Home Toys Interview
- August 2004 -
[Click Message To Learn More]
Home is where the IQ is!
Smart technologies are about to transform how we live and interact with our homes.
Electrical Technology Magazine of New Zealand talks to "smarthome" proponents Eric Sagmeister and Shane Walls-Harris.
ET: There are a lot of smart technologies available, but home automation needs to be approached holistically. What real initiatives are out there to achieve this?
Eric & Shane: Tomorrow's homes will be vastly different to today's - technology will completely transform how we live and interact with our home environment. Compared to the options freely available today, tomorrow's technology will enable simple configuration, 'plug and play' functionality, programmable process and task automation, and communications capabilities that are 'childs play' to operate.
Global appliance manufacturers are currently delivering the first wave of home appliances which incorporate the latest embedded communications technologies and smart features. The concept is to produce appliances that can think for themselves, save time, be more energy efficient, and offer significant added value.
Home automation is already high on the agendas of companies like Microsoft, Intel, HP, Thompson, Samsung, Sony, and Philips.
Appliances will soon talk to each other and provide the basis of internal mesh networking principles which introduces the ability to provide flexibility in roaming internet, VoIP, telephony, messaging, and more, via for example, your kitchen toaster!
Digital convergence is now combining previously separate services into one package such as television, security, telecommunications, home theatre/audio and environmental control. These are handled via a mix of mediums which include 230V carrier technology, Cat5 cabling, and wireless technologies. Manufacturers are working to find common ground to deliver this successfully, and on open standards platforms that allow transparent interconnection with different manufacturer's products.
Appliance compatibility is also addressed by utilising globally recognised communication standards and protocols.
Living in a smarthome won't require a major learning curve for occupants - the technology is designed to interact seamlessly with each new service appliance and becomes an embedded component in the house. The theory is that as people grow older the home can adjust from delivering entertainment and information, to monitoring habits for shopping lists, to accessing online health services.
ET: What are some of the more significant home automation projects happening in New Zealand?
Eric & Shane: There are a significant number of initiatives aimed at delivering stand-alone solutions as well as components that will eventually be used in the home and building automation industries.
ET: Home automation has been talked about a lot - but has to a large extent been under-delivered. What factors are going to drive forward its adoption?
Eric & Shane: The driving factors are related to the price of appliances and the availability of broadband Internet into the home.
Demand for services is the driving force for delivery of 2MB access to the home, but even this will fall short of expectations within the next 12 -18 months. Internally the PC is now capable of delivering a common control platform for all service automation. As well as cost-effectively delivering information and entertainment to the home, there are business applications such as farming that are a natural extension of the smart home. It lends itself to the lifestyle block owner who wants to enjoy life but not be tied to the 24/7 farming lifestyle. The online doctor who can monitor people with mild dementia or Alzheimers Disease is another automation application (it has been proven people live longer in their own homes).
ET: How will home automation technologies impact on the electrical contracting market - will there be a whole new skillset developed to install and commission automation systems?
Eric & Shane: The commercial market has always used certified and reputable electrical contractors to carry out proprietary installs such as plant and machinery automation. Security companies install alarms and surveillance, telecommunications companies install data and phone systems. However, there are no requests for any smarthome certification - to show that a electrician is competent in all fields.
While some electricians are experienced in the delivery of data, telecommunications wiring, security, and even audio/visual solutions using some of the newest technologies, most have limited experience in these cross fields. Even those with experience are not necessarily up with the standards within these respective fields.
Unlike 230V wiring, data and telecommunications networks are getting faster, smarter, and have less tolerance to bend radius in the cable plant, to correct termination and testing methods. Network speeds in the home will most likely settle at 1Gbit and will provide media distribution for all services. Issues such as cross talk, radiation, and emissions must all be accounted for in the infrastructure design.
Failure to observe standards will effectively render most installations useless because Gbit tends to bleed over Cat5 if not installed correctly and interferes with service provision. At 100 Mbit speeds this is not an issue and the cables are fairly resilient to even the roughest install. Customers must be sold on quality future-proofed solutions.
Most importantly the industry must adapt to becoming recognized home integrators. This involves understanding the correct cabling architectures for specific applications and proving this knowledge by registering as a certified cabler on the TESSO cabling register. For those looking to become certified smart home integrators, courses are currently being developed to cover computer, telecommunications and MATV coaxial installations. There are also moves to introduce security, surveillance, audio, and wireless courses including RPL (recognition of prior learning) for people already working in those industries. These courses should be available from late 2005.
Thanks to Electrical Technology Magazine for allowing us to publish this Interview