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It would be clichéd to begin this article by saying sci-fi visions of the past have now become real. Everybody knows that, and the world of sci-fi has also started dreaming up something else for tomorrow. It would be more useful if we began by showing you around a smarthome filled with connected devices and the associated benefits, problems and loopholes.

A modern home may be guarded by just a smart door lock or a more complex security system. At the simplest, a smartlock equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or some other wireless communication technology will be able to recognise the presence of a phone with an authorised digital key in its vicinity and unlock the door. More complex systems use biometrics like fingerprints, heartbeat patterns, facial features or iris matching to recognise the owner.

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August smartlock with app (Image courtesy: http://businesswolf.org)

Locks that are also equipped with cameras and Wi-Fi connect to your home’s Internet connection and enable you to see who is ringing the doorbell, even when you are away. If it is an acquaintance you want to admit into the house, you can unlock the door remotely. Bluetooth-only door locks are believed to be safer because Wi-Fi ones are always connected to the Internet, opening up greater possibilities of hacking. Therefore popular smartlocks have a Bluetooth-enabled base lock, which can be enhanced with a Wi-Fi add-on.

Other areas of the house too can be guarded with wireless sensors and cameras working in conjunction with a mobile app. There are readymade, customised and do-it-yourself (DIY) kits for guarding and remotely managing the front door as well as other areas of the house.

Living spaces: connected, cosy and comfy

Modern heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVACs) are also connected and made smart with unified dashboard view and adaptive customisation. While some advanced air-conditioners have inbuilt smart features, others can be clubbed with smart thermostats and sensors to create a holistic HVAC system.

Sensors are used to automatically detect when people enter a region, the number of people present, their positions and even their perspiration levels in each region of the house. This information, along with temperature and humidity readings, helps to dynamically change appliance settings like temperature and blow, to ensure best comfort and affordable energy bills, too. Most of these systems can be controlled remotely through a mobile phone, so you can alert it when you start from office, and your home will be cosy and comfy when you reach.

Another notable trend here is the use of wearable devices to authenticate users to home automation systems. Consider this. There are multiple occupants of a house, each with different preferences about lighting, room temperature, etc. When a person enters the house or a room, a wearable device like Nymi could be used to immediately recognise and authenticate the user (using heartbeat patterns and other biometric modalities) to home automation systems, which can instantly revert to his or her preset preferences.

Lighting systems at home can also be made to reflect your mood. With modern light-emitting diode (LED) based lighting systems it is possible to make lights change their hue and brightness. Advanced lighting systems take into consideration aspects like position and movement of people, environmental conditions, activity being performed and time of the day to dynamically change the settings, while simpler ones let you program certain preset modes and choose one.

An Indian innovator, Rousing Designs, recently revealed EMO, a personalised lighting system that can be controlled through a mobile app to light up your space according to your mood. Read more about it in June issue, pages 38-40.

Your lights can even play music now. Sony recently launched an LED light bulb Bluetooth speaker that combines a 360-lumen bulb and a 2-watt, 40mm speaker that can be screwed into any standard light socket. The bulb can be controlled with a dedicated near-field communication (NFC) remote or a mobile app. To fill your home with music, you just need to fit some of these bulbs here and there.

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