At the Mention of ‘Smart Home’, what comes first to the mind?

  • A home full of IoT devices communicating over a network?
  • A futuristic home with an operating system, Artificial Intelligence (AI) software applications, and smart user interfaces?
  • A digital-looking Architectural Expression?
  • A fully automated home that can do all sorts of wow wonderful kinds of stuff, remotely-accessible, and full of security devices?

Let’s find out.

END USER NEEDS/PAINS

Technological Integrations are commonly referred to as solutions. This is because the primary aim is to address the end-users needs. These needs vary from person to person. Therefore, Technology Solutions in smart homes are personalized and bespoke.

INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. 

That simply summarises the approach to Technological Integrations in Smart Buildings.

The various systems function collectively to address the users’ needs.

That is why it’s called integration — not interfacing.

This is achieved via an Open-Source approach and Shared Database.

MILLENIAL EXPRESSION

Millennials are a generation of connected people. Millennials are used to the simplified user interface. Millennials express themselves through the social media. Staying trendy is a primary need for the millennials. Thus, the design and installation of Technology Systems in a Smart Building can only reflect the lifestyle of the users.

ENERGY/COMFORT SYSTEMS

A primary advantage of Technology Integrations in buildings is the ability to monitor the systems. Reports and feedbacks are gotten on their performance. The metrics aid in improvement and optimal maintenance of the systems.This is particularly applicable to comfort systems because they account for the highest power consumption in buildings.

Smart sensors are usually placed in the components to track such parameters as humidity level, heat, smoke etc.To maintain a green environment, therefore, it is imperative that the design of the comfort systems be conservative and sustainable.

HVAC SYSTEMS

This system conditions the indoor environment to ensure user comfort. Thus, is critical to the overall user experience.

A major design consideration here is the efficiency of the components.

An efficient chiller, for example, extracts hot air from a room, recycles it and brings cool air back to the room for optimal comfort — while conserving energy.

LIGHTING SYSTEM

“That which is seen is much more remembered than that which is heard”.

A great indoor lighting design is an awesome experience. An efficient lighting design should complement the natural lighting. Use of efficient light fixtures reduces power consumption. Programming of the system helps ensure no light is ‘on’ when/where is not needed.

Smart shades are also an integral part of the system. 

ELECTRIC POWER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Every active equipment/device in a Smart Home is a ‘load’.

It is the function of the Electric Power Management System (EPMS) to monitor and control the overall power consumption of a Smart Home. An EPMS is typically a part of the Building Management Suite. With the use of Smart Power Strips and Power-Over-Ethernet (POE), the EPMS is able to trigger actions whenever a certain condition is met.

ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS

We are an entertainment-driven age. Some years back, the commonplace entertainment sources of today were a purview of the commercial space. Today, we carry our primary source of entertainment with us everywhere we go — the smartphone.We flow with the trends. Home entertainment keeps getting more immersive and affordable. From the high-fidelity audio to high-res video, to Virtual Reality and immersive gaming experience.The Smart home indeed becomes a hub of entertainment — which is a primary need of the end users.

AUDIO-VISUAL SOLUTIONS

Audio-visual solutions are one of the earliest technological integrations into buildings. Entertainment applications of audio-visuals in the home include whole-house (audio and/or video) distribution, the hi-fi setup, the media room setup etc.

An important factor in AV solutions is the user control interface, which makes it more fun to use.

THE HOME CINEMA

A few years ago, to get an immersive cinematic experience, one has to visit a commercial cinema. That is no more the case today. The Dedicated Home Cinema has become the holy grail of entertainment in modern smart homes.

The design of a home cinema takes into account the audio, the video, the lighting, the comfort, and the aesthetic features — holistically — to achieve an exceptional experience for the end-user.

VR AND GAMING SOLUTIONS

Virtual Reality has become the new reality.

