Smart solutions for smarter living

Smart solutions for smarter living

Smart solutions have become the buzzword in modern day living. Be it environment, managing multinational corporations, banks, institutions, waste...

Smart solutions have become the buzzword in modern day living. Be it environment, managing multinational corporations, banks, institutions, waste management, or even homes, people are increasingly embracing new intelligence systems controlled by computers.

These efficient, reliable, cost-effective solutions with a promise of enhancing the quality of life are now becoming an instant hit among tech-savvy generation and people with high disposable incomes alike. People are now increasingly relying on smarter technologies that cater to their safety, security, entertainment, connectivity and sustainability. Integrating the above core aspects with aesthetics that reflect the identities of owners, the concept of Smart Homes is now catching up with people.

With time, a range of automated home products like-surveillance cameras, smart door locking, fire detection, electronically enabled lightning systems have become integral to modern day living. Our lives are awash with new technologies, which is silently revolutionising contemporary living.

Be it smart televisions with internet access on-demand video and music, voice or gesture recognition, smart mobiles with the world at our fingertips, smart lighting which can adjust the lighting as per daylight availability, smart thermostats integrated with Wi-Fis, technology is changing the way we lead our lives. Now pet care with automated feeders and timed irrigation system for watering the plants and lawns have reduced hassles of home-management.

Home automation, X10, the precursor for the present day Smart Homes concept was first envisaged and telecast in the Jetson’s cartoon show in 1975. Ever since attempts were made to realise the dream of home automation for great comfort, convenience and energy saving. In the X10, radio frequency bursts were sent into the home wiring system to the respective devices and their time-bound operations were controlled. But the X10 system was not fully reliable as it wasn’t free from the radio-band noise.

Moreover, X10 had a one-way functioning and there was no way they could send messages to a centralised system. Overcoming these glitches soon a two-way X10 communication system was developed. By 2005, a home automation company Insteon developed a technology that integrated electric wiring with wireless signals.

Nest Lab, a company founded in 2010 developed first smart product Nest Learning Thermostat, made a grand entry into home automation sector in 2011. It was soon acquired by Alphabet of Google. In the following year, SmartThings Inc, which entered markets with a campaign for developing smart home systems was bought by Samsung in 2014.

Now nearly, all major companies Amazon, Google and Apple have entered the sector of smart home products with their ravishing platforms, Amazon Echo, Apple Home Kit and Google Home. Now the smart voice-activated systems like Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant with interconnected thermostats, other smart appliances have made our lives simpler and convenient.

Previously, owners interested in home automation had most of the smart systems installed during construction. But now even old houses can be retrofitted with smart technologies. Increasingly people with high disposable incomes, technology savvy and aspiring for a luxurious living are shifting to smarter technologies. Interestingly, certain affordable smart technologies like surveillance systems, fire alarms and door locking mechanisms are now becoming part of the average household.

The extent of penetrance and acceptance of these technologies is increasing at an immense rate making them an integral of day to day living. Besides, with a growing urge to monitor homes when miles away on their mobile phones, the market size of smart home products is increasing. Smart appliances with sensors are no longer considered luxury. With numerous start-up companies across the world actively promoting and designing various apps for managing homes from distance, the appetite for smart homes is increasing at an astonishing rate.

Aside, the voice-operated devices, in India, robots for cleaning homes are becoming more popular. A range of smart robots capable of cleaning dust from even under sofas, beds are now out in markets. Some of the cleaning robots – Neato, iRobot Roomba, Milagrow Aguabot and Exilient ReadyMaid are available online. Even app-controlled smart air purifiers with a pre-filter and HEPA (High-efficiency Particulate Arrestance) have become useful additions to home automation systems.

The automation systems with a range of benefits are now enabling homeowners to manage and monitor the functioning of various appliances remotely. These homes are proven to be highly useful for elders and senior citizens who need round the clock nursing and care. With a facility to change preferences as per owner’s needs and requirements, it offers immense comfort and convenience. However, the enormous complexity of operating these devices can be exasperating at times.

Another insurmountable hurdle in managing and coordinating the functioning of various smart appliances is interoperability or compatibility. If various home systems fail to complement each other in working, it might lead to chaos. This would, in turn, emerge as the main bottleneck in seamless functioning and developing a centralised platform.

Another constant threat associated with smart technologies is hacking. Burglars can crack the security systems, potentially turn off the alarms, lights and can break into houses. They can even breach the home network of the owners and can exfiltrate data. Malfunctioning of surveillance cameras has been the most common experience for people in gated communities. Data privacy shared on home devices is often a major concern.

The appliance manufacturers would collect the data from consumers which is often used to improve services, but then personal details can be misused. Immense care must be taken while installing AI (Artificial Intelligence) operated voice-assistants like Alexa and Google since many of them come with disabled default privacy features. “The apps are not as user-friendly and simple as we believed. Further, there are some issues with an accent,” lamented Sangeeta Reddy, Director, Medical Industry.

In Indian scenario, smart homes are not yet popular due to poor supporting infrastructure. “Frequent power outages, voltage fluctuations and thunderstorms have been a cause of immense concern for us. Indeed, we are more worried about energy availability instead of energy optimisation,” says, Naveen Kumar, project manager of a software company.

Moreover, installation of smart home appliances needs meticulous planning to enjoy the unparalleled comfort. In a mature eco-system, smart homes are proven to be energy efficient. Although they are cost-intensive, the one-time long-term investment can ensure safety and security of children and elderly people. In this age of widespread internet penetration, raising income levels and government promoting Digital India, smart homes are worth a try.

By: Ramaharitha Pusarla

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