Lifestyle

Move Smart Watches Aside, Smart Houses Are The Next Big Thing

Home is where the heart is and with increasing instances of home automation, it’s also becoming a place where technology thrives. This rapid growth in smart homes could be attributed to the popularity of mobile devices. One just doesn’t live without them these days.

The prospect of Smart Houses are made possible with a technological phenomena, often termed ‘The Internet of Things’, or IoT for short. This is a scenario in which objects are provided with the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring direct interaction.

This could be as simple as a person with a heart monitor implant or a device that allows us to connected to different appliances in our home. Hook up a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone to an Aduino controller and implement different equipments to different parts of the house and we will be able to control them from one mobile terminal.

Home automation at your fingertips
Home automation at your fingertips (Image Credit: XSYS Solutions)

IoT and Smart Homes

Many big brand names in technology are either leading or jumping onto the smart home bandwagon. We can’t blame them: it’s been predicted that the smart home market may hit US12.8billion by 2017 in North America and Europe alone, as reported by Housetopia.

Smart system manufacturer’s Nest was bought out by Google for US3.2 Billion earlier this year. Apple released Homekit, a nifty platform that allows developers to connect sensors and gadgets safely to iOS. At the same time, Samsung is also looking into participating in the smart market with a potential acquisition of SmartThings.

An oldie in the industry, Logitech, already has an existing ‘Harmony Living Home’ product line, dedicated to ‘smart’ing up homes. They’ve recently announced new and rebranded versions of its upper remotes, which now all fall under the ‘Harmony Living Home’ line. Other than adding to the list of appliances it is able to control, the controller software has been completely revamped to make lowering your blinds, locking your doors, and turning down the lights far more intuitive.

Harmony home living remote, hub and app
Harmony home living remote, hub and app (Image Credit: Logitech)

The Logitech hub also allows you to use the Harmony’s system with an Android or iOS smartphone to control the activities you’ve set up both at home remotely. If you’ve got all the right components, Logitech’s system can open your blinds in the morning, bring up the lights, tune your TV to desired news channel, and even turn on your connected coffee maker. The best part of this setup, none of that requires a PC or clunky syncing anymore; everything gets handled via the app.

It’s a prime example of the journey of IoT in Smart Homes.

Harmony living white remote controller
Harmony living white remote controller (Image Credit: Logitech)

Notion, the New Kid on the Block

Logitech, however, will be making room for the new entrants in this foray. Notion, a smart home hardware focused startup aims to put an app in your pocket that will deliver automated reports on your domestic comings and goings. The TechStars’ Boulder program company is currently being funded on Kickstarter.

Notion's iPhone app allows you to control your sensors, wherever you are
Notion’s iPhone app allows you to control your sensors, wherever you are (Image Credit: Tech Crunch)

Notion, via Loop Labs, is building sensors that can be networked and positioned around your home to detect various domestic events. These sensors are compatible and works on the Apple’s Homekit platform. In tandem, the app and sensors will open your doors, close your windows, and even alert you if lights are left on, your smoke alarms are sounding, your washing machine springing a leak, or your fridge losing it’s cool.

You can pick the number of sensors you want, place it anywhere in your home and customize each of them to perform a particular task. They come with an adhesive backing that lets you stick them to any location or surface.

Notion's advance sensors function within each multi-function sensor
Notion’s advance sensor functions within each multi-function sensor (Image Credit: Kickstarter)

The sensors will channel the data it captures to a wall-mounted hub that is connected to your home Wi-Fi. From there, it goes up into Notion’s cloud platform for processing and storage. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, the battery in each individual sensor can last up to two years.

Notion Hub and sensor
Notion Hub and sensor (Image Credit: Kickstarter)

However, due to the presence of a cloud platform in this smart home loop, Notion may not be suitable for users that require high levels of security. The idea of one third party having enough sensor-based insight into your domestic environment to know when you are home or away is definitely unpleasant.

Leeo, the Startup Lion

Although still in its development stages, Leeo could be the answer for those concerned with data privacy. Originally a stealth robotics company, Leeo has turned its sights towards the smart homes market as well. According to Forbes, the Palo Alto-based company has already amassed a team of 60 employees and USD37 million in venture capital.

Leeo
Image Credit: Leeo

The company currently focuses on working with large telcos and utilities to help roll out services onto the company’s smart home product line. That will make Leeo a bit of a mix between an enterprise and consumer product company.

The idea is to leverage on the large volumes of data that these companies have, and to figure how to make sense of all the data they collecting. This would help them develop new products and service relationships that relate to the real time data in the home.

Besides working with big data, Leeo also develops and builds consumer products.  “A lot of these smart home companies come out with these brilliant disruptive products but they’re also disruptive to the consumer,” said Charles Huang, COO of Leeo. “You have to rip things out of your house. You have to install new things… What we’re trying to do is create some new technologies that make it easier for somebody’s home to become a smart home without having to rip apart half of your house and replace it with new equipment.”

Not much else was revealed at this point on what Charles Huang’s statement encompasses specifically, but we’re guessing that Leeo might be developing gadgets and transmitters that can be fitted into big-name appliances whose products are already in the market and in the homes of millions around the globe.

Controlling everything with a few clicks
Controlling everything with a few clicks (Image Credit: Tech News 24H)

Before Leeo, Gettings founded a robotics company in 2007 called RoboteX, which builds robots that assist SWAT teams and law enforcement agencies in dangerous situations such as diffusing bombs. Gettings wanted to build the same level of interactivity he was building in his robots into the home. The company name, Leeo, was chosen by Gettings because the idea reminded him of a lion. Gettings wanted to connote the idea of a protector or silent sentinel.

IoT in Singapore: The Smart Nation

On an industrial scale, the ‘Internet of Things’ will be the Internet of the future, powering billions of integrated devices and processes across industries globally. It is predicted in an IBM study that, by 2020, an estimated 75 billion devices will be connected. Such a large scale would require massive and reliable infrastructures.

Connecting the world through the Internet of Things
Connecting the world through the Internet of Things (Image Credit: IBM)

A speech given by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at the Opening Ceremony of imbX 2014 on 17 June 2014, suggests that the Singapore Government is pushing towards a Smart Nation Platform or SNP.

The nation looks set to lay out the backbone infrastructure to embrace this new push towards technological innovation for automating and data-sharing among the country’s key infrastructure such as waterworks, traffic lights controls, train and bus schedules just to name a few. Businesses and homes will also have greater capacity and data connectivity through the Intelligent Nation (iN2015) Masterplan.

There’s also been a lot of efforts poured into encouraging both the innovation of IoT in Singapore as well as generating buzz, with Singapore’s largest telco, SingTel, launching the SingTel Accelerator Challenge. This is essentially a competition to develop consumer lifestyle and IoT apps.

SingTel embarks on a hunt to incubate the next killer app, focusing on consumer lifestyle and the internet of things.
SingTel embarks on a hunt to incubate the next killer app, focusing on consumer lifestyle and the internet of things. (Image Credit: TNW)

Contest submissions were opened to anyone across the world and besides cash prizes, the real lure is the opportunity to take part in a three-month incubation program that helps to fast-track apps and products to the market.

It’ll be exciting to see how the world gets transformed in the years to come, and from the way things look they may be happening faster than we expect!

 

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