Trends

Smart Home: Intelligent solutions in your own home

More and more companies are working to make their products "smarter" by connecting them to the internet. This applies to all industries and sectors. Everywhere, the installation of chips and connection possibilities with a WLAN are being considered. IoT can also be used in one's own four walls: The term "smart home" covers those devices and installations that are important for the networking of a private household. 

The term "Internet of Things" (IoT) is used to describe this trend, which is no longer entirely new. Similar to how people connect via the internet, devices can increasingly be linked virtually and "talk" to each other. Modern kitchen machines, for example, take over cooking recipes from corresponding internet offers, according to which they then work more or less "independently". The cook only has to add the ingredients. 

This development is also making its way into industry. Production processes that use intelligent network connections to become more efficient and better are summarised under the keyword "Industry 4.0". For example, it is conceivable at some point that production machines will communicate independently with the machines that manufacture their production materials and place their "orders".

One consequence of these developments will be that the number of participants in the Worldwide Web will increase explosively - and with it the number of possible applications.

Smart technology at home

In your own four walls, the following areas are at the core of the topic:

  • Basic supply (heating, electricity, water)
  • Consumer electronics (video, audio)
  • Security (burglary protection, damage reporting, monitoring of persons in need of care or children)
  • Home electrics (control of lights, irrigation systems, blinds, etc.)
  • Intelligent kitchen (refrigerator, cooker, food processor)

In addition to increasing security, the goal is to make one's home more efficient, economical and comfortable. 

The principle according to which smart homes work is always the same: the respective end device that is to be used "smartly" needs a connection to the internet in order to send and receive data. In addition, the switch that operates the device in the conventional way is replaced or supplemented by a so-called "actor", i.e. an internet-compatible switch that can be activated by voice or application control. If both are given, the status of the device can be viewed and changed via the network - usually by means of an app. 

The advantages of such a solution are obvious:

1. location independence

The app can be operated from anywhere in the world. For example, it is possible to control the light or heating remotely and thus heat up your own four walls before returning from a trip.

2. security

Sensors or cameras can be used to monitor the house or flat during the absence of its occupants. In this way, for example, moisture can be detected at an early stage and water damage can be prevented.

3. consumption monitoring

In the past, it was usually only possible to obtain an overview of the consumption of electricity, gas and water via the bill. With a modern smart home installation, the associated app usually shows a variety of statistics and overview graphics from which consumption can be read in detail. This simplifies the control considerably.

Smart individual technology instead of intelligent solution packages 

Overall, it makes sense in any case to think about (at least partially) equipping a flat or house "smartly". Unfortunately, however, it is by no means the case that you can buy "a package smart home" anywhere. There are no "off the peg" solutions, each individual function usually stands on its own and must be adapted to the specific device situation. This means that anyone who wants to purchase Smart Home solutions must first familiarise themselves with the subject. 

Whether Smart Home is worthwhile and which options are available depends first of all very much on the individual living situation: Old or new building? Do you own your own house or rent a flat? Good internet supply or little bandwidth? All this is decisive for the use of intelligent technology in one's own home. 

The challenge of old buildings

In older existing properties, you often find devices that do not provide for a WLAN connection - such as an older central heating system. In order to nevertheless obtain a smart heating system, either additional installations must be carried out on the boiler or all radiator thermostats or room sensors must be replaced. Both are possible, but are associated with costs and effort. Another challenge: not every installation company is sufficiently well informed about the subject. It may therefore be necessary to involve another company, which must coordinate with the existing maintenance company.

Advantages of a new building

If you live in a new building, the situation is different: Modern heating systems usually have a WLAN connection. This can be easily activated. This makes it much easier and cheaper to connect to smart solutions. It is often enough to download a corresponding app onto your mobile phone. 

The situation is similar for heating in all other areas: Home electrics, roller shutter control, kitchen appliances - smart use is usually possible without much effort if the devices and installations are newer.

Integrating smart home solutions from the very beginning

When planning the construction of a house or flat, it is possible to integrate smart home solutions right from the start. But even in this case, there are a number of things to consider: smart home electrics, for example, can quickly run into five figures and only make sense if the builder and electrician are familiar with the subject and plan according to specific needs. Otherwise, you overload your new home with tablets, apps and controls that are not really used and unnecessarily complicate everyday life. 

In addition to costs and complexity, the number of trades involved in smart homes is also an issue: theoretically, electricians, garage fitters, door and window fitters, heating engineers, plumbers, kitchen fitters, sun blind manufacturers and TV specialists can provide "smart" solutions. Future owners should therefore know in advance what is important to them and which areas should be equipped with smart home functions. Almost always, additional costs will be incurred, which have to be decided in terms of cost-benefit. 

Once the smart dream home is finished, it's time to register and set up all the apps. This is by no means trivial either, because every manufacturer offers its own software. Even if you only decide on the essential smart home solutions, you will quickly find yourself with a number of apps. 

For a classic home, the following function applications come into question:

  • Garage door opening/closing
  • Heating control
  • Raising/lowering blinds or shutters
  • Door camera
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Basement humidity sensors
  • Lighting control (often different apps for individual lamps)
  • Cooker, fridge, food processor
  • Sound system control etc.

All in all, Smart Home is a sensible but (currently still) somewhat complicated topic. For Smart Home, it is essential that the electrical system and the IT network are interlinked; the same applies to the heating system and the electrical system. The developments in the field of IoT make it necessary for the trades involved in construction to deal intensively with the topic and to network with each other. Only then will smart homes become an interesting proposition for everyone in the future.

Text: Sabine Haas