Many people are attracted to the idea of having a smart home. However there are varying ideas of what that will bring you. Undoubtedly it means you will have some smart devices in the home. Here is how Wikipedia describes those smart devices:
A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, LiFi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.
The question of what to do with all those smart devices will determine exactly how smart is your home. There are different ways you can integrate these devices that will determine how actually smart is your home.
You can control some devices remotely from a dedicated remote controller or from your Smartphone. This might include motorized blinds for your windows or lighting that you can control remotely. Although you can control these with your Smartphone, it would be an exaggeration to call your home a Smart Home. A better description would be to say that it is a Connected Home. In this case, each device is controlled remotely by a single command.
With what we will call an Automated Home, we can have devices that are interconnected as we add some triggers among these devices. So for example when I enter the code in the door keypad to open the door, it’ll automatically disarm the alarm and turn on the light at the entrance hall. Or I can create a Good Night Scene where once triggered the whole house will be switched to night mode. This can be done either by pressing a physical button on the wall, a soft button on a Smartphone, or by a voice command to Alexa. This results in the following actions. Lights are turned off except for one light in the hall that will go to a low level. The doors will be locked. All the blinds will be closed and the security alarm will be armed in the appropriate mode.
Even though the setting/scene triggered might include many devices, still there is direct connection between the trigger and the result, therefore it’s not really smart, but rather Automated. Another example here could be: when we watch a movie, once we trigger “Play” the light in the room is dimmed. Once we press Pause it goes up a little bit, and when we stop it goes up to full strength. A more interesting automation might be if when the doorbell rings, it will trigger the movie to pause and raise the lights and so on.
We reserve the designation Smart Home for something that goes beyond the way an Automated Home functions. It needs to include some logic that is beyond the obvious to be applied between the trigger and the result. Usually additional inputs from sensors or other sources are needed as inputs to that logic. The logic complexity may be implemented as a complex algorithm in a single device, like a voice assistant. By integrating multiple devices and additional inputs from components that are not smart on their own, the logic of the integration makes the whole solution smart.
Let’s look at an example of an Irrigation system. The system controls multi-zone sprinklers programmed to turn on and off in a certain sequence at certain times in the week. The programming of the system as well as operating it can be done from a Smartphone. So far this is no more than a Connected solution.
Adding a rain or ground humidity sensor to the system as additional input can provide the beginning of smartness. While irrigation controllers have been having these kind of sensors for quite a while, sophistication of the algorithm that factors in the input from the sensor can be considered to be a little smart. This will impact the watering program for best watering efficiency and so as to maximise water saving .
Such a system would begin to be really smart if we connect it to the internet, where it can check the weather forecast. The system will not only consider the current conditions, but also the forecasted rain and adjust the watering accordingly. So in this case pre-scheduled watering during the morning can be saved because it’s going to be raining in the afternoon. In addition, the watering amount can be reduced given the amount of rain which is forecast. This we would consider a Smart solution.
There is one more level beyond the Smart Home. That is when a device or a system has machine learning capabilities. This allows it to learn and improve based on experience in the specific operating environment where it is installed and operates. In this case we can rightly say we have an Intelligent Home.
A very common example of such Intelligence can be seen with Thermostats. Such devices can learn the preferences of the home residents as well as the times they are in the home or away. Based on this, the home temperature can be adjusted so as to maximize the home residents comfort and energy saving at the same time.
How Smart Is Your Home
Based on the above definitions, would you say your home is Connected, Automated, Smart or Intelligent? We welcome your feedback on this topic. If you have examples or ideas of solutions you have adopted or have in mind, we would love to hear about them.