The rise of the Internet of Things and automated ‘smart home’ appliances has completely changed how we engage with technology and how devices impact and influence our lives. Joel Higgins, owner of British AV solutions specialist Kino, spells out how interoperability and customisation are the key to realising its full potential in the future
From utility apps that can tell us if we’re using too much energy, to security systems that can immediately alert the police to a break-in if we’re not home, and voice-activated media centres, connected devices are effectively running our homes better and more efficiently than we can.
Smart appliances don’t look much different from standard products but, in the background, they are constantly monitoring how our homes are working and alerting us to ways we can be more efficient.
Connected utility devices, for example, are now able to detect if your heating is too high for the time of year – or even the time of day – and can ask if you want to turn it down, helping you save energy and money.
Smart security systems are also revolutionising home protection. Completely connected systems can instantly alert the police to suspicious activity at your home, even sending you video footage and still images to your smartphone, no matter where you are in the world.
This removes the concern we have of leaving our homes, leaving us assured that our homes are protected by intelligent security.
Your digital housekeeper
As well as the security, utility and economic benefits of smart homes, connected devices are also making our home lives easier, and can be programmed to provide our creature comforts by learning how we interact with our homes.
We may be a few years away from our homes being able to predict our needs, but AI and analytics are certainly pushing us in that direction.
What they can do, is be programmed to carry out an unlimited number of tasks from a single command, either through voice control, or remotely using an app.
From running a bath as you drive home, to unlocking your front door, turning on the lights and turning the television to your regular channel when you park the car in the drive, smart homes are taking on the role of digital housekeepers.
These benefits may seem like a convenient novelty for most people, but the Internet of Things and smart homes are increasing independence for vulnerable people, like the elderly or those with a disability or physical impairment, to a level they have never experienced before.
If you are blind or partially sighted, you can now essentially run your entire home from a central point using voice commands.
Whether it’s turning on a television, or even changing it to a particular channel, to ordering your shopping through a connected digital assistant, and even setting your home alarm as you walk out the door, those living with any kind of disability are being given the chance to get parts of their lives back.
A customised connected home
While the technology behind home automation and connected devices have made great leaps in the past few years, there remain limitations to what these devices can do.
The biggest issue so far is that you can only integrate a certain number of devices into a control system, and there are only a limited number of control systems available.
As individual products, these devices offer tremendous benefits, but right now – for the most part – they can only work individually, because they all work on different systems and cannot be connected to each other.
This element of the ‘open or closed’ smart home is the next hurdle developers must overcome if they are to realise the full potential of this technology.
That potential will be realised when smart devices are opened to not just integrate with a control hub, but also with each other – allowing appliances to be integrated and controlled by the homeowner from a central place.
There is also the security aspect to consider when it comes to opening these devices up fully, and that is a serious issue developers are still working on.
There is still some way to go before automated smart homes become the norm, and we are still in the early days of the IoT as a home convenience.
But as technology continues to develop and products become ‘smart’ as standard, we may not be too far away from the time when our homes can run themselves better than we can.