In this article we explain what a smart home is exactly. In principle, all electronic devices can communicate with each other in a smart home.
The smart home
The smart home has been called the house of the future in the Netherlands for some time now. Such a house must be able to do a number of things, but above all it must offer the resident comfort, safety, energy efficiency and convenience. At all times – whether the resident is at home or not. That is of course a bit vague, fortunately those words can be explained. The smart home contains devices that can all communicate with each other via WiFi, Bluetooth or any other means of communication that is still being invented or that is still being worked on .
So in the house of the future you will find all kinds of devices and facilities that are linked together. Think of household appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, televisions, computers, game consoles, audio systems, security systems and cameras. All of these devices can be controlled from home, regardless of the room you are in. But you can also provide specific time schedules per device and control everything far away from home, via a smartphone, tablet, computer or other device.
Convenience serves people
The smart home aims to make our lives easier. You may have to sit down to see which products suit you best, which ones you want, maybe need and which you can afford, but in the end, when everything is in place and working, you basically have nothing to worry about anymore to. A smart home offers the same advantages as technology in general, looking at the past thirty years: mainly convenience, but you can also save money, time and – more importantly – energy.
At the time of writing, very few smart homes exist – both in the Netherlands and in the rest of the world. That is why you see that many manufacturers are currently coming up with solutions that adapt to the current structure of the houses and use technology that is already available, such as WiFi and Bluetooth; although in the meantime work is being done on devices with HaLow (a kind of WiFi, but more energy efficient, which is mainly useful for devices with a battery on board), improved Bluetooth and LiFi (transmitting data via light).
Retrofit and the smart home
A term that is still often associated with the smart home is therefore also retrofit. If you were to parse the name, you can already find out what the term means: you use existing technology or devices to make things smart in the house. Take Smarter ‘s products, for example : these are products for the kitchen that make ‘dumb’ equipment ‘smart’. They have a connected coffee maker and a smart teapot, but also a special mat that knows exactly what it measures and a camera for the fridge that shows what is inside.
That camera, for example, takes a photo of the contents of the fridge every time you open the door, which you can view on a special application on your smartphone. So you never have to think in the supermarket whether you have something at home or not – after all, the photo always shows the most recent content. Simply put: retrofitting means that you work the other way around. You do not adapt your home with new technology, but let the new technology work with the devices you have already bought.
For example, retrofitting is a great and cheap alternative to get used to the idea of the smart home before we all change tack and have to deal with protocols, means of communication and devices that have a screen built-in everywhere (such as the smart fridge from Samsung). Moreover, almost all devices that will soon be available work with WiFi and Bluetooth communication protocols that we are not only familiar with, but also use on a daily basis on smart devices.
At the time of writing, however, it is still a mess in terms of protocols. The different devices can communicate with each other through such a protocol. For example, a smoke detector must be able to switch off the oven when things go wrong and a garage door should open when the car arrives – but when both devices are connected to the internet using a different protocol, communication does not go smoothly. During CES 2016 this became painfully clear with all kinds of different options.
Smart home and the future
It is not yet clear which protocol will ultimately be the winner. What is important in any case is that the development must continue, as saving energy and money is or will be important for many people. Especially with the limited resources that our earth offers, we really have to look at more options for saving energy. This is already possible by purchasing smart lamps, which you can already use at home and control precisely from your smartphone. Or by taking a smart thermostat.