Smart Homes

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Contents

What is a Smart Home

How a smart home works
Smart home technology, also often referred to as home automation or domotics (from the Latin "domus" meaning home), provides homeowners security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices, often by a smart home app on their smartphone or other networked device. This technology can be set up wireless or hardwired systems and connected through one central point (i.e. phone) or one home automation system. Devices in a smart home are interconnected through the internet, allowing the user to control functions such as security access to the home, temperature, lighting, and a home theatre remotely. This is essentially residence that uses internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems (i.e. lighting, doors, heating). Since they're connected to a portable device, users can get notifications and updates on issues in their homes. For instance, smart doorbells allow homeowners to see and communicate with people who come to their doors even when they're not at home. Users can set and control the internal temperature, lighting, and appliances as well. [1]

Being part of the internet of things (IoT), smart home systems and devices often operate together, sharing consumer usage data among themselves and automating actions based on the homeowners' preferences. This is practically every aspect of life where tech has entered the domestic space has seen the intro of a smart home alternative. [2]

That being said, security risks and bugs continue to plague makers and users of smart home technology. Adept hackers, for example, can gain access to a smart home's internet-enabled appliances. In October 2016, a botnet called Mirai infiltrated interconnected devices of DVRs, cameras, and routers to bring down a host of major websites through a denial of service attack, also known as a DDoS attack [3]. Companies have struggled to become mainstream due to technical nature and perceived complexity when its first inconvenience. In a 2016 NTT Data Corp report, it found that 80% of US consumers concerned about the security of smart home data. Additionally, hackers could potentially hack into their systems or network leading to worse attacks or data exfiltration. On October 2016, the Mirai IoT botnet was able to bring down parts of the internet in a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks using badly secured cameras and other points of entry [4]. The NTT Data report found 73% consumers are concerned about privacy of the data shared by their smart home devices. While some platform manufacturers may collect consumer data to better tailor their products or offer new improved services to customers, trust and transparency are critical to manufacturers looking to gain new customers. [5]

Technologies Behind Smart Homes

There are many technology options available for a smart home to run on. Oftentimes, smarthomes are built on multiple technologies put together to complete an entire home. While there are many options available, the majority of smart homes use either bluetooth, WiFi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Thread, and in the future will include Matter. Each technology has its advantages, disadvantages, and concerns.

Bluetooth

Firstly, Bluetooth operated smart homes usually only have a few devices installed. Those devices communicate with a cell phone and are controlled through a user’s phone when in close proximity. However, some bluetooth devices can connect together to create a bluetooth mesh network, connect to a hub that is connected to the internet for remote connectivity, but this is uncommon. Bluetooth is advantageous when little to no automation is needed as a user only wants to control their devices when nearby and only from their phone. Because bluetooth devices are only controllable locally, they do not have the risk of being connected to the cloud and being hacked through your home internet. The disadvantage of bluetooth devices is that they cannot be controlled remotely which users may want to do when away from their home, but this is where WiFi enabled devices come in.

WiFi

WiFi enabled devices connect to a home's internet through either the 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz WiFi bands. Because smart devices are not transmitting large amounts of data, they often connect only to the 2.4Ghz band which also helps with connectivity since a home’s router may not be right near a smart device. WiFi smart devices are accessible remotely, however they do not talk directly to each other. Automation happens in the cloud so data has to be constantly sent from the device to the cloud in order to execute automations. If a home’s wifi stops working, or the manufacturer's cloud service goes down, automations will not run. Additionally, too many WiFi connected devices can saturate one’s home network without adequate networking gear. [6]

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a protocol in an alliance that was introduced to solve the problem of automations not being able to run when an internet connection is down [7]. Z-Wave operates on a radio frequency, typically 2.4Ghz. This can interfere with WiFi but the frequency can be changed. Z-Wave technology creates a mesh network amongst devices which then connects back to a Z-Wave Hub. This Z-Wave hub is connected to the internet for cloud based automation and remote access. This means only one device is connected to the cloud rather than each smart device, helping free up the WiFi network. Any automations created occur directly on the Z-Wave hub and as a result these automations run much quicker than WiFi based automations. If an internet connection fails, automations still run, but remote connectivity is unavailable. Z-Wave devices communicate with the hub only and not directly to each other, so if the hub has issues, automations may also have issues. [8]

