SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
With the evolution of technology, there has been considerable development in technologies that make life easier and more efficient. SMART technology, standing for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, allows the automation of the appliances connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) through which they can communicate with each other and can be remotely controlled by voice, smartphones or other networked devices. It’s the potential of that connectivity to improve many aspects of our lives – including the health of our planet – that’s truly eye-opening.
So now, what is a SMART Home?
The term “smart” implies intelligence with decision-making capabilities by analyzing incoming data. In the context of the home, “smart” refers to a network of sensors in the house that measures and monitors the environment, learns and makes energy decisions. So, not only can it be used to remotely control your thermostat to starting off your pre-loaded washing machine, if the network has sensors connected to it, it will sense the presence and requirements and adjust energy usage accordingly.
Most discussions on smart homes revolve around the benefits realized by the people living in them. But a truly smart, connected home—one that can independently assess and respond to real-time requirements for power, water, heating, etc., and repairs—can promote sustainability.
For example, if a family was streaming a movie on a hot summer night, a smart-home system would turn off the lights and turn down the A/C in the empty parts of the home. Also, if power-consuming devices are on but not in use, like a computer or gaming console, the system turns those off as well. After the family goes to bed, the system can then turn off the A/C or heating in the unused areas and keep it on only in the bedrooms. Since many people prefer cooler temperatures for sleeping, the system could slowly reduce the temperature at night and then raise it again in the morning. It could further reduce energy consumption by anticipating the falling outside temperature during the night.
The network learns from the people who live in the home to make predictions about future behaviors. Patterns are absorbed by the system and used to enhance comfort and convenience settings. These settings are also cost-saving and have the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption.
This type of sophisticated smart-home network requires specific capabilities:
- Connect to and communicate with other smart or connected devices in the home.
- Be intelligent, recognize what goes on in the home, and learn what is normal.
- Ability to manage functions with a single integrated application on a smartphone or other web-connected device.
The first contemporary smart home devices came out in the late ’90s, however, its gain in popularity was more recent due to the growing tendency to depend on digital technology and of course higher availability of the products. Software giants Google, Apple and Microsoft kicked off this trend with the likes of the Google Home, Apple Homekit and Cortana respectively. The trend was then picked by others like Amazon with their Echo family, the Logitech Harmony Elite universal remote and Samsung Smartthings hub. Other companies offer smart products that aim at particular functions like the Philips Hue, Neato Botvac vacuum, etc.
The Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant/Home, and Apple Homekit/Siri are the biggest players in the smart home market right now. The following are a few popular smart technologies
Computerized thermostats help reduce carbon footprint. One is by allowing regulation of the temperature through mobile devices. If someone leaves a door open, a smart thermostat can shut off the air conditioning or heat automatically. It can turn the air conditioning or heat down while you are at work and turn it back up prior to your arrival. Smart thermostats like the NEST also learns user temperature preferences, making it easier to maximize energy efficiency.
Smart home lighting solutions support features like the ability to adjust the lighting in and outside the house remotely through web-enabled devices, or by using a control panel. Porch and path lights can be programmed to turn on as you arrive or according to sunrise and sunset – saving energy and enhancing safety and security. They can be programmed to alert via text message when a light has been left on and can be turned off from an enabled device. Network connected sensors could detect presence in the room and turn off the lights when it’s empty.
- Smart Plugs
A simple device, the smart plug is an easy way to reduce energy usage for non-smart systems at home. Especially valuable for devices such as irons or hair straighteners, which consume plenty of electricity and be hazardous if left on. For high energy consumption systems such as home entertainment systems, a smart power strip can help manage the energy flow and ensure that they aren’t being kept on needlessly. Depending on the model, these can be set so that peripheral systems – such as Blu-ray players, speakers or games consoles – are only turned on when the TV itself is in use. For charging devices, having a smart plug that is controlled by a mobile app means devices can be pre-programmed to turn on and off during the day as required. These units can also provide a fail-safe should an emergency occur, allowing malfunctioning or leaking devices to be turned off automatically.
- Water systems
Smart valves are a fairly new concept when it comes to the residential market, but are set to become more popular as households look to reduce water consumption alongside gas and electricity usage. While most smart valves will focus largely on leak detection and prevention of pipe bursts, others are designed to monitor water pressure and actively work to maximize the efficiency of water flow and water heating costs.
Won’t smart homes use more energy?
Despite the ways in which a smart home can save energy, an area where energy usage passes unnoticed is in a smart home’s technology rack (or head end), which efficiently organizes a number of AV and smart home sources in a single location for effective building management. This will need to be thermally managed for the equipment contained to perform at maximum efficiency for its expected lifetime.
Installers tend to leave several components – like network switches, receivers and processors – switched on constantly. Although some of these may be justifiable, the installer can optimize the control system to automatically turn off devices that are not in use. Also, the design of the rack can be done so that a degree of natural ventilation can reduce the cooling load required for the systems.
Eco – friendly building designs to complement smart home systems
Implementing green smart technology into the home can go a long way towards creating a more sustainable property, but it is most effective when the house itself has been designed with energy efficiency at its core. By aligning buildings and positioning windows to make the most of prevailing winds and natural light and heat from the sun in both summer and winter, the energy and lighting needs of the house are reduced. The materials used in construction also help ensure that the home is well insulated. Alternative techniques, like solar panels, is also something that can be considered along with the implementation of smart technology.
As the energy landscape changes, our homes will need to adapt accordingly to reduce our environmental impact. By building our current generation houses along sustainable lines with smart technology, clever design and a more sustainable mix of power sources, we can save