Introduction to Market competition

Smart homes have only recently become accessible to the public for private consumption. Even with factors such as high installation cost, many people are choosing to adopt certain smart home equipment and functionalities. Competition between leading companies in the smart homes industry is fierce with companies trying to gain market share. As to be expected, 4 of the top 10 global companies are of US origin. However, that does not discount the contribution of the various European players, which include one Irish company; Ingersoll-Rand, PLC. (marketsandmarkets.com1).

The opportunities in the industry are widespread meaning there are many different areas where companies can compete. These include energy saving, assisted living for the elderly, home health systems, entertainment facilities, automated household appliances and government regulation. In this blog post I will discuss some of the largest US companies in the industry.

The combined growth of the market is expected to be huge with predicted revenues reaching 51.77 billion dollars by 2020 (marketsandmarkets.com 1). As previously mentioned, North America holds the largest portion of the market with the greatest adoption of smart homes. Revenues in this segment of the market are expected to reach 22.4 billion by 2020; just over 43% of the total global revenues for this industry (marketsandmarkets.com 2). The leading areas of investment in this sector are energy efficient equipment, the unification and automation of electronic devices, technology to help increase the life of the aging population and government incentive programmes.

Emerson Electric is a technology and engineering company that, among other things, produces smart home technologies ranging from climate control systems, to smart refrigerators. It is one of the largest companies in the smart homes industry. According to their financial reports from last year, Emerson Electric had reported earnings of 404 million dollars in their ‘Commercial and Residential Solutions’ sector (Emerson 1) with a further 716 million dollars in their ‘Climate Technologies’ sector (Emerson 2).

Emerson are at the forefront of smart home innovation, recently just announcing their new ‘Sensi Thermostat’ in January of this year. The ‘Sensi Thermostat’ will allow users to control their thermostat features remotely from their smart phone, tablet or PC (Emerson 3). One of the main selling points of this product for homeowners, apart from its easy installation and convenient Wi-Fi control, is that it retails at a price that is comparable to most of the standard thermostats currently on the market. This is just an example of one of the companies leading technologies.

Creston Electric is another US company that develops smart home technologies and specialises in home and workplace automation. The Crestron 3-Series is an integrated building management platform, capable of unifying the various technologies in the home and allowing them to be operated from a single system; everything from your lighting, music, blinds, security and heating (Creston 1).

These are just two examples of leading technology companies who are dominating in their areas of the industry.

In my next blog post on this topic I will be examining some of the leading European companies in this industry and discuss further the potential growth of the Smart Homes Industry worldwide.

Eva O’Leary

 

 

Bibliography:

Marketsandmarkets.com 1, accessed on 15/02/2014 http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/smart-homes-and-assisted-living-advanced-technologie-and-global-market-121.html

Marketsandmarkets.com 2, accessed on 15/02/2014 http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/americas-smart-homes-market-1292.html

Emerson 1, accessed on 16/02/2014 http://www.emerson.com/en-US/about/investor-relations/emerson-businesses/Pages/Commercial-Residential-Solutions.aspx

Emerson 2, accessed on 16/02/2014 http://www.emerson.com/en-US/about/investor-relations/emerson-businesses/Pages/Climate-Technologies.aspx

Emerson 3, accessed on 16/02/2014 http://www.emersonclimate.com/en-us/About_Us/News/News_Releases/Pages/emerson-announces-new-wi-fi-enabled-thermostat.aspx

Creston 1, accessed on 16/02/2014 http://www.crestron.com/markets/home_theater_and_whole_house_home_automation/

Big Brother is watching you

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“As technological revolutions increase their social impact, ethical problems increase.”Moor’s observation has several implications for the Smart Home as we know it. While autonomous technology is developing quickly, that is, technology that is able to ‘adapt, learn and make decisions’ (The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2009), our society is faced with several social, legal and ethical issues. This blog is aimed at providing an overview and some implications faced by those issues.

Probably the clearest way to visualize the impacts of Smart Home technology on society or the people living within a Smart Home is by considering the case of elderly assistance or medical supervision via technology at your home place. In order for technology to act as a “Guardian Angel” it has to be ‘built and programmed to monitor and learn the daily behavior of the inhabitants in order to perform context analysis and to detect suspicious deviations from what can be considered to be normal […]’ (Zagler et al., 2008:3). Collected data might end up in the wrong hands and bring with it the threat of extreme surveillance (“Big Brother”) right into your home. This poses a significant issue on ethics as we need to consider: Who has the right over the data and decides what should happen to it? Would it be the subject, the monitoring person/system or the companies that run and maintain the technologies? (The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2009)

Smart Home technology is often seen as a means to automise a significant portion of daily decisions to be made in the home environment.Mäyär&Vadén (2004) call this substitution of human interaction by self-sustained technological implementations the “strong proactivity of technology”. While the technological revolution has not yet allowed for the complete substitutions of humans in the loop, they pose significant emphasis on the “weak proactivity of technology”, indicating that the real problems up to date lie in communication and control issues of technology which asks for the minimization and more effective supervision, while creating a comfortable awareness of the options of control and personalization.