Zigbee

Shortly after Z-Wave entered the market, an open standard protocol was introduced, Zigbee. Similar to Z-Wave, Zigbee also creates a mesh network amongst its products that are connected to a hub and the hub is connected to the internet. Zigbee shares all the benefits that Z-Wave has, however because Zigbee is an open protocol, its devices can operate differently. One brands motion sensor may not have the same capabilities as another brand, however this is where the community comes in to write community written firmware to unlock further potential whereas Z-Wave is more strict with its devices, but this means devices are created a bit more equally since firmware is only able to be written by the manufacturer. [9]

Thread

In 2016, thread was created. Thread aims to solve some of the downfalls of Z-Wave and Zigbee by enabling devices to talk directly to each other. Although a hub is still required, it does not act as the brains of the smart home, rather acts as a boarder router. Thread operates on an IPv6 protocol, which means that with a firmware update by manufacturers, devices can connect to Thread. Like Zigbee and Z-Wave, Thread creates a mesh network and operates locally with the hub/boarder router being the device that is connected to the cloud for remote connectivity. Users can know that when purchasing a thread device, it will natively work with their Thread based network without issues. [10] [11]

Matter

Although it seems like Thread has solved the biggest concerns for the smart home industry, none of these technologies allow other multiple technologies to speak to each other locally with ease, and this is where Matter comes in. So why does it Matter? Matter uses existing standards and brings all devices together without the use of a hub. It creates a mesh network with these devices. Similar to Thread, if a customer sees the Matter logo on a device, they know they can purchase it and the device will work in their Matter based smart home. Matter is not yet released, but is the future of the smart home industry. Matter is set to release in the Fall of 2022 [12] [13]

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT, or Internet of Things, refers to the collective network of devices connected to one another and the technology that facilitates communication between each device and the cloud, as well as between the devices themselves [14]. The upsurge in cheaper and smaller computer chips and high bandwidth telecommunication has allowed billions of devices to easily access the internet [15]. Everyday items such as cars, toothbrushes, fridges, and even vacuums can use microchip sensors to collect data and respond according to user inputs. [16]

“The Internet of Things integrates everyday “things” with the internet” (Amazon, 2022) [17]. Sensors and processors have been added to everyday objects as early as the 90’s. However, initial progress was slow due to bulky and inefficient computer chips [18]. As computing devices and microchips shrank in size, they became smaller, faster, smarter, and more efficient over time. This decrease in size allowed for mass production and a significant decrease in the cost of integrating computer power into small objects. The smart home industry has come to life given this change in computer power. With a focus on filling our homes with IoT devices. These devices can automatically collect and transmit data to and from the internet. “All these “invisible computing devices” and the technology associated with them are collectively referred to as the Internet of Things” (Amazon, 2022). [19]

IoT is implemented within smart devices such as a television, security cameras, and thermostats which are given computing capabilities [20]. The devices collect data from its environment, user inputs, or usage patterns and communicate this data over the internet to and from its respective IoT application. Most of this occurs on the cloud, which allows for processing without a local area network.

However, IoT is not restricted to the smart home. Many vehicles, such as cars, are connected to the internet. Vehicles can be connected through smart dashcams, infotainment systems, or even the vehicle’s connected gateway [21]. These IoT systems collect all types of data from the accelerator, brakes, speedometer, odometer, wheels, and fuel tank monitor. The data collected and transmitted to and from the IoT server can monitor both driver performance and vehicle health. [22]

As the IoT industry grows, integration of these devices can provide major benefits. The possibility could include an IoT connection between smart home and vehicle devices. For example, cameras within the home can communicate with monitoring devices within your car to notify your family when you arrive. This would be especially helpful with delivery vehicles which could transmit information to your home sensors indicating a package has arrived. The future of the IoT industry will look to integrate multiple systems together to improve the owners ease of mind and ease of use.

