Smart Appliances

Is the smart home for everyone?

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Let’s face it: Smart homes cost. Either you are super rich and can afford for the super fancy all included solution such as offered by Siemens for heating, lighting and security and let somebody connect this to your home entertainment and to your smart kitchen appliances…. Or, well – you try to figure it out yourself. You buy some bits and bobs here and there to not squeeze your wallet completely. Let’s say you have managed to get your hand on the NEST thermostat, the Samsung Fridge and vacuum cleaner and the LG oven and TV. Well – did you think about how they would work together? Is there an app that integrates them all and would let you use them inter-connectedly? Are the routers in your house strong enough to actually reach their wireless connections? Are your devices secure and cannot be hacked?

Reality shows: It is not that easy at the moment to turn your home into a smart home if you don’t have the adequate funds to get it done professionally. Samsung and LG are releasing a series of smart appliances this year and featured them at the CES earlier in January. But one issue is striking: Ones you have bought an appliance you are locked into their company. The appliances do not work with each other as they do not work with the same software. Your Samsung smart fridge doesn’t have the same features as the LG smart fridge and certainly won’t tell the LG smart oven on what temperature to preheat the oven ones you have decided for a recipe suggested by your fridge based on the ingredients in it. Your Samsung washing machine on the other hand, won’t tell your LG TV that the wash is ready. It’s those inter-connected services that allow us to derive real value from smart homes (at least in the current state of their development).

I think a few challenges have become clear: Smart homes are expensive, smart homes are difficult to integrate, smart home devices don’t work with each other unless they are from the same company, and technical difficulties may turn our lives into hell if the initial improvement of our day to day activities turns out to be time consuming and annoying because it never works the way it is supposed to work (eg.Software updates may disrupt device compatibility).

This is much related to the actual smart home apps that allow us to control all those devices from our smart home. The problem starts already with the fact, that often all devices have their own apps depending largely on the manufacturers. As connection to apps and inter-connectedness increases the possibility for hackers to access those devices,many device makers haven’t opened up their systems to home controllers. Now, as you may imagine, having a different app to control your heating, your lighting, yourTV and your security system – that’s not really easy. There are some attempts to provide integrated apps, such as Smartthings or Revolv. While Smartthings provides good software that builds commands through specific needs and moments, it is not wireless and the router needs to be centrally located to reach all the appliances and it turns out to be difficult to sniff out compatible smart devices. Revolv seems to be the exact opposite: it has good sensing abilities and with more radio transmitters than the competition it was able to deliver on all the tasks asked for, but it wasn’t able to understand conditions like time and day. So overall: Experience shows, that either there are technical difficulties, of the app not recognizing appliances, or the settings do not allow for enough customization. Samsung and LG may have at least some competitive advantage in this regard: firstly, they offer significant interconnectedness with their devices and their own software protocols should be able to recognize their own appliances. In terms of their usefulness..well as they aren’t on the market yet, it is difficult to judge their ability to customize your specific needs. Though, even they have to deal with some very real challenges: Software develops quickly and updates continuously, while technological devices are often bought for several years at the time. How will smart appliances manufacturers integrate this problem? Or have they thought about it?  Basically: Smart homes aren’t smart enough just yet to significantly ease our lives. They don’t recognize our moods and know what music we would like to hear, they don’t know our appetite in that specific moment and well – they probably don’t work the way we planned anyways. They are trying, but currently they are still too dumb – and expensive.

Another important point to consider, are families. If you are single – well, there is exactly one way the home should function for you to like it. But in a family, people may well have different ideas of when they’d like the light to turn on in the morning or at what temperature the house should be heated. How are smart homes going to adapt to those circumstances?

Consider it yourself: Are smart homes worth it for you just yet?

 

T.S.

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Smart Metering In The Home

Imagine the day you can come home and instead of your girlfriend or wife saying hi to you first, it’s ‘Siri’. ‘Siri’ is the iphone digital speaker that answers your questions. This is the way the world is going. Your home will now become more efficient and smart by talking back to you. This is beginning right now as we speak with smart meters being trialled and rolled out globally.

In the UK, “more than half of all households with smart meters are saving money on their energy bills” (Smithers, 2014).  This will be in every home in the U.K by 2020 (Smithers, 2014). This is just a simple change from a manual person coming to read your meter, to the box digitally transferring your data to the company. This is a fantastic change as it allows consumers to understand their consumption and allow them to save money on needlessly wasted electricity in real time. Each house has a small digital monitor which tells you how much electricity is being used at the moment and by what.  This has obviously helped households hugely in saving money. 64% of participants in the U.K have seen saving up to £75 a year, with 7% seeing saving of over £100 a year (Smithers, 2014). This is phenomenal savings.  People noticed how efficient the fridge or the tumble dryer is and so can make changes if they are not up to standard (Smithers, 2014). This will help businesses and manufactures as they compete to further improve their appliances use and technology. This is the beginning of the future.

    britishgas_smartmeter                                 pic_smart_metering_diagram

In Ireland, The commission on energy regulation announced the roll out for smart meters to be between 2014 and 2019 (King, 2012). This is great news although slightly behind the U.Ks expansion. This will cost the state €1 billion but the commission sees the state increasing the return by €229 million after a 20 year period (King, 2012). They also see many non quantifiable benefits like better informed consumers, better standard of living and better integration with renewable energy (King, 2012).

