A Smarter Home is Here and Now. #73 #cong16

By Susan Crowe.

Think of a world in which we can turn on our electric blanket on the way home from the pub, our central heating from the bus, your music in the kitchen from the bedroom and answer the courier at your door from your workplace.  This is no longer an image of the future but a picture of the present accessible and affordable now in a way many would and could not believe 10 years ago. 

Smart home technology is here with us today and accessible to all in a way we never previously thought possible. All of us are used to using Wifi in our homes and this same technology is being used to connect us to all sorts of devices in new and exciting ways. In Ireland, today the average number of household connected devices is 5 but in the UK, this is 10 and that is not simply computers, phones and laptop but our TVs, entertainment/music systems our central heating and services such as Netflix and more smart homes technologies. 

Smart homes, as we understood them of old, were for the rich, living in new builds, that required miles of cabling and their own detected servers, at a huge cost and with a level of IT connectivity beyond most of us. Now it is available over Wifi and Radio frequency using sophisticated communication protocols, both accessible in price, easy to install and in particular easy to retrofit to our existing homes. Many of the systems are controlled via a box no bigger than 4 bars of chocolate. This makes the market endless as it is no longer confined to the rich and those fortunate enough to be able to build their own homes.

Your home router, smartphone and Wifi modem are now the centre of the current and future smart home systems. All of this has been made possible by growing broadband penetration, higher connectivity speeds and the growth in smartphone penetration. 

What and why would I want smart home technology? All of us are now seeking greater convenience and control of our lives and the technology around us. The smartphone has allowed us to do our banking from the couch and change channels on our TV via the phone. But with the right systems I can now turn on the heating from the same seated position as well as turning off the light and streaming my music from my phone. But where this gets interesting is not in the smart fridge but when I can install a wifi camera in my elderly parent’s home to be notified by movement of the fact they have got up at 10.00am and entered the kitchen. To then even have a visual of them presented to me and allow me engage in a two-way conversation remotely, being able to greet them, ask them how they are and remind them to take their tablets all from my smartphone at my work desk. This is how Smart home technologies enhance the quality of our lives and those we care most for.

Many are entering the smart home market unconsciously as they seek out simple solutions to their own “communication” issues.  Lots of us have faced the problem of poor internal Wifi signals in our homes, due to the growing number of devices and connected users. Alternatively, we seek better performance for our now Smart TV we thus enter the market looking for wifi boosters or as the industry calls them range extenders and power lines. How many of us with children have wanted to be able to listen to them in their room when asleep, using baby monitors. This market has now expanded from pure sound, to sound and visuals but additionally accessible over our Smartphone remotely. All this is users entering the smart home market in different and ever increasing ways. 

When asked what it is that people want to control remotely the most, their top answer not surprisingly is their home heating. As more and more of us live unstructured lives with little predictable routine (compared to our parents’ generation) as such we want and desire great flexibility and control of the likes of our home heating, lighting and security systems. Fixing the heating on a set routine to come on at 6.00pm in the evening is not useful or beneficial. All this can and is available on the market today in many different forms but via many plug and play systems. Will this market catch? I hear you ask yourself. This I would say is like saying why would I want or need a remote control for my TV. The answer is you don’t need it but you do want it. Can you imagine now a manufacturer selling you a TV without a remote control? No. So, to the future, neither will light switch or plug socket manufacturers, or heating controls be sold without the ability to connect and control them via our smartphones or tablets. This technology will become omnipresent, driven by demanding consumers. 

If I can finish by painting a picture of the future, where I wake to the blinds in my room being slowly raised while the music on my radio starts playing, the heat has been thermostatically set to 21 degrees for the kitchen and living space and the kettle has already boiled by the time I come down to the kitchen. On leaving the house the lights turn off and the alarm automatically sets and I can monitor the house from my internal and external cameras. The future of these systems is not a smart kettle, Smart Fridge a smart washing machine, or smart central heating systems but a seamless connection of electronically controlled devices all remotely controlled and monitored from my Smartphone from anywhere in the world. Today we have this technology and the costs and accessibility is only getting cheaper and more omnipresent. 

As a Wifi connected home, welcome to the smart home market you are already a player and participant without knowing it, now take control for yourself and learn more from the soon to be launched SmarterHomeStore.com.

© Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie