Smart home automation -Vinsol

When I bought my refrigerator from a retail outlet in 2016, I did not pay much attention to the seemingly insignificant ‘smart devices’ corner at that time because that portion of the display was little but priced out of my range.

Just a handful of Android/iOS compatible smart devices I could see – a fridge, three LED TV sets and a refrigerator to be exact.

Not anymore!

Visit an outlet and you’ll know. These are mainstream products now.

Thanks to the little WiFi router in your house, by which multiple appliances can now be connected as the era of home automation begins. The idea to control every equipment from your smartphone is just a part of an emerging concept called — Internet of Things, or simply IoT.

So, what exactly is the Internet of things!

To put in simple words, Internet of Things is a blanket term for all the household gadgets and appliances that are connected to each other, especially using the internet. Presently, a lot of manufacturers are embedding technology (sensors) with home equipment that can receive automated operational commands (signals) from a connected device, such as a controller hub, and your phone.

Today, my TV runs Android. Smart air conditioners are next on my bucket list – that I would be able to switch on from my car while I drive back home.

WiFi door locks, lighting in your house, oven, wearable fitness devices, and even a coffee maker!

In 2019, most utility appliances are being designed with connectivity options which can be operated with a single remote — your smartphone.

Manufacturers have already started to integrate wireless tech with:

  • Washing machines
  • Lighting
  • Security cameras & intruder alert setup
  • Central heating system
  • Self-charging robots mopping your floor, and whatnot!

How about I say this – these devices are just the ‘basic’ ones.

When you are done thinking about connecting household objects like a refrigerator, intruder alarm, or vacuuming robots with the internet, please know that these things are already out there in the market.

And, if I start explaining how you can open your garage door from your phone using WiFi,

OR wirelessly adjust the light hue in your living room with a 16-million-colours-smart-LED-lights setup, etc.,

I would be BORING myself writing all of that after going through the Amazon catalog, which you can do as well.

What I am trying to say is, that buying a set of WiFi-enabled LED bulbs would often require you to open up an app on your phone, so does a smart air conditioner.

These days, it’s about automating them by using the internet.

It’s about making an IoT-based Home Automation* system work for you!

*Home Automation, Domotics or Smart Home are the umbrella terms to link several home amenities with the internet and run those using high-tech automation algorithms, i.e., without human intervention.

Remember The Key Difference: I am talking about a system that can be customized to monitor and operate multiple appliances and functionalities in your home or office, requiring very little to none of your involvement.

Thus, I am here to share my research about next-gen home automation devices built upon the Internet of Things and relevant technologies.

I would discuss only the realistic ones available in the market. Let’s leave the sci-fi stuff for another day.

At present, IoT automation products would soon penetrate not only the common households, but also alter the way a doctor assists the patients, transform the farming industry in the far-flung villages, and even reshape the transport infrastructure altogether. 

In this article, however, I will stick with IoT prospects for a house like mine or yours.

How does a state-of-the-art home automation system work?

The goal is to bring everything at your fingertips and automate the domestic gadgets to run with minimal use of power.

An elaborate IoT setup consists of three parts:

A. IoT Specific Hardware

To build a smart home, the hardware components can be subdivided into:

1. Control Hub: Also known as Gateway, the centralized control hub is a device that is connected to the network router. It is the brain of an IoT automation system.

All the sensors (hundreds of them) embedded in smart appliances talk to the Gateway. It means that a lot of sensors installed in your house send and receive the operating commands (data) through the Gateway.

2. Sensors: You would be surprised to know that there could be thousands of IoT sensors present in smart appliances or installed throughout the house according to customized requirements. The following types of sensors are common for most home automation applications:

  • Light (Lux) sensors
  • Temperature sensors
  • Infrared sensors
  • Voice/Sound sensors
  • Motion sensors and video surveillance
  • Vibrations sensors
  • Ultrasonic sensors
  • Air composition, smoke and fire sensors
  • Pressure and humidity sensors
  • Water sensors

When a sensory switch is connected to a centralized control hub in a house, the control application (software) can execute the commands itself and operate the devices based on pre-set instructions.

B. Wireless Connectivity & Cloud Network

It’s how all the devices (sensors, gateways) communicate with each other and store the reference data on the cloud. 

The signals between controllers and smart sensors are wirelessly exchanged via a communication protocol installed in a home. 

The cloud network gives you the flexibility to access the data from anywhere, and then send the operational commands to the hub from any remote location whenever necessary.

The purpose of a cloud-connected gateway in any IoT based Home Automation systems is to:

i. collect the data from all the sensors for cloud synchronization

ii. automatically run multiple devices by sending signals to the connected sensor/switches

iii. send instant notifications to the user for unwanted events observed, act on user-guided directions in real-time, and even take remedial actions itself

C. Control Application/Firmware

At times, the need to program a customized firmware comes into effect while designing the blueprint of a ‘smart home’ by using adaptable computers like Raspberry Pi.

If you are already aware of different frameworks to develop mobile and web applications, then it would be straightforward for you to understand that there are several dedicated frameworks available to develop a bespoke Home Automation Application, i.e., control software for connected home products.

In case you are interested to know more about building a tailor-made automation application to connect multiple home equipment, then being an app development agency we can provide you with professional assistance. 

Once you get in touch with us, we would also explain how introducing Blockchain in an IoT Home Automation installation is an incredible feat, especially for enhanced security and privacy.

By now, I hope you have an idea of this triad – Sensors, Hub, Software; to build an automated IoT system.

Understanding the latest innovations in the IoT industry

Consider the following functions that are being used for home automation:

  • Regulating heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and air filtering
  • Security and surveillance
  • Water quality
  • Gardening, irrigation and lawn maintenance
  • AI-based voice assistance
  • Entertainment 
  • Power saving and smart energy meters
  • Locks and switches

However, I said earlier that I won’t portray how smart bulbs, fridges, and WiFi ovens work, which require you to play around with several apps on your smartphone every other day. 

As I want to convey the automation, let’s understand it by a few practical examples:

1. Imagine you step into your house and the lights turn on automatically. With intricate components like occupancy detection & sunblind actuators, smart switches can control lights and shading. Just like in the movies!

But wait…

2. How come the house is already warm when you step in? Did you forget to power off the heating before you left? You are quite sure that you turned off everything before you left.

The mystery is in the newly installed system that can track your phone/car’s location. Whenever you are about to approach your flat, it turns on the heating system 5-10 minutes before you unlock the door with your voice. 

In case you turn around your car due to any sudden change of plans, the system is smart enough to comprehend that and act accordingly.

Isn’t that great!

This type of climate control mechanism is just one part of an intelligent IoT Home Automation system that can automatically adapt to your heating and cooling preferences after analyzing your trends, the surrounding atmosphere, and even occupancy. 

Bonus point: It reduces your electricity bill as well.

3. Another example is a clever lawn irrigation system with smart sprinklers that can collect real-time weather data and water your garden itself by knowing the surrounding dry and wet conditions.

4. The same system can also send you notifications if any window or door is left open in your house, trigger the alarm with networked smoke & gas sensors, or even make a 911 call and inform the emergency response team through a computerized message in case you are unable to answer that call.

Amazingly, these applications are just the preliminary IoT home automation products that are evident in 2019. In just five years from now, I am quite sure that there is much more to come.

With Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning taking the world by storm already, Domotics industry is going to witness an extraordinary success with ‘synthetic wisdom’.

Moreover, I have listed below* some ready-to-use IoT home automation gadgets that are making waves these days:

  1. SmartThings Hub
  2. ecobee SmartThermostat 
  3. Amazon Smart Plug
  4. WINK HUB 2

*Mentioned for educational purposes only. You may go through these products’ descriptions to learn more about their out of the box features and how the home automation works. I do not endorse any product in this post.

Still, a few questions come to mind.

Is home automation really necessary?

Can a system like this transform my lifestyle, which is already smooth?

Can too much reliance on technology be troublesome later, considering our generation has the ‘reputation’ of smartphone/tech addiction?

Honestly speaking, there is no harm in trying anything new, at least for a while. I don’t see how an automated reminder on my phone can be addicting or annoying, in case I forget to turn off the air conditioning in a hurry. 

Nevertheless, I won’t have to rush back home to fix things up after all, if a smart system can take care of that itself.

I won’t call it a big investment either. It’s just like buying a few gadgets and I am all set.

So yes, I am going to give it a try soon!

Is there a good scope for IoT based home automation, or it’s just a sales tactic? 

Mankind is curious by nature. But it also makes us prone to the stratagem of buying new things, even if we don’t need them.

However, more and more people are buying AI/ML/Automation products and a lot of enterprises don’t seem to stop loving it. Nobody is acting like sheep.

The feedback is excellent. So, yes!

The scope of IoT-based home automation in the near future is enormous. I think phrases like ‘unplug’ or ‘switch off’ would be obsolete by 2030!

How you can start with connected solutions for your home or office premises?

There are two ways to do it:

  1. DIY home automation, after you buy the right products.
  2. Call a professional, if you are serious about it. That would be a permanent and reliable solution.

Vinsol accepts end-to-end IoT application development tasks as well as creates custom firmware for home automation projects of any scale. With our cross-functional development experience in IoT Applications, Web Development, Mobile Applications, and E-commerce Solutions, we have worked with numerous clients worldwide and satisfactorily delivered over 350 first-rate applications since our inception.

For expert guidance on home and office automation, please contact us and we would be pleased to discuss more with you.

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