A good example in this case may be a smart fridge: We literally transfer the control over our home supplies to a machine. While it may currently be able to tell you which food has gone off, or what you are running out of, it will soon be able to make orders for you based on your past behaviour and preferences. This may be seen as convenience, but for many it rather indicates a loss of control and autonomy in their home environment. While decisions and procedures are being standardized it may also come with a significant loss of personalization and control. The smart fridge may be easy to manually reprogram but the concept raises two further ethical questions: 1) Does the automation process lead to passivity and social isolation of the inhabitant?  2) May there be situations in which the machine may actually be better able to decide what should be done and be more trusted than an individual, meaning, should there be technologies that cannot be changed by individual influence?

Bierhoff et al. (2009) argue, that the objective of smart technology is to ‘provide tools and services that empower and enable people themselves to address their social, rational, and emotional needs’, supporting the view that shared control over systems is the only way to keep engaged. This social issue is supported by The Royal Academy of Engineering (2009), pointing out the possible social isolation faced especially by vulnerable individuals, as increased technical support may reduce social interactions being necessary. On the other hand it may be seen as enabling technology and an increase of autonomy from other people. This controversy needs to be addressed by ethical research and should not just be left to engineers to be decided upon. Another issue raised by The Royal Academy of Engineering, is the fact that “tricking” may occur. In such instances individuals may be tricked into believing of having social interactions by using familiar voices for smart technology that make them seem as “artificial companions”. As can be seen here and was indicated earlier, smart technologies require transparency and must be understood by its users in order to prevent such social issues from occurring.

What about technologies that cannot be changed by individual influence? The value of autonomous systems can be seen especially in situations where quick decisions are needed (The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2009). Situations like this may be similar to certain learned behaviours individuals develop in order to get out of dangerous situations (take for example a mother taking the child’s hand when crossing the road). Such behaviours are automated and not thought about. For the Smart Home, this may be the security system. Though, what happens in highly complex situations where human experience and judgment may be superior to programmed solutions? Should such automated technologies be able to be shut down?  While failures of technologies are not possible to be extinct entirely, should legislation stop the development of such technologies if their failure rate is minor compared to the one of individuals?

This brings me to my last point regarding the issues arising from Smart Home technology: Legislation. The fast advances in technological developments generate significant policy vacuums, whether they arise from data use and protection or insurance of autonomous technologies that need to be dealt with (The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2009). The first point was already pointed out at the very beginning of this essay, to better grasp the second however, let us consider Smart Cars. Driverless cars are currently developed by companies such as Google. While they seem to have fewer accidents than normal cars, what actually happens if the technology fails? Who will be accountable? Is it the ‘designer, manufacturer, programmer or user’ (The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2009:2)? The government and legislation are so far doing a poor job in being up to date with such important decisions and pose significant insecurity on users which may also decrease the use and adaption of smart technologies as the unproven status represents and unacceptable risk for its users: “Better a known devil than an unknown god” (Zagler et al., 2008:2).

In order to tackle some of the issues mentioned, ethical design of technology is of great importance. According to Zagler et al. (2008), data collection and processing should be carried out locally, and only be sent on if significant deviations of normal behaviour are analysed. They also encourage the design of technology that 1) is transparent, 2) makes the user the master and 3) fights laziness (relating to the notion of empowerment and passiveness). Another important solution pointed out by The Royal Academy of Engineering (2009) is the focus on the specific tasks that needs to be monitored/doneindicating that  onlydata actually needed should be collected. For example: In the medical service of a Smart Home, it may be enough to know that a person fell down and does not get up again, rather than knowing who the exact person is. Technology therefore should focus on the ability to extract the silhouette of a person while saving his/her identity.

Concluding, it is important to see that scientist, ethicists and legislation should all be working on this technological evolution together in order to ensure its ethical and most beneficial employment.

T.S.