Technologies Wrap-up

Lastly, consumers also want to be able to turn their non-smart devices into smart devices. Each of these technologies offers many ways to bring these devices into their systems through the use of devices such as smart plugs, IoT connected IR blasters, RF repeaters, and more. While this does create a more cohesive home, there are still issues in the smart home industry when it comes to device communications, automations, and reliability. The technologies are heading in the right direction to enable consumers to be able to create more convenience in their homes without the concern of worrying about devices working.

How Does the Current Architecture Work

Current Architecture Diagram

Current architectures work independently. Every device or system acts on its own and uses the cloud to communicate with devices not on the same system. For example if an automation was created for a Zigbee device to trigger a wifi enabled device, the Zigbee hub needs to communicate with the cloud after receiving the signal from the Zigbee device. Furthermore, if two Zigbee devices that are not connected to the same Zigbee hub, the hubs communicate via the cloud. Although a user can likely connect all their Zigbee devices to one hub, manufacturers lock certain features of the device if it is not connected to its naitive hub. What this does is either makes it harder to create automations or locks a user into one ecosystem. When automations become harder to be created the cloud is needed and if the cloud is down, automations fail. Also if a user is locked into one ecosystem they run the risk of their entire system failing if that company were to go broke. The same goes for WiFi enabled devices. If a WiFi enabled device manufacturer were to go broke, the WiFi enabled device would stop working if that company removes its cloud services. What this all means is if a user is not tied into one ecosystem, cloud connectivity will likely be required for their smart home to fully communicate cohesively.

Progression of the Smart Home Industry

As the Smart Home industry slowly became evident into the marketspace, it truly was a progression over a period of time to begin with. The early market had its first concepts which were reserved for early adopters and the wealthy audience.

It started in 1975 with the release of X10 which was a communication protocol for home automation sending 120knZ radio frequency bursts of digital information onto a home's existing electronic wiring to programmable outlets of switches. The signals convey commands to corresponding devices controlling how and when devices operate. As for the transmitters, they could send a signal along the house's electrical wiring telling a device to turn on at a specific time. However, as electrical wiring is not designed to be free from radio-band noise, the X10 was not always fully reliable as it tended to lose signal or cross circuits that were wired on different polarities. The X10 was initially a one-way technology not meant for sending data back to the central network but later the X10 became a 2-way device system but was expensive. [23]

Later in 2000, CCTV cameras for home surveillance were released and offered to residential consumers. This was when a company called Insteon introduced combining electric wiring with wireless signals in 2005. Additionally, this included protocols of Zigbee and Z-Wave which emerged to counter the problems that the X10 had. The Z-Wave platform was also introducing an operating sub-1GHz band which did not affect the interference from WiFi and other wireless devices. This was a built in form of mech network and can remotely communicate from device to device while also allowing non-Z-Wave products to the network by plugging them into the Z-Wave accessory modules. While this entire process was undergoing, Zigbee became more known shortly after. [24]

In 2010, Nest Labs, which later was acquired by Google and became a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., released the first “smart” product being a learning thermostat and expanded to the Net Learning Thermostat in 2011. Their goal was to push the direction of internet connected and controlled devices and introduced the power of data collection with its ability to track activity in a home and automatically program the device with data. These devices include smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and security cameras. [25]

Following this, SmartThings Inc. launched a Kickstarter campaign raising $1.2 million to fund its smart home system which later came into the market in August 2013 and was acquired by Samsung in 2014. During this same period of time, Apple Home Kit launched its remotely control compatible devices app for all Apple users and Amazon Echo smart speaker entered the market with Alexa virtual assistant becoming a household name in 2014. Studies showed that approximately 28,000 Alexa-enabled devices used simple voice commands which showed how powerful the use of Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices, and automation meant for the public. Two years following this, Google released its smart home speaker allowing users to use more than simple commands while “thread” was created. In 2021, “thread” has increased traction and is on route to becoming the future of the industry which focuses on leveraging IoT bringing all the manufacturers together. One year later, “matter” will be released pushing for better integration of devices and more open source across all devices. This allows users to talk directly to each other incorporating other technology like wifi, data, and bluetooth making a smart home more connected with the user and not limiting to any protocols. [26]

Aspects of a Smart Home

Smart home technology helps protect your house. It allows you to link different devices to one another for a synchronous safe environment. People connect many home elements including garage doors, doorbells, door locks, speakers, lights, clocks, and many other electronic devices for optimal security [27].

