How Internet of Things (IoT) Technology is Used at Home
Home automation, also called the connected home, is practically the poster child for the Internet of Things. Even more so than gadgets like watches and smart textiles, everyone these days has heard of connected appliances and homes with automation features. The technology has become so ubiquitous that even major telecom carriers like Time Warner have come on board, bundling IoT features with their security offering.
There is so much happening in the home IoT space that a comprehensive listing would far exceed the space available here. The Internet of Things was a primary theme of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the largest electronics trade show in the world. Home products topped the list of consumer items being shown at CES, and it’s clear that the IoT is here to stay.
Therefore, here are some trends and notable examples we see in the sector. We encourage tech enthusiasts to continue their exploration on their own, using this list as a launching point. Home automation, connected appliances, and advanced physical security are seeing explosive growth thanks to the IoT, and it is an exciting time to be a fan of technology.
IoT-enabled appliances are commonplace these days, and they have come a long way since a washing machine first sent a Tweet. The industry has moved past the initial novelty stage, and is now seeking genuinely useful ways to add IoT features to appliances. The area where they are finding the most success is in the kitchen.
The kitchen is the social hub of many homes, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found that most families spend a significant portion of their day eating, drinking, or cleaning in it. Food is important as a core component of our health and of our family life, and it makes sense that the kitchen would receive a large portion of IoT innovators’ attention.
Going beyond refrigerators that know when the milk has gone bad, the latest trend is in smaller appliances, and more of them. One excellent example is the Pantelligent Smart Pan. The device takes the frying pan to the next level by adding a network of temperature sensors inside the cooking surface. The pan pairs with a smartphone app to take the user through a recipe, advising them exactly when to flip, stir, and add ingredients.
We like products like the Smart Pan for their accessibility. Although a brand new connected cooker like the LG Smart ThinQ is an amazing piece of tech, it also represents a major home appliance upgrade. A smart frying pan, on the other hand, costs less than $200 and can let anyone turn out a restaurant quality steak. It’s IoT for everyone, and we think that can only lead to good things.
Tech Giants Enter Home Automation
Home automation has been available for a number of years, dating back to X10’s first steps into remote appliance controls way back in 1975. Although modern automation standards like ZWave and ZigBee have advanced the field a great deal, they still have yet to truly achieve mainstream acceptance. The primary reason for that is starting to change, though, and it seems only a matter of time before we are all operating lights, opening blinds, and turning down our stereos from our smartphones around the world.
When it comes to consumer and home tech, there are two or perhaps three voices that really matter. Nobody was interested in the MP3 player before Apple released the iPod. Self-driving cars were a myth before Google committed itself to their development. And in recent years, Amazon has proven itself a worthy competitor to the two giants with the advent of the Kindle, Dash button, and other consumer-focused devices.
Each of these firms saw a place for a market opportunity where none existed. Through consistent customer outreach and cutting-edge technological development, they created that opportunity. And now all three firms have committed themselves to home automation.
Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit share a great deal in common. They each offer the capability to work with a wide range of home appliances and electronics, ranging from lights to air conditioning and more. They also each tie into their respective platforms cloud services. Users of a Google Home device can easily perform web searches with their voice, while Amazon Echo naturally allows customers to order a refill on common household goods with a word. All three offer access to cloud-based music libraries, and the Amazon Echo and Google Home each incorporate powerful speakers.
The most important commonality between the three platforms is their robust APIs and third-party extendibility. The three firms have each come to the correct conclusion that the only way for home automation to catch on is for it to be accessible to everyone. Enthusiast hackers, independent product developers, and major electronics corporations alike can create apps and accessories for the three home automation platforms. Like the Wild West of the App Store and Google Play, the best offerings naturally rise to the top to the benefit of all.
As far as purchasing advice goes, all three platforms have established themselves at this point. Our recommendation is to check individual reviews for the products of each platform (the Amazon Echo and Google Home each have their own hub, while Apple relies on third-party manufacturers), and go with the product that offers the most features that matter to you.
The Security Factor
One area where IoT and home automation technologies have found even greater acceptance is in the home security space. Security alarm systems, often thought of as outdated and arcane, have made a push in recent years to offer value-added features tangential to security. A home that is wired for security means that it already has the ability to detect if windows are open, if a person is inside the home, and often if lights are on or off.
Security providers like Alarm.com are leveraging this already existing data to create new applications. The owner of an Alarm.com compatible alarm system can control their air conditioning, lights, and blinds. More exciting, they can configure their home to take care of these features automatically. Alarm.com integrates power consumption and weather data to algorithmically control the air conditioning and lights to keep clients comfortable while lowering their power bills. A home can automatically start cooling down when the owner is driving home from work, using location services data from their smartphone.
Other providers have followed Alarm.com’s lead, and offerings from cable companies as well as security competitors like the Resolution Helix and top-ranking providers like ADT now offer similar features.
Overall, the home continues to be a happy hunting ground for Internet of Things developers and innovators. It seems that the more products and solutions are released, the more the market wants. That Jetsons future may not be so far off after all.