The Internet of Things has recently been sweeping the technology scene with its growing popularity. The hype the Internet of Things holds is by any means a chance. It has a potential to impact not only the way we live at home, but also the way we work.
At Finite Solutions, we strive to be on the leading edge of technology. The smart home technologies we consult on rely heavily on the Internet of Things technologies. This is why we decided to briefly explain what it is, what benefits it offers and how it’s going to influence the UK home technology scene.
What is the Internet of Things?
Internet of Things, or in short IoT, refers to the increasing number of household and personal devices capable of wirelessly connecting to the internet and communicating with each other. IoT devices are considered to be smart due to their capacity to respond to sensory input without any human intervention.
Today, Internet of Things refers to a large variety of devices; from built-in automobile sensors to smart thermostats and heart monitoring implants. As the IoT universe expands, it is also estimated to create a much larger amount of data, giving us the ability to better analyse processes and our way of living.
British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things” in 1999.
One of the most predominant themes revolving around the Internet of Things revolution is that soon enough, it will lift the distinction between online and offline. Seamless integration of individual devices will focus on developing a user-focused ecosystem, making internet connectivity a background task.
There are four main themes that act as the main catalysers of the Internet of Things movement.
First trend influencing the IoT is how connected devices are made possible by semiconductors, which allow us to build better performing sensors. For the Internet of Things to function properly, these sensors need to be small and powerful enough. The growing production of semiconductors gradually bring down costs to produce smaller and more efficient chips, which will benefit the smart home hugely.
The second important trend supporting the IoT movement is the growing network capabilities, especially in a wireless format. The ubiquity of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices make smart home devices connect to the internet in a cost efficient way.
The third main trend behind the Internet of Things is the abundance of cloud storage. The ability move file storage on the cloud is making it much easier to create internet-enabled devices with smaller storage on board.
The fourth and last trend surrounding the connected-home revolution is the amount of data it produces. We are surrounded by a large number of sensors, collecting data on us and our interactions with devices. With integrated utilisation of the data collected from IoT devices, we are now closer to monitoring our energy, water and data usage analytics. The connected devices can also make use of this data to create more intelligent algorithms.
What Benefits Does IoT Offer?
The benefits of the Internet of Things is expanding rapidly, and is expected to grow even larger thanks to some intelligent innovations and creativity. The benefits of the Internet of Things is expanding rapidly, and is expected to grow even larger thanks to some intelligent innovations and creativity.
- A smart watering controller keeps an eye on the weather condition to decide on whether or not to run sprinklers while you are away.
- Smart thermostats monitors when you are home and when you wake up to determine the optimal heating levels.
- Lighting control systems automatically turn on the lights and shut down the window blinds when the sun sets.
- The interconnectivity between devices mean that as you stop by at a grocery shop, your fridge can analyse your fridge contents and update your shopping list with items low on inventory.
- The medical devices can immediately notify emergency services or your doctor when irregularities are detected.
- Smart locks could unlock your door as you approach home and automatically lock when you leave.
These are only a handful of benefits the IoT offers at home, with great potential of growth in the near future.
INTERNET OF THINGS APPLICATIONS
The near future will bring fantastic opportunities for the Internet of Things devices to be a bigger part of our daily life. Here are few leading topics in which IoT will influence our lives:
Smart Energy Management
One of the leading benefits of the Internet of Things revolutions has been the intelligent energy management features offered by IoT devices. Smart thermostat such as Google Nest, Honeywell and Hive offer remote access to heating settings at home. As their ‘smart’ adjective indicates, these devices can also automatically adjust the heating options based on customer habits, real time weather forecast and the actual activity at home. It is predicted that the use of smart thermostats can reduce energy usage by up to 30%.
Another key focus of smart energy management at home is how power outlets are utilised. Smart devices are now capable of detecting the power flow. For example, Belkin’s WeMo smart outlet allows you to remotely cut out power on individual outlets via an app.
Smart lighting systems offer two primary benefits to customers. One, they incorporate LED lighting technologies, which allows users to customise lighting options in a wider range of colours and lightbulb styles. Two, their advanced dim lighting features, together with the power efficiency of LEDs, bring magnificent energy saving features in lighting.
With the help of smart lighting options such as Philips Hue and Lutron, you are now able to automate your lighting in more interesting ways. For example; you can gradually turn on your lights as the sun sets, program them to act as an alarm clock or have them automatically turn off when you leave the house.
Smart Home Connected Appliances
The advanced integration of household appliances, brought by the Internet of Things, allow users to remotely control their household items at the touch of a button. Smart coffee machines can be controlled via an app to produce a variety of coffee brews.