Home automation can be broken down into three major categories, home automation, security, and other monitoring. The key to the smart home process is home automation. Home automation involves having all aspects of your home working autonomously while still communicating with one another and following the owners’ commands.

This leads us into security. Home automation and smart home technology work together to provide increased home security. Smart home technologies allow the owner to protect and monitor their home's security even when they are away.

Then there is other monitoring which refers to all other monitoring services provided within a home. Which are less immediate security concerns but play an important role in the synchronized smart home system.

Home Automation

Variety of smart home devices including voice assistants, lights, sensors, cameras, and speakers.

As mentioned earlier, home automation is the key process behind smart homes. Home automation or domotics is implementing automation within the home, creating a smart home. A home automation system is important in synchronizing each aspect of the smart home. A home automation system utilizes internet of things (IoT) devices to automate aspects of your home or life. IoT has allowed smart home devices to interact with one another and to communicate using Wi-Fi. With IoT enabled devices, you will be able to receive notifications from your security devices, as well as control them [28]. IoT provides ease-of-use for consumers using smart home technology. The use of such a system allows consumers to monitor and control home attributes. These devices know who you are and can be controlled by your commands. Some of these devices include voice assistants, lights and plugs, appliances, cameras, and sensors.

Security

Security is one of the most important factors and value-adds when looking at smart home technology. The use of technology helps protect and monitor your home. Having multiple devices working and communicating together amplifies this security. As a homeowner you want to protect your home and your loved ones even if you are away. Imagine you are at work, with your family at home, you would want the ease of mind knowing your loved ones are safe. Smart locks, doorbells, cameras, sensors, and many other smart home technologies work, day-in and day-out, they do not need breaks, and you can rest assured your home and those inside it are safe.

Other Monitoring

Other monitoring devices are part of the larger smart home capabilities and play a role in monitoring other aspects of your home. Other monitoring devices can be linked and connected with home automation; however, they are not necessarily the primary consideration of home automation. Typical devices include thermostats, water leak sensors and shut-off valves, sprinkles, humidifiers, and air purifiers.

Applications of a Smart Home and IoT Devices

Smart home technology provides two major applications. The first is security or ease-of-mind. You want your home, your family, and yourself to be safe. Smart home applications work seamlessly together to provide one comprehensive, integrated security system which works 24/7 and can be monitored at any point to ensure your ease-of-mind knowing everything and everyone is safe. The second is ease-of-use. The benefit of using smart home applications is the fact that these systems can be tailored to your needs. These products can detect you nearby and make your life easier than ever before. They can be activated during set times, they can trigger certain alarms, and they can be adjusted to your lifestyle. No more running around punching in security codes before a timer runs out. The system knows who you are and works to provide you the best service possible. Moreover, as we have already discussed, IoT has allowed for smart home devices to interact and work with one another. IoT enabled devices, send you notifications, are easy to interact with, and allow you to automate many aspects of your life. IoT provides ease-of-use for consumers using smart home technology.

