It seems 2014 was filled with talk about the so called “Smart Home” and “Internet of Things”. In fact a scan of the HomeToys archives revealed scores of Hot Stories and Press releases covering these topics. Countless companies; some new, some established and some crowd funded have thrown their hat in the Home Automation ring with hubs, sensors and controls in an effort to finally make the Smart Home a reality.
In 2015 we hope to help unscramble and make sense of some of these companies and products by offering them up an un-biased forum to discuss who they are and what they provide. So we reached out to some of these companies and here is one of what we hope will be many more informational interviews on the Smart Home, IoT, Home Automation and the companies providing these products.
If you are interested in contributing your 2 cents on the topic, let us know firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, maybe we should talk about what a Smart Home is made up of and how that fits in with the IoT (Internet of Things). In our world it is not just some app that turns on a light or a TV. The words "smart" and "automation" are key. The system must have a brain and be able to make stuff happen without human intervention. In order to do that, the brain must communicate using some standard language — like wifi, z-wave, homeplug, IP to name a few — or a combination thereof. To be truely smart, the system should be able to speak several languages so that it can control devices from other manufacturers. That can be tricky.
So, how do we humans communicate with the home brain? That's where the apps come in. There needs to be some sort of interface and software for us to use to program and communicate with the brain. Popular interfaces include smartphones, tablets, PC's, dedicated controllers and in its most primitive form – remote controls. Typically we humans need to either use the services of an expert or adventure ourselves to use the software to program what we want our smart home to do when we push buttons. Or maybe we want things to happen at certain times of the day — or when a sensor detects action such as motion or temperature. Sound complicated? Yes it can be — but good software and interface design can help a lot.
Now we need to talk about the IoT. The sensors and devices that make our home smart are the Things. Sensors can detect temperature, light levels, motion, sound — you name it. Eyes, ears, nose, tastebuds, skin. Sensors are everywhere and in a smart home we use them to "feel" whats going on so the home can take some action. So they communicate their feelings to the brain just like we do.
Based on what the sensors tell the brain — it decides on actions to take based an what we programmed it to do. But it needs IoT things to do this — lights, appliances, doors, furnaces, home theaters — fingers, toes, arms, legs. This is where it can get expensive. You will probably need to buy new arms and legs that will communicate with the home brain in order for the whole system to do anything at all.
So far we have talked about what we need to "Automate" the smart home. We can leave it at that and have a huge amount of fun controlling stuff — or — take the last step and really bring in the smarts. That means the home brain needs to be able to learn about it's body and its surroundings so that it can make better decisions and take actions that we didn't just program it to do. How can we make that happen?
A true Smart Home can make decisions based on your past actions and lifestyle. In other words it can learn how you like things to be and "Make it so". The home brain usually does this by tapping into a "cloud" of knowledge and data. Algoryithms then analyze the sensors (inputs) and the data (knowledge) to decide if and when an action is needed to make your smart home do what it thinks you would want it to do.
Today's Automated Home can contain any or all of the above — and should be able to evolve as time and technology grows and changes.
Bottom line — if someone tries to sell you a phone app to control your home for $5.99 — think again. A command without a purpose or action is not much good to anyone.
Speaking of evolution — let's get to know some of the folks involved in building systems in the Smart Home arena and see where that leads for future articles. Eventually we will build a nice table of companies, products and features to use as a library of the market.
Here is a comparison table so you can see what these systems offer at a glance.
Latest update 12/15/15 – added 1 more interview below
Smart Home Interviews
Features include a 7” Touchscreen with a built-in panel camera, 6 built-in wireless radios with no external antennas, Z-Wave and Zigbee for home control and smart home devices, multiple languages in one SKU, two-way voice, siren, an SD Card slot, 24-hour lithium-ion battery, and interactive services powered by Alarm.com.
Simply Automated – Millard Schewe
Any products that can output an RS-232 serial string can utilize UPB devices. In fact there is a software tool, the “UPB Command Wizard”, to help write UPB serial strings (i.e. drivers).
Insteon uses a dual-band signal, or mesh network, which communicates to devices simultaneously via radio waves and a home’s existing electrical wiring.
Once the Neurio Sensor is installed on an electrical panel, it sends the data via WiFi to the secure cloud where the smart algorithms identify the unique power pattern by each device in real-time to tell whether a specific appliance is in use or off, and how much energy it consumes.
Currently LifeSmart communicates with IKAIR through Cloud protocol, and communicates with SONOS & Phillips hue through LAN protocol
Once connected the app then uses our cloud system to connect you to your home from anywhere in the world.
D-Link Systems – Gil Ines
A majority of our Connected Home products are Wi-Fi based so they work with any Wi-Fi home network.
Fantem Oomi – Colin Marshall
For set-up we use NFC technology. This makes setting-up and expanding an Oomi system incredibly easy, as a user simply has to tap the controller against the accessory to connect it to the system.
OKIDOKEYS – Brian Boston
OKIDOKEYS devices allow you to lock and unlock home doors, garage doors or gates with any smartphones, cell phones and secure smart keys
Smartenit Inc.- Al Choperena
One distinguishing feature of our company’s offering is that there is no subscription fee, service fee, or system installation requirement for using the hardware or connection capability.
Wink – Brett Worthington
The Wink Hub consolidates existing protocols into one so that whether or not the smart thermostat you have your eye on runs on Zigbee or Bluetooth LE doesn't matter.
If you would like your system included here please send an email to email@example.com.