You’ve probably heard about the smart home for several years now, but it’s only recently that this concept of housing seems to have finally found the way for significant development.
What is a smart home? A smart home is a home that incorporates advanced automation systems in order to offer those who live inside the ability to monitor and control various functions, such as temperature control, the opening and closing of doors and windows, or even controlling appliances such as the refrigerator, washing machine, and TV – all without the need to physically operate the devices and interacting with them remotely through a wireless connection.
How does a smart home work?
The operation of a smart home is based on the use of a home network. Generally, it’s a wireless network (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or RFID) that allows multiple devices to be connected to each other through an appropriate app (developed and made available by the manufacturers of smart devices) that work as an administrative console. In this way, from anywhere in your home or office – or anywhere else, you can select – thanks to your smartphone or tablet – the most appropriate washing program on your washing machine or adjust the heat – or even display video from your surveillance system.
What awaits us in the next 5 years?
Deloitte estimates in a recent study that by 2022, there could be nearly 500 smart devices connected to a smart home: from coffee machines to lawn irrigation sensors. An important contribution to this development will be offered by IoT (Internet of Things), the ability of physical objects to use the Internet to communicate and share information about their condition and process real-time data collected by sensors to perform “smart” actions.
According to the research company Berg Insight, when it comes to the smart home, it’s necessary to distinguish between the North American and European markets. The North American market had about 13 million smart homes in 2015, compared to about 5 million in Europe. However, the number of smart homes is expected to grow substantially and by 2020, it is estimated that there will be 46.2 million smart homes in North America and 44.9 million smart homes in Europe.
Alongside the implementation of remotely controlled thermostats, security systems, lighting and entertainment, a real smart home must also be aligned to everyday appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, and washing machines. This new generation of equipment promises, according to the manufacturers, not just a remote management via an app, but also the ability to generate cost savings: the smart fridge will optimize the consumption of food (for example, informing users about food nearing the expiration date). Washing machines and dishwashers will get the best washing results with the most efficient use of water. And thanks to sensors on pots and pans, your oven will be able to adjust the power by reducing the waste of electric energy or gas and the risk of burning the food if we forget it on the stove.
How much does a smart home cost?
One of the main obstacles to the development of the smart home seems to be currently the cost of smart devices. In a recent survey by Deloitte in the UK, 48% of respondents said that smart device costs are still too high, while 26% said that current technology needs to evolve further before considering the purchase of a smart device.
For obvious reasons, the cost of an intelligent appliance is higher than the cost of a traditional appliance. Those who want to make their own home “smart” must be ready to pay almost double for an intelligent refrigerator or washing machine compared to the same appliance in the “classic” sense. Spending that kind of money is not really within the reach of everyone. Unless, of course, you’re Bill Gates.
What are the current security risks with smart home devices?
Even though a smart home can be a great way to improve the way we live in the future, there are still some problems to be solved. Since the first Internet-connected devices began flooding the market, vulnerabilities became obvious. It’s now possible for professional hackers to gain access to Internet connected television sets in order to spy on the occupant of the house. With this ability it’s possible to create a motion profile and use this information to plan a burglary. One of the other challenges of smart homes as they currently exist is that different manufacturers use different protocols and standards that are not compatible with each other. This is why users might find themselves connecting to multiple networks and often having to use different, and sometimes open and unprotected protocols, which must be made secure by the user.
If you’re an early adopter and manage to bring together all your internet connected devices and your smart house under one single interface, you can face even more problems. A single and simple failure in one of the parts in the system or a hacking attack could make your life really miserable. In a worst case scenario, nothing would function and it’s possible you won’t be able to enter your own house. In this instance, data protection is a very important matter. So if you want to protect yourself from somebody accessing your house or manipulate your devices, you must frequently change passwords and keep them secure at all times.
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