Given these applications, smart home technology offers:

- Automations to turn off all the lights in your house when nobody is home

- Turning off lights automatically if nobody is occupying a room

- Security lets you see if any doors or windows have been left open

- Cameras record activity for visual viewing when away and insurance protection

- Controlling thermostats based on external temperature or if windows are open

- Warnings when something unexpected happens

- Community safety

Community Safety and Advantages

Smart home technology also drastically improves community safety and provides added community advantages. For example, with the use of the Ring neighborhood watch from Amazon, multiple Ring owners can record suspicious activity and provide a comprehensive view of your neighborhood. Such devices improve the safety of not only your home, but the entire community. Furthermore, using smart home technology can be highly effective for condo buildings. For example, instead of hiring two to three security guards for all hours of the day, a condo could implement a smart home camera or doorbell system. Implementing such technology will have one fixed cost and will be significantly cheaper over the long run. The system will also be unique for each tenant, and it will provide an additional amenity when selling each property. Smart home technology has the added benefit of allowing neighbors to check up on your home easier than ever before. You no longer need to give someone a physical key or have them running around to turn off your home security system while trying to water your plants. The system can be tailored with a unique access code to provide your neighbor an easy and simple method to check your cameras, your smart locks, and to ensure the home is safe.

Current Issues With the Industry

Regardless of all the benefits and applications of smart home technology there are a few current issues with the industry. The first issue is that many devices do not natively talk to each other and require the cloud to process automation. It is difficult to get devices from different companies to communicate with one another without the use of a cloud system. However, using the cloud comes with its own series of issues.

Furthermore, each vendor's hub can lock you into a certain ecosystem. If you want all your devices working together, many times, consumers end up purchasing all their devices from one company. The question then remains, what happens if a company goes bankrupt? It is important to take this into consideration when making smart home purchases and to ensure you purchase your products from reputable sources.

As mentioned in the first point, the cloud is the key to everything working cohesively. Therefore, if there is an issue regarding the server which holds the cloud system your smart home devices may struggle to communicate or function.

The final issue within the industry revolves around the idea that your home being reliant on the cloud is therefore reliant on the internet. Thus, does your home break when the internet stops working? This is not necessarily the case, especially with the use of new smart home technologies creating a local system within the home itself to prevent such issues. However, this problem does remain and should be considered when purchasing certain smart home appliances.

Concerns

As technology advances, we begin to see a lot more machines, systems, softwares etc become part of our everyday lives. Our homes are now filled with machines that help make us comfortable and make our everyday lives more convenient. But with this convenience comes a lot of concerns.

Who is listening to our private conversations? Who is watching us and tracking our behavior? What data is available to others, and what is being shared? These are just a few questions with regards to concerns when it comes to smart homes.

Can Your Smart Home be Hacked

Smart homes have been on the rise for the last couple of years, gaining more and more popularity year after year. But over the last couple of years we have also seen many videos being uploaded to the internet with hackers taking control of smart home devices such as cameras, temperature control, TV’s. There have been many cases of hackers using smart home technologies to further absorb more information about homeowners to take hostage over bank accounts, social media. [29]

Who is Listening in on Your Conversation

As we implement technologies more into our everyday life we begin to invite outside beings into our personal lives. Businesses use keywords to pick up on conversations that you might be having that can be useful to them. Google is a perfect example of how a business may use smart technologies. Google picks up on keywords that their consumers use and becomes the middle man for advertisements for businesses. What makes google special is that they connect businesses with consumers that may be speaking about them or topics that relate closely to them. [30] [31]

Dawex

Dawex, a data exchange business founded in 2015 in San Francisco, California, is “a marketplace where organizations can distribute, source, share, and commercialize data”. Dawex values data, therefore it implements a strategic plan on how they collect data. To access data from this platform, you need to be able to also share data. This plan makes data a product that is open in a sense. Dawex becomes the information hub for other businesses, data collectors and many more, which gives almost all businesses an advantage. Businesses can use this data for their own business decisions, future predictions, business analysis and much more. [32]

The Business Advantage of Dawex

Data collection helps with improving efficiency and productivity of a business. A business can access already available data such as surveys, feedback, demographics to help with their own business instead of spending money on their own data collection strategies. This helps a business become more efficient because data collection agencies have already cleaned, filtered and most importantly categorized the data in a strategic way that helps a business receive explicitly what they're looking for.

