We have all heard of Smart homes, smart devices, IoT (Internet of things), etc. sometimes even interchangeably and chances are we are curious but confused or unconvinced about their necessity in our everyday lives.
If you look at the evolution of Smart home automation; it has come a long way from the gadgetry of the remote controlled lights or blinds, to devices which can be controlled remotely from any part of the world, to those equipped with monitors and sensors that can detect movement or environmental triggers and act automatically. But does having a bunch of such devices with multiple controls really make our homes Smart? After all isn’t the objective of Smart home automation, less hassle and more efficiency?
Smart home automation remains an overwhelming proposition for the customer with complicated set ups, multiple apps to control, incompatible devices, high entry costs and lack of understanding and awareness about the right solutions to adopt. This is where the Internet of Things is poised to change things as it allows for effective communication between ‘things’ like home appliances, cars, even clothes.
The consolidations in the industry and the low cost of embedded computing devices in IoT is paving the way for a less disparate and more connected ecosystem that aims to further reduce the human intervention required to carry out tasks.
For individuals, it means a home where all the smart devices are a part of a larger eco system and can ‘talk’ to each other and follow a specific set of instructions automatically. For example a smart hub which switches the lights and air conditioning on if it knows you’re home, or sounds the alarm if it knows you’re out (something referred to as an IFTTT ‘If This, Then That’ type command). This makes it much more useful for homeowners to invest their time, energies and money into Smart home automation.
For enterprises, it means valuable data directly from chips installed in home devices which can help them improve their products and services. For example, pinpointing the cause of a malfunction in your smart washing machine and immediately deploying parts or service personnel. This greatly improves the customer’s experience with these products.
With the Internet of Things developing into something real and of immense value to consumers as well as enterprises, the motivation to embed devices with smart chips is now higher than ever. As per Gartner, there are 8.4 billion connected things worldwide. Spending on endpoints and services will reach almost USD 2 trillion in 2017 and the global smart home market is expected to reach USD 121.73 billion by 2022. The investments made by top tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and closer to home, companies like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, in creating Smart home ecosystems, with exciting hardware and software product launches, are all impacting the way we perceive and buy smart devices.
Let’s look at how the Internet of Things will boost Smart homes:
- Increased Utility – IoT makes it easier to utilize the full potential of a smart device, making it more useful. The brain of the home automation system which controls how the devices talk to each other is where IoT comes in. And like your favorite browser, as more people use it the more intelligent it becomes, capable of predicting your needs based on past behavior and taking collective action. E.g. Amazon’s newly launched Echo Spot, which looks like a small alarm clock, has a wake up command that can be programmed to start a spate of morning activities like brewing your coffee or opening the blinds when you say ‘Good Morning’! A smart coffee machine suddenly sounds so much more appealing.
- Ease of Use – The one thing that bridges the gap between being useful to being in your home is the ease of use of the devices. Smart devices today come equipped with the latest technologies available such as voice recognition, motions sensors, environmental sensors, etc. They do not need an app as a primary interface and can be controlled easily by voice commands. They can be set up easily on the home Wi-Fi network. And one of the major concerns of compatibility between numerous devices is being mitigated to an extent by industry consolidations such as the Amazon-Cortana tie-up and others. Though admittedly there is still a way to go, these are all movements in the right direction for a hassle free & coordinated solution for the consumer.
- Affordability – Because of the ecosystems being created by the likes of Google and Amazon which allow manufacturers to build hardware and software around them, the startups and innovators get a huge boost. As the competition for a first mover advantage heats up amongst the top players, we can expect more product launches to meet all type of automation needs; from smaller affordable systems to full blown home automation solutions to meet all pocket sizes.
- Exclusivity – Just the way you have never considered booking your Uber from a desktop, similarly, there will be things you could do only on smart hubs, the fear of missing out on this technology and the potential it offers, will persuade late adopters into considering Smart home devices.
- And finally, Efficiency – There is no doubt that IoT can make our lives more efficient. Mundane or repetitive tasks like making coffee or feeding a pet can be easily automated. Also, in critical areas like home security or elderly care, home automation can be greatly useful in mitigating a disaster.
In conclusion, like the demand for smartphones was catalyzed by the ecosystems created by the likes of Android and IOS, IoT at home has evolved thanks to the ecosystems led by tech giants catering to mainstream audiences. With easy to use and easy to install, plug and play devices which seamlessly integrate with the existing home automation requirements of a user, IoT enables smart home manufacturers to provide a much richer experience for end users and has the potential to become not just a useful but a necessary part of their lives.