This is an emerging trend, and obviously the next generation of entertainment. A VR experience could be enjoyed in a dedicated space; such as the home cinema to make the experience even more explosive. Games are also played in VR now, immersing you in the world…

SECURITY SYSTEMS

A common reason many people are yet to embrace Smart Homes — and all its promises — is security concerns. 

If most of the devices in a home are addressable, it would make a great target for cybercriminals. This is in addition to the physical security concerns every home faces.

The physical security challenges are addressed by such systems as the Surveillance System and the Access Control System.

Cybersecurity is subject to the underlying network infrastructure.

  • Which firewall technology is in place?
  • How many devices are accessible from outside the firewall/router? etc.

ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEM

A Smart Home could actually be your companion. She knows your face. She knows your fingerprints. She’d recognize your voice instantly. She even knows when you leave home and when you return. You could communicate her on your way back…She is your faithful ally and can only allow you in. She achieves this through the Access Control System.

Without your permission, no access — a fail-secure system.

SURVEILLANCE/NOTIFICATION SYSTEMS

Because the Smart Home is your faithful companion, she’s a complement to your eyes too.

With strategically located cameras and lenses around the home, you’re able to have every niche in your home in view — without necessarily being at home. In the event of anything going wrong, you’re instantly notified. Thus, this extends to include the Fire Alarm and Notification System. This monitors every device, the duct-ways etc. for any anomaly; and triggers…

THE FIREWALL

Cybersecurity is a major concern for Smart Homes.

However, it should be noted that no matter how sophisticated your security, it cannot protect you from ‘trojans’ you introduce on the local side of the network. For example, copying in a corrupt file via a USB disk or flash drive.

Nonetheless, there are two major types of firewall implementations in smart homes: Packet Filtering and Network Address Translation (or a combination of both known as Port Forwarding).

COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

Communication is the grease that lubricates interpersonal relationships. Therefore, it is a fundamental need of end users. Communication can come oral — within or outside the building. Communication can also come written. Gone are the days of analog systems. 

All the communications systems found in a smart home are built on IP infrastructure. 

In most cases, the user interface is just a touchscreen — on the wall for example. Some solutions come as a combination of multiple applications. For example, an interface could serve both telephony and teleconference purposes.

DIGITAL SIGNAGE

Digital Signage is currently found mostly in the commercial scene. However, digital signage has a great potential to become a primary communication medium in a Smart Home — The Home Messenger.

Think about the wall beside your study table having a chat interface. You could place a voice or video call from that same wall, just like your WhatsApp messenger. Digital Signage could also serve a lot of other communication functions in a Smart Home.

IP TELEPHONY SYSTEM

IP telephony is simply a VoIP (Voice-Over-IP), and/or Video-Over-IP application. This utilizes the Local Area Network for one-one communication; thus it’s typically limited to the home. As earlier mentioned, this could be combined with the Digital Signage System — or even the Teleconference System.

Because IP Telephones are network applications, they can serve even more functions; such as accessing the internet, lighting control etc.

TELECONFERENCE SYSTEM

Just like Digital Signage, Teleconference is more common in the commercial space. However, a holistic smart home provides a complete living experience. Such applications as coordinating business meetings right from home entail a teleconference setup. This could be in the study or a dedicated space in the home. Typically, the teleconference device is not limited to conferencing. Business apps used by the end user can be installed on the device to enhance his business operations right from home.

MANAGEMENT/UTILITY SYSTEMS

All the technology systems in a smart home have databases that query each other via SQL (Structured Query Language).

Actionable information is gathered from these data for monitoring, maintenance, and preventative measures. Apart from the enterprise-level management, there is the day-to-day building level management. There are also some utilitarian systems like irrigation that fall under this category — because they need a constant operation. These activities are usually the responsibility of a dedicated Building Maintenance Personnel. Depending on the size of the building, he could also be the Facility Manager — or even the homeowner.

FACILITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Facility Management is the direct advantage of having an Integrated Technology System in a building.

This is an enterprise-level management.

It entails such activities as:

  • Asset Management;
  • Procurement Management;
  • Work Order Management;
  • Materials and Equipment Parts Management etc.

