Making your home a smarter one

May 31, 2015

Everything is getting smart – even your home and everything inside it.

We now live a world where possibilities are endless. Technologies that we normally see in science fiction movies is now a reality. As some home appliances become ‘smarter’, the prospect of a smart home isn’t that far away. We’ve seen instances of companies trying to launch a unified platform for a smart home before but it is only now that companies like Apple and Google have introduced this framework.

This Internet of Things (IoT) concept is a scenario that was mostly just proposed but is slowly gaining traction thanks to the support from the manufacturers and the community. It basically details how random objects, people and even animals are given identifiers that would enable them to instantly communicate with each other without having a one-on-one interaction.

But how exactly does a concept like home automation work? In the simplest terms, it means that everyday tasks like turning on the radio or the heater in the bathroom, or opening the TV to your favorite channel, even start brewing coffee on the coffee machine can all be executed automatically.

Imagine a scenario where you wake up – and your alarm clock can instantly talk to the coffee machine to start making coffee. Then as you walk to the bathroom the hot water is already running. After you take a shower, the TV or your radio can automatically turn on to your favorite station. When you leave, your door automatically locks and your security alarm system instantly turns on. Notice that all of those tasks usually require human intervention to operate – but everything was just automated.

It’s a prime example on how homes will be more ‘smarter’ in the future. It somehow eliminates those extra tasks that we need to do inside our homes. Companies such as Apple and Google have pledged support for home automation, with Apple announcing HomeKit and Google introducing Project Brillo.

Apple’s HomeKit was initially launched during the WWDC 2014 keynote last year and it introduced a framework that would allow developers to make home automation accessories that in turn could be powered by Siri. HomeKit can also help developers connect and help configure various accessories using the HomeKit API and enable software and hardware to communicate with each other.

Google’s Project Brillo was recently unveiled at the Google I/O 2015 keynote that utilizes a technology called Weave which would let enable compatible hardware to instantly talk to your device and the cloud. Its kernel is still based on Android, meaning that all current Android devices, including Android Wear smartwatches are compatible with Brillo.

These frameworks are impressive that’s for sure, but it is not without its flaws. Few realize that for you to enable a smart home, you may need to also replace existing appliances with new ones that add support for home automation. Compatibility is also a problem since every manufacturer would want to have their own platform which would further confound an already confusing market.

The complications also arise from the fact that some of this hardware is only compatible with one platform – so let’s say you buy a Nest thermostat that is made for Google’s Brillo will not exactly work with Apple’s HomeKit – despite both platforms being open source. With the added features for each type of hardware, it will also cost significantly more than the standard product. The Philips Hue lightbulbs for example will costs $199 each so let’s say you’d want to replace your home with these bulbs then you would likely have to shelve more than $1000 for about five of these.

Add to that the task of somehow programming how all these appliances will function to your liking, which as I’ve experience with my mother (who hates using touchscreen devices), is a seemingly difficult task.

The concept of a smart home is here, and with rapid encouragement spearheaded by top companies, it won’t be too long until we’d cease the need to use a key when opening our doors – only a faint ‘Good Evening’ greeting.

What’s your stance on home automation? Share us your thoughts in the comments section below!

by Victor
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff.