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What Is A Smart Home: The Evolution Of “Smart” Homes

IoT solutions for the smart home are increasingly numerous in the homes of Indians, who choose them to improve comfort, promote energy savings, guarantee safety and have fun and facilitate user experiences. Let’s see together what a smart home is and its applications.

A house from the early twentieth century is conceptually similar to a cave or a stilt house: it is a place to shelter from the elements and carry out daily activities. 

Personalizing it meant embellishing it with rock paintings or paintings, straw beds or sofas, and furnishing it with valuable objects according to one’s taste. The big difference has been made by the machines that help us to do things (household appliances), drinking and running water, the use of electricity and heating/cooling, up to an escalation that has brought us first automation (home automation) and then the interconnected home (smart home). 

In the early 1960s, programmer Mary Allen Wilkes was the first person to have a personal computer at home, as she brought home a computer designed for biomedical laboratories. A few years later, an engineer from Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Jim Sutherland, brought home four devices weighing 350 kg each, visually similar to cabinets, which occupied two square meters and had a power of 3 kW. The devices were connected to TVs, stereos, keyboards and electronic clocks. 

Jim called the entire system Echo IV (Electronic Computing Home Operator) and marked the beginning of the concept of home automation. Sutherland was able to predict the near future: “Computers today can be programmed to perform important household chores, but when we consider what may happen 20 years from now, not even in our wildest dreams can we imagine what it will be able to make for us a version of ECHO 1987” . And today, when can we define a smart home? 

From The Domotic House To The Smart Home 

As in the case of a smart building, a smart home has some essential characteristics. A smart home is a connected home characterized by interconnected devices that communicate with each other thanks to the Internet and can also be managed remotely via smartphone or voice assistants. The smart home is, therefore:

  1. A house populated by a series of devices (belonging to the world of the Internet of Things or IoT) connected to the network and interconnected with each other, i.e. governed by specific applications and capable of exchanging data according to pre-established parameters.
  2. A house that is constantly “online,” i.e. connected to the Internet (to allow the interconnection of objects in the IoT) 

Domotics (also called home automation ) indicates all those technologies that allow you to create automation through a “central brain,” which is governed by algorithms. The brain controls the equipment in the house, from the shutters to the air conditioning system, from the cameras to the twilight. The smart home can therefore be disconnected from the network and does not need IoT objects.

In the domotic home, the automation worked because upstream, there was a project that allowed the connection, while in the smart home, thanks to the internet connection and the web, each piece of equipment is characterized by a specific operating system and specific applications. This means that individual components can be installed, even without an initial project, incrementally over time. Technology is evolving so that the basic design of the house does not hinder the “smart” leap. The important thing is that the devices are interoperable and secure, and the connection is strong and reliable. 

Why People Like The IoT So Much: Smart Home Applications 

Let’s analyze the data from various research conducted on smart homes. We see that security leads to a purchase of IoT cameras and sensors for doors and windows without however understanding that each of these objects if purchased “lightly” and with a “low cost,” becomes a possible logical vulnerability, i.e. a virtual door that gives access to the privacy and security of the same family that one would so much like to protect.

In second place in purchase motivations (and in constant growth), we find entertainment motivation, i.e. the search for a fun and out-of-the-ordinary experience to do ordinary things: listen to music or news, cook, manage appointments or do research online. In this context, we recall that voice assistants play a fundamental role in the interaction between man and technology. The first virtual assistant to arrive in Italy was Alexa, followed by Google Assistant and finally by Siri. 

To understand how much this technology is catching on, think that in 2021 Alexa counted more than 5 billion interactions with users and that today there are around 4,500 skills available, i.e. applications for smart speakers.  Among the reasons that push Italians to make their homes smart are comfort, healthiness and energy management.  Smart applications are highly appreciated for managing:

  1. Heating/air conditioning for the control of thermostats, boilers, or air conditioners adjustable both remotely and via an App
  2. intelligent lighting for switching on/off, dimming color or intensity via App or with your voice
  3. Quality of the air and environments through devices that monitor various parameters (for example, CO2, VOC, NOX, the intensity of electromagnetic fields, radon…) and act accordingly through audiovisual signals or by purifying the air. These are the sensors for monitoring the thermo-hygrometric parameters (temperature and humidity) and the weather stations that provide data via WiFi.
  4. Monitoring of energy consumption through systems that allow you to view the subdivision of consumption between the various users and to manage their programmed switching off and on.

The Future Of The Smart Home 

Faced with the increase in longevity, one of the areas of greatest interest for portable technological applications is caring, i.e. the care of children, older people and people with disabilities.

A house interconnected to wearable devices worn by H24 can support the caregiver (who is usually a next of kin, basically a daughter/wife), the attending physician (through telemedicine systems), and the patient himself (through self-monitoring and sending signals in case of illness).

ALSO READ: IoT, Will The Cloud Become A Standard In Our Homes? 

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