Smart Homes: HomeKit, Nest and other “Smart” Products

In our last post, Controlling Smart Homes with Smart Devices, we discussed the recent trends in smart homes, with many new ideas from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.  The show featured announcements by Samsung, and it’s CEO, BK Yoon, about what he has labeled the “IoT”, or Internet of Things.  Basically, everything electronic in our lives will be communicating together to create a better standard of living for everyone.

To accomplish this, Samsung has developed a subscription service, and is touting it’s “SmartThings” application; which requires a SmartThings hub, and connects all your devices to the SmartThings cloud for integration.  So, besides Samsung, who else is developing the future of Smart Homes products?  Tony Rossetti, a project manager here at Hendricks Architecture, describes this in better detail….

Apple, (which doesn’t attend the CES) is always looking to upstage the CES show.  They launched HomeKit, which lets iOs customers control lights, locks, video cameras, doors, thermostats, wall outlets, and switches with their iPhones.  The HomeKit can be operated by voice through “Siri”, who Apple and iPhone customers are already very familiar with.

Smart Home, Device, HomeKit. Apple, iPhone

A Smart Home Device/Remote – The Apple iPhone

Google is the third titan of the Smart platforms, with its “Nest”, which includes;

  • August Smart Lock can set your Nest thermostat to “away” or “home” settings when you lock or unlock your door, and can automatically switch your washer and dryer to quiet mode when you’re home.
  • Mercedes tells Nest you’re on your way home, so the thermostat will be at a comfortable temperature when you get there.
  • Ooma VOIP home phone service knows when family members come and go, and can send an alert to your phone if your child doesn’t return home from school on time.
  • with Dropcam you can see what’s going on when your smoke alarm goes off.
  • Jawbone wakes you up and your thermostat.

Quirky is developing a product called “Wink”, an open technology platform that will link and control numerous household items, and is partnering with GE and Home Depot for product integration and distribution.

A few others of note:

  • Netatmo Welcome is a facial recognition camera that notifies you if a stranger enters your home.
  • LG unveiled a fridge that responds to simple text commands.
  • Keen Smart Home Vent, connecting to smart thermostats, opens and closes vents automatically by using built-in sensors that track a room’s optimal temperature.
  • Edyn is a solar powered smart garden sensor that keeps track of plant hydration and soil nutrients, then provides users with data to help their plants thrive. Multiple Edyns can form a network across a larger garden, and even connect to water valves and automatically water the garden when needed.
  • Nest has launched it’s “Thread Group”, partnering with Samsung, Silicon Labs, Big Ass Fans, and other home technology companies, to integrate their products together.

All this is fine and dandy in theory, but what potentially stands in the way of easy integration?  A couple of things cloud the otherwise bright future of Smart Homes and Smart technology advances.

One, a potential standards battle looms, between developers, companies, and providers.  How to connect ALL devices, including competing companies, so they all communicate seamlessly?  Some of us may remember BetaMax vs VHS, or more recently, Apple vs Microsoft.  Samsung is pleading for a completely open architecture for all products, but will that plea be heeded?  History tells us that most companies prefer to develop their own technology as they see fit.  Consumers would benefit from the competition, but suffer from the headache of operating systems not in sync; and products that may be hard to program and control.

The good news is Samsung and Google are two of the biggest names currently working together to solve this, at least between their products.

The other question is; how to retrofit all the existing homes that also wish to have the technology?  This remains a very cost prohibitive issue, that is not easily solved.  Perhaps someone will step up with a wireless device that will allow any appliance or system to be controlled, without requiring re-wiring the item or the house itself.

As of now, the vision of IoT (Internet of Things) and of Smart Homes, is best suited being pre-planned into a new home, with the base and potential wiring in place, and with the ability to expand upon it, as products are released.  It remains to be seen if true “open’ architecture is used to develop these future products, which is in the best interest of the consumer, but may be ignored by product developers eager to create proprietary devices that lock you into their line.

Who knows, perhaps that user friendly “app” that connects all devices seamlessly and wirelessly, will soon materialize to make it all work like it’s envisioned?

That, would be a very “Smart” idea indeed.

Tony Rossetti, Project Manager

Hendricks Architecture designs custom “smart home” residences (and dumbed down), from small beach houses to large estate homes.  

Previous Post: Controlling Smart Homes with Smart Devices

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