Everything is getting smart – even your home and all the appliances inside it.
This is an updated article that was published in 2015.
We now live a world where possibilities are endless. Technologies that we normally see in science fiction movies are 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, Google, and even Amazon 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.
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.
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 ecosystem won’t always work with Apple’s HomeKit – despite both platforms being open source.
Take my case, for example, earlier this year I got some LIFX smart bulbs that I placed on my living room. Using Apple’s HomeKit, I managed to add a schedule and various automated tasks on different scenarios that I can think of. Then I thought of getting another pair – but considering that each bulb costs around 250 AED, it’s not a cheap investment.
I then opted to buy another less expensive option – but after purchasing I found out that the bulbs are only compatible with Google and Amazon – not Apple. Hence, I had to download another app but can only use voice commands through Google when turning off the lights.
Yes, it’s complicated and yes, it’s my choice to do it. But these are just some of the cons that you face when turning your home into a smart one. The payoff is great though, and the convenience of having something automated makes you feel like you’re living in the future.
A big concern though is the probability of being hacked since most of the system relies on the cloud which you need to connect online. Stronger security protocols are already in place that’s for sure, but judging from past instances there is always a chance that the inevitable may happen. Privacy is also another concern, but at a time when everything is on social media, taking your information off the interwebs is a pretty difficult task.
The concept of a smart home is already 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 smart homes? Share us your thoughts in the comments section below!