Smart cities, smart buildings, smart homes, smart energy, smart health, smart mobility, smart technologies, Smart services. it appears that everything is getting pretty ‘smart’. But, what does ‘smart living’ mean for most of us who are trying to get on with our lives, do our jobs, raise our children and be happy?
Not diverging from the practical and real terms of what this should mean, include your entertainment, health care, education, data storage, security, energy management, etc. You begin to see that this is not about buying a ‘disco’ light bulb, or a talking thermostat, but about truly connected devices that integrate into your life, the way you live.
There is no shortage of articles, television advertisements and conversation about this subject all around you. Everyone from technology companies to property developers and retail stores are interested in offering you some form of automation in your home. There are lots of ‘stand-alone’ products and devices – too many in fact – and that can make it difficult to see the practical application of how this can benefit you and make your life a little easier, more convenient, comfortable and secure.
Smart living can range from the practical: saving money and energy, to the vital: keeping an eye on the baby, to comfort and convenience: begin watching a movie and have the lights go down and the popcorn maker ‘start’. There should also be an element of luxury to this concept. Who doesn’t deserve a little bit of luxury in their life? A few things that make your life easier and bring a smile to your face.
The first and most important element is a central control/communication platform that integrates all of the individual devices and services in one place so that they can work together. This is what allows what seem like very complex sequences of actions to be made very simple for everyone. For example: when I walk in the door of my home, I want the lights in the hallway, living room and kitchen to come on. I want the latest news to open on my TV, and the water heater to come on so that I can have a hot shower. I also want (or not) a message sent to my spouse indicating that I am at home. We can do this today, affordably, but not if you have all these things on stand-alone systems that don’t work with the others.
So, how do people actually use many of these things you are hearing about in their everyday lives? And more importantly: How will you use these? Do you want these? Here are a few examples:
Will you get the lights please? “In our house, a motion sensor triggers the lights when I walk to the stairs to go to bed, another if I am going downstairs at night. I have different lights, A/C, music and door locks set for when I come home, when I go to bed and when I wake up”.
Keeping an eye on things: “On the front door an Infrared outdoor cam is armed past midnight to keep a watchful eye on movement in and out of the house, taking short 30s films of our young family’s turbulent activities and sending these to my phone and email”.
Mind the kids: “We have young children and we tend to worry about them. Their bedrooms now have special motion and sound detection gadgets, and when I am watching TV, a camera triggers a picture in picture pop-up onscreen to alert me as soon as their sleep is disrupted.”
Minimise wasted energy: “Our household has no less than 6 water heaters over the various sinks and bathrooms. Remotely controlled switches and scenes set to go on a certain times allow us to use these heaters efficiently, making sure they are turned off when we are away and avoiding the risk of annoying heater leaks during our vacations. It also means that we can have hot water ready at our leisure”.
This does not really mean going to extremes and spending a king’s ransom to overhaul your home. That would not be very smart – pun intended. Instead, to be truly smart, the technology, products and their integrated use should be an adaptive adjustment to your life and should grow and expand with you.
As a starting point, look at everyday things that you would like to make ‘smarter’ in your life. For example, you may want to have all of your entertainment available from one place, most of it on multiple devices and some of it from anywhere you have a WiFi or internet connection: your movies, music and photos being securely available to you wherever you are, and as simply as you normally watch TV.
You may want to reduce the moments of panic as we all forget things we need or want to do in the mix of our busy lives. You might be a very relaxed person while at home. However, when you are not home, you are sometimes bound to have the nagging doubts crowding your mind regarding the safety and security of your kids, spouse and valuables.
You might also be wondering if you have locked the front door or left the lights on. If nothing else, you may just want to know what your kids are doing at home – whether they are doing their homework or watching TV – or when the baby wakes up.
Technology has already changed the way we connect and communicate, but now it is changing the way we live, for the better. There is no real limit and with the right ‘Home Center’ to easily connect more devices as you go, the possibilities are yours to imagine.
Nasri Tehini is CEO of Makook.
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