Connected devices for the Home: Smart Homes

What is a Smart Home?

A Smart Home refers to the use of technology systems, automation processes, and remote control devices at home. Its main purpose is to improve the quality and convenience of life at home, improve security, and increase energy efficiency by using connected remote control devices.

Through the home WLAN, you can conveniently control connected appliances either through the mobile data network or through reservation settings. The appliances such as washing machines, lighting, coffee machines can be controlled by time, and motion sensors, cameras, shutters and thermostats can be executed by user-set process. 

The centre of the smart home is the central control unit. You can connect multiple smart devices here and control them on your PC, smartphone, or tablet. Standard wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave are used for communication and control. These central control units are also referred to as hubs or gateways.

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History of the Smart Home

It is human nature to pursue a comfortable and enjoyable life. As technological advances such as the Internet and computers have been made, “home automation,” has emerged. 

Fraunhofer in Haus Center, founded in 2001 in Duisburg, is a lighthouse project for German speaking countries. In this project, new system solutions and products in the smart home sector were tested in residential environments. “The House of the Present”, which was built in Munich from 2005 to 2011, showed a connected home using a central control electronics process. The Deutsche Telekom’s first T-Com House, built in Berlin in 2005, was visited by interested parties. The model project showed connecting various home appliances and controlling them with different input devices.

Technical Teamwork

The smart home allows devices to communicate with one another, thereby reducing the burden on humans to control all operations of the machine. As programmed, interoperability is important for devices to implement, control, and monitor specific processes in the house. Interoperability of devices means they can communicate with one another. Only by being able to do this, for example, the security system will automatically turn on when the shutters are closed, or the heating switch can be turned off automatically when the windows are opened.  If the devices cannot interoperate, the house cannot be smart. 

In addition to increasing convenience, it is also important to increase energy efficiency and improve security. When a Wi-Fi Smart Home thermostat communicates with a window, it detects that the window opens and adjusts the temperature accordingly. When the thermostat receives information from sensors on other devices that no one is at home, it turns off the heating switch.

Smart LED lighting can vary in colour depending on the time zone of the day or each room. If any movement is detected by an outdoor camera installed around the house, an alarm is sent to an indoor camera. 

How to change to a smart home?

Necessary devices can be installed and configured without special technical know-how. At the planning stage, the following points should be considered:

  • Requires internet connection and Wi-Fi
  • Smartphones and tablets are best suited for device control and monitoring
  • Wireless networks are modern and convenient, but wired transmission is safer
  • Will all devices be connected using the same wireless standard? (e.g. Wi-Fi)
  • The central control unit should be placed so that all devices are within their radii

Security and Data Protection

Many technologies bring benefits, but they also involve risks. Users should be aware of the risks and minimise them.  Smart home has the following risk factors because it connects devices and communicates over a wireless connection such as Wi-Fi.

First, personal data may be stolen. For example, there are camera recordings, photographs, etc.

Second, cybercriminals can manipulate individual smart home devices. The Cyber Security Insights Report, released by U.S. software company Symantec, surveyed more than 20,000 smart home users worldwide. The results showed that 45 percent of those surveyed did not know how to secure their Wi-Fi or routers, 1 in 10 didn’t change their default password, and 35 percent of the world’s users use at least one unprotected device, that it can easy to be attacked by online criminals.

The Future of Smart Homes

The size of the smart home market in Germany will triple to € 4.3 billion in 2022. Over the next five years, annual growth averages 26.4 percent, compared with 6 percent for traditional industries such as mechanical engineering. Innovative smart home devices will emerge in the next few years as technological advancements progress rapidly. 

The smart table under development by IKEA will recognise the ingredients with a camera and suggest recipes accordingly. This will reduce waste and make better use of the leftovers.

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