People are becoming more accepting of technology becoming a bigger and bigger parts of their lives. Devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Cortana are entering more and more homes. This is important as people become more invested in the idea of connected or “smart homes.” It should then come as no surprise, that the number of smart homes has rapidly increased since 2015—at a rate of 31% every year!
While it is becoming more popular, smart home technology is still in its infancy. There are a number of pain points that haven’t been adequately addressed. Two in particular seem to be the most common and frustrating for current adopters.
In this blog, we will point out what these issues are, how they hamper your smart home ecosystem, and how they can be addressed moving forward.
Shortcomings of Smart Home Technology
Smart home assistants like Google Home and Alexa allows users to do a lot without ever touching a screen: they play music, stream podcasts, make lists, and set alarms. Some people consider having the ability to do all this from any part of their home as the qualification for being a smart home, but that’s not truly a connected home. These are things that we already have the ability to do with a myriad of apps that control each connected device. How, then, are our homes any smarter than before?
Talking with some adopters in of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in the home, they’re excited and willing to invest. There’s still a lot to do though, before we have truly smart homes.
The most common concerns are:
- The lack in ability for communication between devices and platforms
- A lack of learning from sensors
- Too much human input needed to make things happen
Lack of Communication
Nothing works without communication. All good relationships are built on communication. Your IoT smart home should be no different, and just like any relationship, there’s always room to improve your communication skills. For example, if you have a significant other, and you don’t communicate to them when you’ll be home late from work, they may worry. That’s causing unnecessary friction in your relationship. Likewise, your devices aren’t making the most of their connection.
As it stands, there are a lot of IoT devices, but having a lot of devices doesn't mean much when they can't all work together to do their primary task: make your life easier.
Say you happen to lose your phone, as people often do. How would you get into your smart locked home? What is the easiest, most efficient method you could use to get into your home? You could probably borrow a friend’s phone, but with sensor technology, you can imagine a better scenario. Perhaps you could have a lock that uses sensors by the door to know when your car is pulled into the garage, automatically letting you in.
Lack of Learning
A smart home is described as, "a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio and video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet," according to Smarthomeusa.com.
While this is a solid base for what a smart home is, it fails to mention an important aspect of what a smart home should be capable of. If your smart home isn't capable of learning, what makes it smart? All the apps and hubs make a great foundation, but if that's all you have, your house is just regurgitating orders with less effort on your part.
The way most smart homes work is really simple, regardless of what or how many devices you have in your home. For the most part, you either wake your hub device (Echo, Invoke, etc.) or they follow a certain protocol, like having your lights turn on when you’re within a certain range of your home.
We’ve established the fact that very few smart devices seem capable of really learning. What “learning” in this case means is reacting to what you do, without any input from you. They lack autonomy. For example, if you remember you left the light on in the kitchen when you get into bed. Think about it. We all have our bedtime rituals. You’ve brushed your teeth, you’ve put on your favorite whale song MP3 to wind down, and right when your eyelids are heavy and you’re closing your eyes, the realization that that light is on in the kitchen hits you. Your house solves for that, by realizing what time it is, that there's nobody in the kitchen, and there are people in the bedroom.
Your house then understands that all of this likely means that it's bed time and nobody needs the light on in the kitchen and acts accordingly to turn it off. This is just one of many scenarios that show what true machine learning can do for your IoT ecosystem.
Addressing These Concerns
So, now that we understand where the current system of IoT devices falls short, how can we fix it? Thankfully, there are steps being taken to move toward an ecosystem that is less intrusive and offers more value. For example, Home Assistant is an open source platform that allows users to control multiple IoT devices, while services like IFTTT give you the ability to daisy chain automation.
Top technology companies are also making strides in having their devices interact more with each other. LG has developed refrigerators and stoves that talk to each other, to help you use food before it spoils and on how to use said food, pointing you to recipes that can use the ingredients you have stored in your fridge.
As with any technology, there will be growing pains. However, the past decade of rapid technological advancement have proven that, given even just a few years, issues like these are fixable, and there are people doing that work right now.
Underlying issues such as cost and working through the technology itself will be a factor, but on the whole, the future is bright for smart home adopters. Once these challenges have been thoroughly addressed, we can truly have smart homes.