BUILDING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Unlike Facility Management, Building Management is a building-level management.

This system monitor and reports on the various technology systems in the building. This usually comes as a suite with dashboards for different aspects of the building maintenance. Such as energy, lighting, HVAC, Fire Alarm etc. Each with its own charts and graphical reports — mostly on a web interface.

HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

Health is a major pain/need of the end users.

This system synchronizes with the wearables and the smartphones of the end users to track their day-to-day activities.

For example, your smartwatch monitors your temperature, your smartphone monitors your walking distance, sleep pattern etc. The home assistant analyzes the information and advice the user on ways to make healthier choices.

LIFESTYLE SYSTEMS

The theme of this discussion is that Smart Homes have a Millennial Expression. 

There’s an underlying expression behind an iPhone — it enhances the trendy lifestyle of its users. Similarly, Smart Homes have the right tools to amplify the trendy lifestyle of its users.

  • Smart Homes helps the users stay connected with friends and wider network.
  • Smart Homes have intuitive control interfaces — such as wearables.
  • Smart Homes have Artificial Intelligence. Intelligent enough to recognize your voice, and execute simple commands from you.
  • Your Smart Home could be your reminder, your alarm — and serve many other simple utilitarian functions.

THE SOCIAL MEDIA

In the nearest future, each Smart Home User will have a unique social ID — just like the health ID.

This would serve as the overarching profile of every social media activity from the Smart Home user. The social ID is not fixed to a particular home and could be logged out if need be — in the case of temporary stay or relocation. With a high-level encryption, your social activities are stored in your unique profile.

WEARABLES AND SMART GADGETS

Wearables and peripheral devices are slowly, but gradually gaining mainstream acceptance — especially in the residential space. The convenience of issuing a voice command to your smartwatch, or watching a live match on your smart glasses is not just appealing, but also convenient.

However, care should be taken to ensure that such solutions as these are not ad hoc — a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) setup. This could end up a mishmash, causing more harm than good.

THE HOME ASSISTANT

The Millennial — perhaps the Jetson — age is all about convenience. The Smart Home has the right assistant.

  • Is it Amazon Alexa?
  • Is it Apple Siri?
  • Is it Google Assistant?

These are easily integrated into Smart Homes as functional home assistants.

THE CONTROL

The next question then is: “while we have all these assistants, do they really tie together all the technology systems?” I would say no.

The Smart Home Industry is yet to arrive at a concrete solution on a way-forward. From the side of the Home Technology Industry, you have such control systems as Control4, Crestron etc. From the side of the tech giants, you have such controls as Apple Home Kit, Amazon Smart Home System, Google Home etc.While this is quite normal, the bigger issue remains that these control systems are not integral to the building fabrication process.

There’s still a very thin divide between Technology Components of a Smart Home, and the Structural Components — both cannot operate in isolation of each other.

THE STANDALONE SOLUTIONS

Let’s compare a building with the laptop. It’s obvious there’s no hardware-software relationship between the building structure and the control system.The present-day control systems are still in detachment from the building structure. This can be termed standalone systems.

The quest is towards a Holistic Integration between the Control System and the Building Structure.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

While we’re on this quest towards a truly unified solution, it becomes apparent that Artificial Intelligence has a huge role to play.

  • This is the user interface.
  • This is the brain of the control system.
  • Through machine learning, the control system understands the end user better.
  • It records the preferences of the end user and gives a better user experience with the facility.

THE UNIFIED SOLUTIONS

The ultimate control system for a smart home is an operating system.

Smartphones have operating systems, PCs have operating systems.

A Holistic Smart Home ought to have an operating system. The various technology systems manufacturers develop software compliant with the operating system.

This entails an Integrated Approach towards building delivery while building design professionals increasingly embrace technology.

At Blaze, we offer three major services:

  1. BIM Software Training
  2. BIM Execution Planning
  3. Enterprise Integrations – e.g. BIM 360 Design Suite

If You need any of the services,

Place your request here.