Home automation began in the 80’s, with the onset of the X10 set of protocols. Since then, the world of smart homes, and related technology, has seen rapid innovative development. The current automation scenario runs largely on the shoulders of IR (infra red) remote interfaces, involving the use of actual remotes. With the advent of the Internet of Things, these remotes are now being replaced by apps on smartphones and tablets, which act as remotes and can connect to your device via the cloud low frequency connectivity protocols.
There exists in many people’s minds, the notion that remote interfacing is the ultimate sophistication for smart homes. The reality of home automation is however, much more compelling. The upcoming voice control systems and advanced array of sensor technologies, are literal steps into the future. And guess what? With products such as Amazon’s Alexa, that future exists now. But there lies an even higher evolution beyond these, one that will change the way we interact with our smart homes.
Here are the 3 essential types– or generations, as we’d like to call them–of home automation, which span our present and venture towards the future:
All the mainstream devices in home automation, as well as most of our perceptions, lie within the first generation of smart home technology. Flexible wireless protocol technologies such as ZigBee, Z Wave and Insteon lie at the heart of most modern smart homes. These protocol services enable us to take control of our smart home devices and appliances remotely, through our smartphones, tablets or even physical remote controls.
There’s a common misconception in the minds of smart home owners and others alike, that remote technology is about as good as it can get at this point. What we don’t realise is that there already exist devices such as Amazon Echo, that are enabled with software like Alexa. Alexa is a voice control system that shifts your smart home control from the tips of your fingers to the tip of your tongue. Being relatively new, Alexa is only able to handle relatively basic tasks such as dimming the lights, controlling appliances, playing music, and web searches. Owing to the popularity of the software however, many manufacturers are making their devices functionally compatible with Alexa.
When it comes to total home automation control, softwares such as Alexa aren’t capable enough to compete with the complex functions that conventional remote-based softwares can accomplish. That scenario is fast changing. Companies like Volkswagen have announced that they will integrate Alexa into their cars, enabling us to control home appliances, security, etc. This means that you will be able to operate your smart home while driving your car using voice command, which is much safer than using your phone to do the same. Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg, an indication that the sophistication of home automation is far more advanced than mere remote controllers.
Sensors are a crucial element of any home automation environment. They are the enablers of all kinds of energy savings as well as conveniences that you enjoy in your smart home. Until now, sensor technology had been limited to dynamic interaction between physical factors, working with five basic parameters: motion, water flow, temperature, light and weather. Now however, things are changing, as there emerges a whole new level of home automation through sensor technology.
The latest advancements in sensor technology innovation have led to the creation of a whole new, sixth parameter: the presence sensor. These devices are similar to motion sensors in their approach, but for one small distinction. They the user, an emitter, whose signal is received and recognized by the hub. Presence sensors stay on your person at all times, and are much more sensitive than motion sensors that are fitted in devices. Since this sensor moves with you, the response time of your devices (such as lights) is far more efficient.
Samsung has recently launched the presence sensor as part of its SmartThings range, and has effectively opened a whole new set of possibilities for home automation. Presence sensors can also serve as trackers, helping you to keep an eye on your loved ones. Wondering if your child’s back from school? Just ask the SmartThings app on your phone and it’ll relay the location of the sensor, telling you exactly where your child is.
The true future of home automation, as well as global technological innovation, lies in the hands of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning. Speaking strictly about smart homes however, the possibilities of AI are seemingly endless. Imagine having your household run by a software that works as per your requirements! When machine learning meets IoT device technology, we’re left with truly remarkable machines that are able to make our lives better based on their own intuition.
Small vestiges of the coming changes are already visible today, as there are a few AI and machine learning-based devices available in the home automation market. Take the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner for instance. Using a combination of advanced navigation capabilities and dirt detection sensors, this robot helper keeps your home clean. And what’s more, you don’t need to monitor it at all time. Just set a schedule for it to follow, and voila! Seems too good to be true? Well it isn’t. See for yourself:
Let the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner do all your work for you!
Just like Roomba for cleaning, there is the Rovio robot security webcam, which interacts with your home the same way. Other examples of machine learning include smart facial recognition in home security, as brought to you by the Nest IQ indoor camera. You should keep in mind however that these technologies are quite new, which makes them quite expensive.
The current-age smart home tech may be dominated by remote interfacing. But as you have now seen, there exist far more sophisticated technologies than infrared. To know more about the different types of home automation technologies, do give us a call and we’ll be happy to help!