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Home Automation… Are we there yet?

Your alarm has just gone off and, not wanting to get out of bed just yet, you grab your smartphone and with a few flicks of the wrist, the coffee starts, the heat turns up and the lights have adjusted to a hue that slowly brings you to life. What once was a manual task is now automated and can be controlled from the comfort of your bed. Home automation, enabled by the convergence of technologies, promises to be something affordable, scalable and user-friendly. 

 

Interoperability

It used to be that one of the first steps towards home automation was the deployment of smart meters, but this is no longer true. To get started, all you need is access to your smartphone and home area network. Although, for a utility to begin to bill in dynamic rates, or to begin to manage real-time energy consumption, a home must have a meter that has the capability of reporting electricity consumption by time-of-use.

A major hurdle to adoption and widespread production of smart appliances and home automation hardware is the need for interoperability among smart electronics. The need for connectivity between smart meters, smart appliances and other in-home energy management devices necessitates standardization across most devices and systems.

Smart appliances are only one device that is involved in energy management in the smart home, therefore standards across industries and electronic devices must be agreed upon. For example, most homes have more than one brand of appliances. Each of these brands within the home communicates to their home area network (HAN) with a different gateway technology. Like Zigbee, Z-wave or Wifi. Appliance makers and other home automation device manufacturers need to agree on one piece of wireless communication in order for the price of these devices and products to become competitive and for further adoption to happen.

 

Next Generation Home Automation

Home automation has been around for years but is expensive and often requires a contractor for installation. Homeowners are often left with a system that is elaborate and difficult to use. Integration with new devices should be seamless and hardware should work just as it normally did; a light should be able to turn on when you flip the switch. Simple, usable devices with a minimal consumer learning curve will be very important. If these applications and devices cannot be run and set up easily, consumers might not adopt them

Home automation solutions that are expensive and outdated will be surpassed over the next few years by those that are low in cost, programmable and have an intuitive design. Rather than programming, systems will learn what types of behaviors are occurring inside of the home. For example, if the outside lights always turn on at 7:00 pm, the system will begin to learn that behavior and the lights will automatically turn on.

 

Enter the Smartphone

Instead of using expensive proprietary software, keypads and user interfaces to engage with home automation devices, consumers will be looking to interact more with their smartphone via apps and voice commands.

Smartphones continue to dominate and change the way we interact, engage and manage our lives. The smartphone share, not surprising; includes over half of those who have a cellphone. This number is expected to increase to 72 percent in 2016 as devices become more affordable.

Consumers are accustomed to being able to buy a cup of Starbucks coffee, check into a flight and make dinner reservations with their smartphone. Why wouldn’t they be able to turn on a light or lock the front door from a remote location?

Currently, there are several home security companies that offer different levels of home automation. How will these systems integrate with your smart appliances or other smart home devices? Are the home security systems forging the way to establish standards within the home automation industry?

Dinner has been made and the kids have been tucked into bed. You are watching your favorite program on TV or catching up on the day’s news via your tablet. You swipe your finger across your tablet to your home energy manager app. Here, you lock your doors, close your garage and set the dishwasher to run at 2 am. Home automation is being fueled by the integration and convergence of the technologies we use every day and the user-friendliness of the systems. These touch points are integral to the success of a technology that is rapidly changing the way in which we live our lives.

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