Today, information and data on people is very valuable. Companies that have access to a wide range of data from around the globe on their consumers are very valuable. Information on a consumer is very handy for businesses as it helps a business know their consumer. The more you know about a consumer, the more you can begin to engage with them and increase revenues. Furthermore, you can use information you’ve collected to project future consumer behaviors, which can help with the future growth of a company. Knowing your consumer is very important because it can help foster a long-term relationship and create loyalty for consumers with brands.

Data collection can help businesses mitigate risks. Businesses can use data to help with business decisions and analysis For example, if a business is looking into expanding their retail presence across the country, they can use their target audience demographics and cross reference them with where they plan on opening their location. Eg. A clothing company that sells to fashion influencers has most of their consumers in Vancouver and Toronto would not open a retail store in Red Deer, Alberta.

Smart Devices

Smart home technologies may seem like a product that helps an end user with comfortability, efficiency and comfortability, but has much more of a use than just that. Developers use smart home technologies for various different departments in their business, marketing, developing, research. The business advantage for developers is creating direct ads, knowing consumer behavior, and increasing customer engagement. For direct ads, Companies can filter out different consumers and connect them with different ads that might relate to them. Businesses are able to easily reach their target audience with the most cost efficient price. To further supplement this, smart home technologies help with consumer behavior. Smart home technologies are able to consistently collect data and begin to understand consumer habits. For example, smart TVs are able to understand what type of media a consumer likes the best and begin to recommend different media related to the watch history. If we take this a step further, we begin to understand how businesses can use the data collected to help increase customer engagement. With all this combined we begin to realize that businesses today know more about us then we know about ourselves. But before we realize this, corporations have already fostered a relationship with us that we become loyal too. [33] [34]

The Future of Smart Homes

Mesh network of the future smart home

The future of the smart home industry is where devices can natively talk directly with each other. A user can select the hub of their choice and know that all their devices will work and the purpose of the hub is to connect smart devices to the cloud for remote connectivity. As mentioned earlier, Matter is a future standard that aims to solve the current issues that exist in the industry and bring together local control for all types of devices, allowing them to talk directly with each other rather than using the hub to communicate information from device to device, and use a hub or boarder router to talk to the cloud.

Smart Home User Scenarios

First Mass Market Smart Home

To give an idea of what an individual may have had in their home with smart devices when smart homes were very new, here is an outline of a list of devices and how they worked together.

Devices:

- Voice assistant: Google Assistant via a Google Home

- Smart light bulbs

- Smart wall plug

- LED light strips

- Google Nest Learning Thermostat

This user controls everything by voice command using the wake phrase “Hey Google”. Anytime they need to make changes to the lighting in a room that has smart bulbs, they use Google Assistant to adjust the lights. Because they are using smart light bulbs, the toggle light switch must always remain in the on position. If they are put in the off position, the lights will not work. They also use a couple smart wall plugs to turn a lamp into a smart lamp and to turn on a fan with their voice. Similar to the lights, these devices also need to be left in the on position in order for the smart outlet to work as intended. Their Google Nest Learning Thermostat can be controlled by voice, or by manual adjustment since it is always receiving power. After some time the home occupants will not need to make too many adjustments as the thermostat learns their habits. Lastly this user has both WiFi enabled light strips as well as Bluetooth connected light strips as each person in the home selected different products. WiFi enabled light strips are usable by voice command, in an app either in close proximity or away from home, or by a controller located on the light strips for quick access. The users who opted for Bluetooth connected light strips can only control them via the app when in close proximity or through the attached controller, leaving them with no voice control over the light strips.

Current Smart Home Generation

When shopping for their smart home products, this user looked for devices that work with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung Smartthings to ensure that if they were to switch platforms in the future, everything still works. They know that some devices are hard to find that support all platforms, thus it was important that it must support at least Google Assistant for voice commands. This user wanted to create a smart home that has integrated lights, speakers, thermostats, cameras, and more, and also set themselves up to be able to expand their products in the future as they see more room for automations. As a result they started off by purchasing the following devices:

- Smart light switches (Lutron)

- Sonos Speakers

- Ecobee Thermostats

- Ring Doorbell camera

While purchasing these devices, this user was also sold on a smart security system by Telus Smart Security by ADT. However after installation they realized that the smart security system did not talk to their smart home natively and would primarily be controlled by the smart security app unless they wanted to use workarounds that require lots of troubleshooting.

