Due to the rapid development in the Internet of Things (IoT), we are experiencing ever-increasing ‘connectivity’ in our daily life, especially in our homes, where we spend the majority of our time. According to Tech UK, the connected home is the largest IoT segment with seven billion connected devices in 2018, making up 26% of the IoT market. Bringing greater convenience and productivity, connected homes have huge potential to revolutionise the way we live.
- The number of connected devices in homes is predicted to grow rapidly from the current level of 10-20 to more than 35 by 2020, according to Intel;
- With more connected devices in homes, a more integrated and efficient approach is required to help manage all devices and relevant apps from a variety of suppliers;
- The advancements in wireless network and automation technology are enabling home-used devices to be better connected and controlled smartly.
Connected homes in practice
According to Tech UK, a connected home is defined as one in which our everyday devices and sensors connect, communicate, transfer data and increasingly take autonomous action. The maturity levels of connected homes range from the basic ‘connected’ to the more advanced ‘autonomous’.
At the basic level of connected homes, modern home devices are connected and communicate with each other via wireless network protocols. Enabled by the home network, mobile apps are commonly used to control and monitor connected home devices remotely. For instance, this could include monitoring and adjusting indoor environmental conditions like lighting and temperature, as well as controlling the on/off of home appliances like TV and washing machine. From a broader perspective, the connected home should also include connecting all the apps and the data generated during the use of different devices, ideally into a single portal. In this way, the occupants could easily manage all the connected home devices on a one-stop interface.
The concept of ‘Smart home’ or ‘home automaton’ often refers to the more advanced ‘autonomous’ level of the connected home. A smart home moves the idea of connected home a step further, aiming to create a home with the capability to run seamlessly all on its own, with less or even without any human instruction. To achieve the autonomous level, automation or AI technologies are key to enabling the control system to automatically execute any pre-set order or make adjustments based on its constant tracking of human behaviours. For instance, a smart home system could automatically switch on/off any relevant device according to the occupancy of different spaces, and it could also change the indoor environmental conditions (e.g. brightness and humidity) constantly based on the track records of different occupants’ habits at different times.
Benefits and impact
Enabled by the advancement in IoT, automation and AI technologies, connected homes could improve our indoor living quality from various aspects, including indoor entertainment, energy saving, health, security and control, and so on. With the support of data analytic and aggregation technologies, the data collected from different devices could help build a comprehensive profile of the occupants’ living style and the state of the property. This would allow occupants to be more informed of their living quality, and meanwhile, the anonymised data could feed into the wider urban network and help build a district/city profile to inform city planning and decision-making.
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