:
Home automation began with the installation of central Utility supply and flushing of toilets. It evolved further by introducing washing machines, water heaters, microwave ovens, electric kettles, toasters, coffee makers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, dishwashers, air conditioners, clothes dryers, smoke detectors, and many more. To integrate these discrete devices, in 1978, home automation network technology, X10, with a 16-channel command console, a lamp module, and an appliance module became available. Soon after, the wall switch module and the first X10 timer emerged. Subsequently, the smart home concept has emerged. It refers to the home automation system being aware of the state of its devices. It’s done by adding sensors, software, and communication technologies (ICT) protocol and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Home automation technologies and applications:
Through contemporary home automation systems, for energy efficiency improvement, we can monitor and control the functioning of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, over the Internet through a user-friendly interface. It also includes lighting control and controls in response to occupancy awareness, environmental parameters, and detection of leaks and smokes. The household security module has become an integral part of a smart home automation system. It offers remote surveillance through the interface of a camera over the internet. It also offers remote access control and central locking of doors and windows. Home automation systems also offer options to make the residence more friendly to elderly and disabled people and children. Furthermore, vice control such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home has taken the smart home concept to a new height. By the way, the up-gradation of automation technology to software appears to be the underlying strength of the smart home.
Example smart home detectors and appliances:
Some of the common features of the smart home system are (i) robot vacuum, (ii) smart air purifier, (iii) pet camera, (iv) Google assistant or Siri voice commands to turn on and off light, (v) thermostat adjustment through an app on my phone, (vi) outdoor-friendly smart lights, (vii) smart security camera, (viii) video doorbell, (viii) smart lock, (ix) smart home security system, and (x) intelligent light bulbs. One of the favorite modules has been a scheduler that learns heating and cooling preferences throughout the day and night and then automatically sets up a personalized schedule.
In addition to comfort, these devices contribute to efficiency improvement and reduction of bills. For example, Nest claims that by using its smart thermostats, some U.S. customers have saved an average of 10% to 12% on their heating bills. Nest’s claims also include a 15% saving on customers’ cooling bills annually.
Recent developments and trends:
The smart home has been migrating from futuristic concepts and luxury to meeting basic expectations. In many cases, options for meeting evolving expectations come from connectedness and ease of use. Recent developments and trends fall in the categories of (i) integration, (ii) artificial intelligence and the internet of things, (iii) touchless technology, (iv) smart thermostats, (v) health technologies, (vi) at-home exercise, (vii) home office, (viii) high-speed connection, (ix) High-tech security, and (x) privacy features. Increasing connectedness is also raising the issue of privacy and security. Hence, common expectation from the smart home includes having features for dealing with data breaches and security hacks issues. Among many advancements, the toilet will experience uplifting. Intelligent toilets are going to use sensors and software to analyze waste and skin to provide insight into the user’s health.
Smart home kits and hubs:
Smart home kits could be a good start for upgrading conventional homes. Some of the benefits of smart home kits are (i) getting started right away, (ii) fewer worries about compatibility, (iii) often cheaper than buying piecemeal. There are several such kits in the market. For example, Samsung smart things home monitoring kit includes (i) SmartThings Hub, (ii) SmartThings Outlet, (iii) SmartThings Motion Sensor, and (iv) SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor. The Arlo Pro 3 Wireless Home Security Kit includes Arlo Smart Hub and Arlo Pro 3 Wire-Free 2K Security Camera (x3). For the smart lighting solution, Philips has a kit. Its hue starter kit comes with a hue bulb, smart button, and Philips Hue A19 White & Color Ambiance Bulb (x3). For the smart thermostat solution, Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat and Ecobee3 Room Sensors (x2) come in the bundle of Ecobec3 lite smart thermostat kit.
Besides, the Ring Alarm home security system offers eight important modules, (i) Alarm Base Station, (ii) Alarm Keypad, (iii) Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Listener, (iv) Contact Sensor (x7), (v) Alarm Motion Detector (x2), (vi) Ring Alarm Range Extender, (vii) Alarm Flood and Freeze Sensor, and (viii) Ring Alarm Panic Button.
Advantages and Disadvantages of smart home:
Waking to each device and controlling it is quite time-consuming. In smart homes, homeowners can remotely control them all using one device—usually a smartphone or tablet. Hence, the installation of a smart home system provides convenience. Furthermore, due to the connectedness of devices and appliances, homeowners can get notifications and updates on issues in their homes. For example, users can set and control the internal temperature, lighting, and appliances using their mobile phones before reaching home. Similarly, smart doorbells allow homeowners to see and communicate with the people at the door; even when they’re not at home. In addition to convenience, homeowners can also enjoy less operating costs. As many smart home features offer the option of reducing wastage of utilities, money-saving is a reality.
Apart from the additional cost for a smart home system, privacy, security risks, and bugs are common concerns. By the way, the cost for smart features is not negligible either. It can start from a few thousand dollars, and it can easily grow to tens of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, there is an issue of a steep learning curve. It may take quite a while to get used to the system for everyone in the household.