When setting up their devices, this user realized that Ring no longer connects with Google Assistant as it was bought by Amazon, but they were okay with that because they had no reason to control their doorbell with their voice, and could easily access it via their phone through the Ring app which was most important for monitoring the front door when away from home. Everything else connected for them very easily. This user was happy that they could control their lights with their voice and start playing music. They could call out a scene name and multiple actions would happen. Because they purchased smart light switches rather than bulbs, anyone can turn off the switch like a normal switch which makes it easy for guests to operate the home. The Futron lights have some basic automation in their naitive app, and there are some basic automations that can occur in the google home app but this user found themselves over time wanting more complex automations. As a result they had to turn to a third party cloud based service called “If This Then That” (IFTTT). IFTTT is a cloud service that links devices that either do not natively talk to each other for automation or the ability to create more complex automations. It does rely on the cloud of the devices and the IFTTT cloud. While this worked well most of the time, there is some lag, and when either cloud providers are having issues, automations do not work as intended, but this was okay because the home could still operate manually. It was not unusable like other homes.

Although the home was still operational at a basic “dumb home” level, this sparked this user to look into other smarthome technologies that allowed for local automation. They discovered Zigbee and noticed that the initial cost for a Zigbee hub is high but after that each device is relatively cheap and made the investment into a Zigbee hub that works with the Smartthings system for both local and cloud based automation. They believe this is a good option as Smartthings is owned by Samsung, a reputable brand. The user integrated all their other products with Smartthings so that all the automations were being controlled from one cloud service. The user discovered motion sensors that were affordable and set up motion sensors that connect to the Zigbee hub in certain rooms to trigger lights based on certain conditions when motion is detected. This led to an even more connected smart home. This home still ran the risk of not being connected should any cloud service stop working.

Because this user and their family use Apple devices, phones, laptops, and tablets, they wanted to look at migrating everything over to Apple HomeKit. When doing this their light switches, speakers, and thermostats had no issues. However their Zigbee hub and Smartthings is not compatible with HomeKit and their Ring doorbell is not compatible. They scoured the web to find a solution without purchasing new products and found a solution called HomeBridge which connects devices that do not natively work on HomeKit to work on HomeKit through the use of an always-on device like a RaspberyPi. While this solution works, again it is cloud connected and now creates another point of failure, but also requires some technical knowledge to keep operational should anything go wrong. The current smart home industry is at a point similar to how when Android phones were in their early adopters stage. Android phones needed to be rooted or iPhones needed to be jailbroken in order to obtain full functionality out of them. The same goes for the smart home industry right now.

What we see in this situation is that the current smart home market does not create devices that operate together with ease. Users are required to research the device to figure out how it will integrate into their smart home and if there is ambiguity in how it will work, it can create hesitation in the purchase and their personal reliability in that device.

The Ideal Future Smart Home

The ideal smart home is still at least five years away. This is when anyone can easily pull a smart device off the shelf and easily set it up in one app and know it will work with their home and they do not have to worry about the manufacturer shutting down because the device does not rely on the manufacturer. The types of devices a user could have are endless.

A user would be able to turn their lights on from the switch, their phone, using their voice, by motion sensor, or by pre-created automations. They will have cameras monitoring all sides of their home plus a doorbell camera. Also all windows and doors will have contact sensors that lets them know when anything is opened, closed, or left open unexpectedly. Doors will be able to be locked or unlocked remotely. Furthermore, house keys will not be needed, rather they are a backup to when a battery dies. Door locks will be available with either keypads, fingerprint readers, or facial recognition and this will be connected to a professional alarm monitoring center in the event of an intruder.

Other devices in the home will also be connected. Thermostats will learn the habits of users and adjust automatically, ultimately saving them money on their heating and electricity bills. Fridges and TV’s will also be connected so content can be played very easily and groceries can be tracked. All these devices will be connected and set up in one central application rather than in their manufacturer apps then added to a central application. This lets them be controlled locally rather than through the cloud. In the event that the internet is not working, their automations still run. Although there is a lot going on in this ideal smart home environment, this is not an extensive list of what can be done.