Another focus that has been recently gaining traction is the idea of central hubs at home that keep all the individual appliances running. We are seeing different applications of this; where some companies create dedicated operating systems (such as Savant, Control 4 and Crestron) that can talk to all devices, while some companies incorporate their mobile operating systems (such as Apple HomeKit and Google Nest) to handle home automation as well.
The developments in smart homes provider better options to secure our homes. The latest smart home security systems enable you to remotely monitor your house and inform you as soon as the internal sensors detect any sort of movement, noise or even smell.
Home security has traditionally been a domain of dedicated home security companies. However, with the investment of technology companies entering this fresh field of opportunities, we are seeing true remarks of innovation and better integration. Most recently, we have been seeing signs of tech companies implementing advanced security features into home security area; such as biometrics, fingerprint scanners and the Bluetooth technology.
Security is possibly the main point where the sceptics most highlight when pointing out the risks of the Internet of Things. However, with the better and smarter implementation of smart technologies, smart security can become a highly powerful asset of our future life.
Faster and More Reliable Networking
Internet is the backbone of the internet of things; therefore it becomes incredibly crucial to create a capable infrastructure. Currently there are already over 14 billion objects connected to the internet; with estimations that this will go beyond 60 billion by 2020.
Large investments are being put through to ensure that the internet infrastructure is capable of handling the quadruple size of devices. Latest technologies such as 5G are definitely steps in the right direction.
INTERNET OF THINGS AND THE SMART HOME
It’s often a topic of confusion how we define the technologies we use at our homes. Just as we were getting used to the terminology of Smart Homes or Home Automation, we are being bombarded with the brand new Internet of Things. The concepts of the Internet of Things and Smart Home, while not completely different, are not the same either.
Previously, smart home has been interpreted as multiple devices independently connected to the internet. However, today we have a more accurate description, which the latest technologies helped us build. Smart home still encompasses connected devices at home, but it also involves multiple devices that might be connected in the same instance to a central hub. In this scenario, smart home extends on the connected devices to create a central control in the home with interconnectivity between devices. This makes smart homes a part of IoT.
How Is Smart Home Different Than IoT?
At the core of the IoT, lays the internet connectivity of individual devices. This is where the name comes from; no internet, no IoT. The always-connected nature of the IoT raise some security questions, but it’s not the same case for the smart home.
Just as the IoT encapsulates individual devices connecting the device, smart homes can encapsulate individual devices connected to a local hub. This makes it more secure to implement the smart homes, as they rather represent a collection of gadgets and apps that you control, than a company in the cloud.
Considerations for Architects and Builders
Within the ever-ending growth of technology at home, the way we design and build homes also comes to mind. Smart homes brought tremendous need of infrastructure development not only for our workplaces, but also our living space.
Home builders, architects, developers and designers face different challenges of seizing the potential of technology. Smart home technologies are one of the principle areas of focus for opportunities, and as mentioned before, they are the first step into full adaptation of IoT, as they provide substantial tangibility for users.
Currently, smart home is conceived as an option for the new house developments or upgrades. In the future, however, it will be essential to give it a thought from early planning. This will be not because people will prefer living in tech enabled houses, but it will rather be a decision maker for them to have a smart home as a part of the basic value proposition.
IoT IN THE UK
The future of the Internet of Things is set for exponential growth, which is estimated to be 8-fold by 2022. By then, the UK IoT market will hold hundreds of millions of connected devices handling more than a billion tasks daily. To support this growth, there has been increasing investments on expanding the infrastructure and regulations to accommodate all these communications.
Patent applications is a strong indicator for innovation in a country, and UK is placed well among the emerging world leaders in terms of implementing the benefits of Internet of Things technologies; with large cities such as London, Liverpool and Cambridge host an emerging cluster of companies.
In a connected universe, every device has a unique IP address (in the 123.456.789.012 format). Unfortunately the current IP format, called IPv4, can only hold a number of devices online at the same time due to address limitations. IPv6 is the upgrade on the IPv4 that expands device capacity by more than 8 times. IPv6 also have better security and coexistence features, making it a much stable option for the IoT.
In an effort to boost the growth of the Internet of Things industry, the British government recently launched a competition to revolutionise the way IoT benefits citizens. The £10 million fund will be awarded for a single collaborative research or development project that aims at incorporating city-wide technologies that benefits citizens both functionally and economically.
This post will be updated accordingly based on the latest industry developments.
Please subscribe to keep up to date with home technology news.