Smart home solutions are still evolving. Here's your introduction to what they can do, the different standards, and why Bluetooth is different.
The big winner in technology 2017 was voice. Voice has been capable of pairing with lights and digital devices for some time, but now it's taking hold in real daily life.
Amazon reportedly has over 5,000 people working on Alexa, and this number is expected to grow. With over 10 million Alexa devices already sold, the world is becoming voice-powered very quickly. This also means the average household is making strides toward the elusive ‘Smart Home’ even now.
With all the hype and also the actual workforce power and money going into these products, why aren't smart home solutions more powerful? To answer that we first need to back.
A Smart Home is equipped with sensors that enable devices to be controlled remotely and digitally. Lights, doors, windows, televisions, coffee pots, and anything else can be digitalized with sensors to make it remotely accessible or automated.
In 2018, the smart home will still be a work in a progress. There are several smart home and home automation solutions but they are often a single answer to a single problem rather than a complete home system. You may have automated entry access, your door working in congruence with an app or sensor. Your lights may be voice-controlled. You can turn on your coffee pot via app the moment you wake up. But these are all bits and pieces that need to be unified to create something deeply functional and future-ready.
Current smart home solutions often include smart and voice-activated:
Smart home automation solutions rely on different standards for wireless communication. Each of these options bring different possibilities and fulfil different purposes. However, they are also developing, meaning what was once true may not be true now or in the future. Here's some popular examples you may know.
There are more and more new names entering this space, but perhaps the most interesting development is the release of Bluetooth Mesh. Bluetooth SIG, the group behind the standard, is aiming to make Bluetooth the center of numerous future solutions, and by adding Mesh Bluetooth is now a much stronger long-term competitor. Bluetooth 5 already lengthened the standard's range 400%, weakening one of the few considerable "cons" of Bluetooth in smart home solutions.
The current smart home solution market is more of a marathon than a race, and Bluetooth's ubiquity makes it perfect for upcoming solutions. No need to invest in several different kinds of tools, standards, and methods.
With the removal of the iPhone headphone jack and the mysterious iOS control center buttons that don’t turn off Bluetooth, it looks like smart phone developers are also pushing Bluetooth. This could propel Bluetooth into the center of consumer wireless communications—smart home included.
The key is sensors. However, there are two basic ways to power smart home and home automation solutions.
First, smart appliances. By purchasing equipment specifically made to be smart and connected, home owners know exactly what they’re getting from the moment they buy. You purchase lights or a microwave you know will be controlled via app. This kind of equipment is now somewhat notorious for high price tags and an inability to speak to one another. While each item is smart and connected, that doesn’t necessarily power a centralized system.
The second option is to add sensors to an existing house. This makes sense for those who don’t want to replace all of their existing equipment simply to make it digitalized. Sensors and smart outlets give the smart home results without pricey dedicated gadgets. For solutions like automated entry access and digitalized security, this is a quick fix. For example, some smart locks can pair with an app to add instant security.
You have a digital thermostat. So how does that equate to better temperature in your home? Interestingly, the idea behind these automation solutions is not only simple, they’re easy to play with. Using conditional statements, you can create just about anything.
For example, the free IFTTT service (If This Then That) uses conditional statements to create automated action. If you receive a text, your lights turn blue. If you exit a room, the lights turn off. End-user smart home owners will likely not see the technical side of this equation, but it will become ingrained as a method of automating processes.
Perhaps most exciting about this is the ability for users to create their own custom scenarios. You can even create your own applet on ifttt.com. Instead of being locked in to just a handful of options, seemingly endless customizable pairings will make the smart home endlessly useful.
On top of existing solutions getting smarter and more affordable, we can also expect new solutions. These will go beyond the obvious smart home automation solutions and show home owners what they didn’t know they needed from technology. The key problem with the home isn’t that it needs lights that are automated. Home owners don’t need to know when the microwave is on. The real problems are much more nuanced.
What do home owners really want? They have basic needs.
The future smart home must succeed in providing solutions to these real needs.
According to Statista, the smart home technology household penetration is only 1.6%. That's a relatively low number considering the options available. However, this is expected to make the jump to 5.4% by 2022.
Accompanied by a CAGR of 27.5% from 2017 to 2022, it’s clear the transformation from piecemeal gimmicks to complete solution is within grasp.
Telling a voice assistant to play your favorite podcast or turn on the lights still sounds vaguely gimmicky. But this slow shift will have effects far beyond time saved turning on and off lights.
Much like the new generation learning to swipe screens and interact directly with technology, the next step will not only be simply telling Alexa to turn on your podcast but for this to be the norm. The number of children’s apps for smart home systems and voice assistants (including those from Sesame Street and Spongebob) speak to the very clear and unavoidable path to the complete smart home.
From gamification in the home to time and space-appropriate advertising, the smart home will be about making home owner's feel more comfortable, secure, and in control. As these solutions grow, so will the importance of a strong, reliable standard like Bluetooth at its core.