Be(a)ware of the Smart Home

Smart homes are great. They are more energy-efficient, safe and comfortable too. But, you need to resist the temptation to micro-manage your home, or it can make you dizzy! Let us set you thinking by telling you a few (mostly nice) things about the emerging smart home -- Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram

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Surveillance-as-a-service (SaaS) is another growing trend in India. This helps home users switch from low-end analogue cameras to network-based IP surveillance easily and at a low cost.

Globally, there are several wonderful examples of security products that can be deployed quite easily by the user itself. WeMo offers a range of motion sensors and other products that you can install for various home automation purposes including security.

Canary recently launched a smart home security device that is armed with an HD video camera and multiple sensors that track everything from motion to room temperature, sound and activity to help keep your home safe.

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Another example would be Piper, which is a home security and automation device that combines panoramic video, Z-Wave home automation and environmental sensors into a single elegant product that you interact with on your smartphone or tablet.

Electricity bills give a pleasant surprise
“While currently the demand for smart home products in India is limited to safety and surveillance/monitoring, we believe this will change in the future because technology will allow people to use resources more efficiently, improving convenience, saving money and facilitating a greener lifestyle,” says Guru Ganesan, president and MD, ARM India. “We are already seeing automation used fairly widely for monitoring energy and water usage to help reduce a household’s environmental footprint and electricity bills.”

WeMo app for Android
WeMo app for Android

There are several smart technologies today that would help a home reduce its energy footprint, and some high-end builders are including such technologies to conserve power used by lighting, elevators and other common amenities. So are home owners.

There are many ways in which home automation can conserve power. For example, lights and HVAC systems can be switched off automatically the moment your car leaves the garage. Lights can switch on and off as people enter or leave a room.

Two-way meters and smart thermostats can help people understand and alter their energy usage.

Cloud-based services can help utilities to analyse, understand and recommend ways to reduce power consumption at user locations.

One example of a home energy management system is Savant’s SmartEnergy monitoring solution, which sets your intelligent lighting to automatically turn on and off with the rising and setting sun by timing them to an astronomical clock, automates opening and closing of blinds to keep out the sun and conserve energy, regulates thermostat levels based on outside temperature, controls switching on or off of lights using motion sensors and lets you remotely manage your home’s media components and other smart electronics using iOS devices to prevent prolonged operation and unnecessary energy consumption.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg!

Always within reach
You might have thought your home became smarter the day the water heater supported auto cut-off or your kettle had temperature control or your microwave let you make paneer butter masala with its auto-cook option, but that is nothing compared to the possibilities that connectivity has opened up for smart devices!


Connectivity means many things. It means your devices can talk to each other, they talk to your mobile phone, they talk to (perhaps) a central server such as an energy monitoring system at the utility end or a remote diagnostic solution of the original equipment manufacturer.

In short, the products will, over time, become a part of the Internet of Things, becoming intelligent and capable of managing their lifecycle by themselves to a large extent.


“M2M is at the core of the smart home offering. Effectively, it is one machine talking to another. It is the air-conditioner talking to the mobile phone. So, M2M is definitely a very critical part of the whole solution. From a protocol perspective, depending on what is being used, there are a bunch of protocols that are essential. For instance, all of the connectivity protocols such as 802.11, Bluetooth, Zigbee, 2G, 3G and 4G are all very essential,” says Thilak Kumar, regional engineering manager, Wind River.

M2M makes many things possible. For example, as you walk along a passage, the lights could talk to each other to ensure that subsequent lights turn on as the ones you cross go off.

Your bed could sense and tell the air-conditioner when you are feeling too warm or too cold, so the temperature can be adjusted accordingly.

Your dishwasher could tell your motor to turn on and fill the overhead water tank when the water flow in the pipeline reduces.

Blacksumac’s ‘Piper’ smart home automation and security device
Blacksumac’s ‘Piper’ smart home automation and security device

Above all this, connectivity also makes it possible to control multiple devices using a common interface, as it can be quite hassling to manage a dozen home automation tools individually!

One example of such an application is the Revolv Smart Home Automation solution, which supports multiple protocols including Wi-Fi, Z-Wave and Insteon and lets you access and control varied devices such as the Nest thermostat, Sonos speakers, Philips Hue lightbulbs and more, using the Revolv app on your smartphone.

That said, Kumar warns us, “Connectivity allows full control remotely by the owner, but at the same time brings in security risks that need to be addressed.”

Home in your palms
“I believe that smart homes need to be looked at from the lens of mobility and smartphones today. The smartphone has quite quickly become the centre of our lives and I see tremendous potential for it to become the centre of our homes, and that is the single biggest trend in this space, says Annie Mathew, director, Alliances and Business Development, BlackBerry India. “What smartphones bring to the table are wireless protocols such as NFC and Miracast that are driving device connectivity. That said, they also bring a plethora of apps that create a singular console to manage home automation.”

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