In the United States, they are further down the road of smart meters and it seems one potential dangerous issue has developed. The level of information that is gained from the data is not being managed correctly (Carson, 2011). Companies are giving consumers general insights about their usage and keeping the real gems for themselves, in order to maintain profit (Carson, 2011). This will need to be regulated by the State.

This is the beginning of the internet of things. Where every device is interconnected but there is also worrying signs about data collection and lack of regulation in this area. This will need to be monitored and the ethics of this will be discussed in a later blog post. Stay tuned for my next blog post on what kind of appliances are being turned smart appliances and by whom.

Keelan Bourke

Bibliography:

Carson, P. (2011, October 7). After smart meters, whats next. Retrieved from Intelligent Utility: http://www.intelligentutility.com/article/11/10/after-smart-meters-whats-next&utm_medium=eNL&utm_campaign=IU_DAILY2&utm_term=Original-Member

King, C. (2012, July 12). Ireland to roll out smart meters by 2019. Retrieved from Emeter: http://www.emeter.com/smart-grid-watch/2012/ireland-to-roll-out-smart-meters-by-2019/

Smithers, R. (2014, January 24). A third of smart meter customers are saving up to £75 a year. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/24/smart-meter-british-gas-energy-bills

 

Energy Saving In The Home Part 1

The concept of the smart home and energy saving may seem like a contradiction to the average Joe blogs, the smart home encompasses the idea of using far more energy through now electrifying previously manual chores and events; from your thermostat to a talking toilet that will analyze your excrement.

Energy saving on the other hand may be viewed as the tree hugger that lives in an environmentally friendly mud shack and may result to essentially in humane methods to survive.

 These however are just stereotypes and in reality they can work together and have a mutual benefit. As we live today we are wasting an abundance of energy in our homes. We are not analyzing where our energy is going and what we need it for most importantly. If we essentially use appliances that consume a higher amount of energy at different times of the day and even during different weather conditions we could reduce our carbon footprint massively.

 Energy Elephant is a Trinity based green business idea that views how energy is produced in Ireland 4 times an hour. It then relays the information and tells us through a very simple Traffic light system; Red, Orange and Green what times are most environmentally friendly, i.e how much energy is being produced by means of the wind. On the 30th of January this is how it looked.This means that 16% of our energy at this moment in time is being produced through wind energy in Ireland. Reducing the need to burn fossil fuels, import fuels and damage our atmosphere.

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By just shifting our mentality and using technology in this simple form can allow us all to reduce our carbon footprint.

 The idea of a smart home is in the name, it is smart. It can analyze what is happening in the home, track the users habits and routine and tailor the usage of various appliances that is most effective for the user but most important, using the resources available most efficiently. Through one Google search “what is a smart home?” It tells me it is “a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by smartphone or computer”.  This is an extremely simplistic view and also very narrow-minded. There is a lot more in my opinion to smart homes, it is commencing the Internet of things. With the growing advances in technology on a daily basis down to Nano technology we have to look at smart homes with a far bigger scope than just the physical attributes to our homes.

 We see in the “Energy Saving Through Smart Home” it is an idea of integrating the various services so that they can work in tandem to make your home an easier place to live and operate within.

At it’s simplest it means that appliances will be able to communicate with each other, collect data, analyze it and make decisions that otherwise a human would have to make manually. Throughout my blog series I will analyze the applications on the market at the moment and those that are currently in development that will enhance the concept of the smart home and eventually be part of all of our lives.

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 We look forward to talking about Nest, recently acquired by Google for $3.2 billion. Googles sees this as the way forward but what could Google want with a company that sells Digital Thermostats? Until next time, Siri I’m Home followers.

David Henry

 

Bibliography:

1)     Energy saving through Smart Home, Eng. Inji Ibrahim Attia Prof. Dr. HamdyAshour available at http://www.infomesr.org/attachments/053.pdf

 

2)      Google buys Nest http://www.droid-life.com/2014/02/06/googles-3-2-billion-purchase-of-nest-cleared-by-ftc/

 

3)     Energy Elephant available at http://www.energyelephant.com

 

Smart Home definition available at https://www.google.ie/search?q=smart+home+definition&rlz=1C5CHFA_enIE503IE503&oq=smart+home+definition&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.4549j0j4&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=91&ie=UTF-8