Smart home technology, or home automation or domotics, is undoubtedly the next big thing. In this technology, all the devices at home are connected by LAN or the Internet. It allows energy savings, convenience, security, and improved aesthetics of the living space.
In today’s homes, the home automation system needs to combine lighting, climate, home entertainment, and safety on a single platform. The best part is one can control all of this from their smartphones or tablets. When all devices are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), they can be accessed, monitored, and controlled remotely. This technology is now being used in Smart Cities hoping that the systems are monitored more efficiently.
Home automation has been there since the 1900s. Labour-saving machines like washing machines, water heaters, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and dryers have been a part of our daily lives. Most of these home appliances then were electric or gas-powered.
Nikola Tesla, in the year 1898, developed the first remote control which used radio waves to send instructions to a toy boat. These became the fundamentals for the Internet of Things solutions we use today. The Kitchen Computer and the Microcontroller were inventions of the mid-20th century. In the year 1998, the INTEGER Millennium House was one such “Smart Home”. With the development of Internet technology, home automation became more affordable.
Role of IoT
Talking of the Internet of Things, computing devices and machinery are connected to a system with unique identifiers (UIDs) to transfer data over a network. This technology does not require any human-to-human interaction or at times, even human-to-computer communication.
Over the years, with the addition of technologies like real-time analytics, embedded systems, and wireless sensor networks, the Internet of Things solutions are now available to the consumers. As discussed earlier, all these devices can be controlled together using a smartphone or even smart speakers (like Alexa). So now you need to ask the voice-controlled speaker to play your favourite song or command the coffee maker to brew your favourite kind of coffee. You don’t need to move. Automation works even when you are not in the house. Doesn’t this make life much easier?
Let’s now find out where all home automation can be used. The answer is: almost everywhere! All kitchen appliances can be controlled. Now imagine when you enter the home after a long day’s work and your food is automatically prepared and served to you. You can even control and restrict your pet’s and baby’s movements through your home automation system. You need not worry about the baby falling off the bed while you are in the other room.
Home automation, in a similar way, can be used for the care of elderly and differently-abled people. Home automation is extensively used in Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) to locate people and objects where GPS and other satellite technologies don’t work.
Other than this, home automation systems are widely connected to the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, lighting systems, and security cameras. Air quality controllers, smoke detectors, and, sprinklers, all can be connected to the home automation system. You just need a good internet connection and a smartphone to begin.
While home automation makes our lives much more comfortable, there are other advantages to this technology as well. It is energy-saving. You can pre-program the thermostat to control the temperature accordingly. It also adapts to your behaviour; therefore, there’s no wastage of energy as such. If you forget to turn off the lights, it will turn off on its own. The most significant advantage, however, is the security part. When you are away, and if someone tries to break in, you get alerted. Homes with elderly, differently-abled members should have this feature.
While we have discussed the advantages enough, there are certain disadvantages to home automation as well. The system can get relatively complex, and its installation might get complicated. Some appliances may not even be compatible. You might need to invest in a central platform technology to be able to control all appliances from one place.
Otherwise, you may need to log in from different locations to control various devices. This makes the process more cumbersome. And, of course, smart homes are not affordable for all. However, with the increase in demand, there is a vast scope of innovation in this technology. In the coming years, scientists might redesign the system to suit people from all economic backgrounds.
In the current scenario, where Covid-19 is redefining how people interact, a technology like home automation, that does not require human interaction, certainly seems like a way forward. Machines would take up human jobs in the long run. Robots might replace our cooks, house-helps, and security guards.
There might be elevators without buttons to minimize contact. To avoid cross-contamination, automated entrances and natural ventilation controlling systems may be preferred. It can be assumed that Smart Homes may become the “New Normal” in the near future.
- Alok Hada
- The author is Director, Anusha Technovision Pvt Ltd.