Things can be taken to a higher level if a user feels the need or want to, such as geofencing with their phone to automatically lock and unlock their house upon arrival or departure, or their home is connected to their vehicle. Some users may not want their home this interconnected and will opt for only a select number of devices. That is also okay. The future of the smart home will enable a higher level of AI learning to automatically track habits and auto adjust devices or suggest improvements to the user to obtain a higher level of convenience or more monetary savings.

The biggest thing in this kind of an ecosystem is that devices will easily be able to be added over time and the user won’t have to do extensive research to ensure the device will work with their home, rather they have the confidence in theri purchase that it will work out of the box.

Authors

Jordan Chan Nabeel Jagani Nima Hashemzadeh Vishal Mutneja
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada

References

  1. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/smart-home.asp
  2. https://www.toptal.com/designers/interactive/smart-home-domestic-internet-of-things#:~:text=IoT%20home%20automation%20is%20the,controlled%20by%20a%20mobile%20app.
  3. https://www.encompassinsurance.com/insurance-resources/articles/home/smart-home-technology.aspx https://www.csoonline.com/article/3258748/the-mirai-botnet-explained-how-teen-scammers-and-cctv-cameras-almost-brought-down-the-internet.html
  4. https://dibsoftiot.com/iot-smart-home/#:~:text=A%202016%20NTT%20Data%20Corp,defenseless%20to%20a%20break%2Din.
  5. https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/insurance/two-three-u-s-homeowners-insurance-customers-switch-carriers-get-discounts-using-smart-home-devices-study-finds-1004107549/
  6. https://www.dignited.com/84001/why-most-smarthome-devices-use-2-4ghz-wifi-band/#:~:text=The%202.4%20GHz%20band%20has,with%20the%202.4Ghz%20band
  7. https://www.z-wave.com/learn
  8. https://www.the-ambient.com/guides/zwave-z-wave-smart-home-guide-281
  9. https://homenetworkgeek.com/how-does-zigbee-work/
  10. https://www.threadgroup.org/What-is-Thread/Thread-Benefits#:~:text=Thread%20is%20based%20on%20existing,minimizes%20the%20risk%20of%20incompatibilities
  11. https://www.the-ambient.com/guides/what-is-thread-smart-home-2410
  12. https://www.the-ambient.com/guides/matter-smart-home-explainer-guide-2676
  13. https://www.consumerreports.org/smart-home/matter-smart-home-standard-faq-a9475777045/
  14. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
  15. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
  16. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
  17. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
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  20. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
  21. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
  22. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
  23. https://www.smarthomepoint.com/history/
  24. https://www.smarthomepoint.com/history/
  25. https://www.afcdud.com/fr/smart-city/422-how-the-history-of-smart-homes.html
  26. https://www.smarthomepoint.com/history/
  27. https://www.security.org/resources/smart-home-automation-guide/#:~:text=Smartphone%20Controlled%20Sensors&text=Home%20sensors%20can%20sense%20your,motion%20detected%20by%20the%20system.
  28. https://www.security.org/resources/smart-home-automation-guide/#:~:text=Smartphone%20Controlled%20Sensors&text=Home%20sensors%20can%20sense%20your,motion%20detected%20by%20the%20system.
  29. https://www.technewsworld.com/story/researchers-find-smart-devices-ripe-for-hacker-attacks-87192.html
  30. https://www.pcmag.com/news/are-you-worried-about-smart-home-devices-listening-to-you
  31. https://blogs.k-state.edu/it-news/2020/03/23/who-is-listening-to-your-conversations-through-your-smart-devices/
  32. https://www.dawex.com/en/
  33. https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/9/20/20875755/smart-devices-listening-human-reviewers-portal-alexa-siri-assistant
  34. https://www.analyticssteps.com/blogs/how-has-iot-changed-advertising-industry
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