References:

Bierhoff,  vanBerlo, Abascal, Allen, Civit, Fellbaum, Kemppainen, Bitterman, Freitas, Kristiansson (2009), ‘Towards and Inclusive Future: Impact and wider potential of information and communication technologies’, accessed: 13.02.2014, available at: http://www.tiresias.org/cost219ter/inclusive_future/inclusive_future_ch3.htm

Mäyär&Vadén (2004), ‘Ethics of Living Technology: Design and Principles of Proactive Home Environment’, accessed: 13.02.2014, available at: http://etjanst.hb.se/bhs/ith/2-7/fmtv.pdf

The Royal Academy of Engineering (2009), ‘Autonomous Systems: Social, Legal and Ethical Issues’, accessed: 15.02.2014, available at: http://www.raeng.org.uk/societygov/engineeringethics/pdf/Autonomous_Systems_Report_09.pdf

Zagler, Panek and Rauhala, (2008), ‘Ambient Assisted Living Systems – The Conflicts between Technology, Acceptance, Ethics and Privacy’, Vienna University of Technology, Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings 07462, Assisted Living Systems – Models, Architectures and Engineering Approaches

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

Introduction

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life” (Arp, 1947).

This sentiment, expressed by the early twentieth-century abstract artist Jean Arp, remains as contentious today as it has since man-kind’s earliest dalliances with the technological world. What has changed is the degree to which technology has come to permeate all aspects of modern life. The development of the “smart home” typifies this fact. Broadly speaking, the smart home refers to a group of electronic devices which utilise modern communications and sensor technology in order to automate a wide variety of home tasks which would otherwise need to be performed manually (Edmonds and Chandler, 2013). These devices vary in nature, from self-adjusting thermostats (based on user preferences) to fridges with monitors attached recommending recipes (Samsung, 2014) to homes equipped with 247 medical monitoring technologies(Marsh, 2001). Indeed, almost all aspects of domestic life are on the verge of being outsourced to smart appliances. These technologies may lead to a dramatic change in the very nature of the private domain and as such require public scrutiny.
This blog aims to provide just that. To this end, we will offer a critical analysis on the many potential ramifications of smart homes. In order to do so we will provide regular updates on various appliances, both existing and in development. These posts will outline the functionalities of such devises and provide an overview of the smart-home market as a whole. This is necessary in order to facilitate and contextualise further discussion. For the sake of clarity an impartial, descriptive approach will be adopted. A brief history of the development of this industry will also be provided for the same purposes.
Our blog series will apply a critical approach to this subject, examining the value it has to offer. In today’s world there is a tendency to label those who question supposed technological “advances” pejoratively as luddites. However it is our contention that only a fool mindlessly celebrates technological change without considering its usefulness and the ethical issues it may raise. For instance smart homes raise legitimate privacy concerns. In a world in which we are already constantly monitored, with large amounts of data available about us all, is it really necessary to further cede the privacy of our homes? To some this is of little concern, while for others view it as an eerie warning of a dystopian Orwellian future to follow.
We will also consider the ramifications of increasingly relying on technology to carry out our daily tasks. The potential dangers of this loss of independence will be discussed. We will question why it is necessary that humans further distance themselves from the world by removing the need to ever leave our homes. The consequences of this “cocooning” effect on the individual will be examined (Rouse, 2005). The blog will also examine the purpose of these technological innovations, considering what the end goal of eliminating all daily chores is.
In order to provide balance to the discussion the potential benefits of these technologies will be explored. Particular attention will be paid to the environmentally friendly energy consumption opportunities that will be provided. Also, with increasingly ageing populations throughout the western world the medical, security and convenience (depending on your perspective) improvements offered by smart home technology will be discussed.
In conclusion, this blog has the ambitious aim of elucidating the benefits and negative ramifications of what may be the most significant wave of technological innovations of the next decade. However, more than this, it is our goal to use smart home technologies as a vehicle to explore the intricacies of humanity’s relationship with technology in the early twenty-first century.

Alan Power

Bibliography
Finest quotes (2012). Finestquotes. Available at http://www.finestquotes.com/author_quotes-author-Jean%20Arp-page-0.htm (Accessed 3 February 2014)
Molly Edmonds and Nathan Chandler (2013). Howstuffworks. Available at http://home.howstuffworks.com/smart-home3.htm ( Accessed 3 February 2014)
Samsung (2014). Samsung. Available at http://www.samsung.com/us/topic/apps-on-your-fridge ( Accessed 3 February 2014)
Jeffrey Marsh (2001). Rochester. Available at http://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V64N3/feature2.html (Accessed 3 February 2014)
Margaret Rouse (2005). Techtarget. Available at http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/cocooning ( Accessed 3 February 2014)