Connected Smart Homes – How IoT will Finally Network Communities

Prashant specializes in Big-Data, Internet of Things, Urban & Rural Informatics and Cloud-powered Wearables.

Home automation and personalization have been active fields for many years. Innovation has largely been centred on personalized choices and thematic influences to suit individual needs. While most classical home automation solutions covered things such as lighting-sensor, climate control and some level of security-systems, it has mostly been an isolated play. With improvements in interoperability, design-concepts and device interactions we are now slowly witnessing the emergence of community networks.

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has influenced the home automation market more than any other industry or commercial application of IoT. But these developments have often raised practical questions around devices speaking different languages and unable to communicate with each other that may ultimately hamper the seamless integration we have always hoped for. The reason that most of these devices were never programmed to talk with one another makes it even more challenging.

But things have started to change for the good with the emergence of Smart Home Gateways or Hubs. Think of a gateway like as an information processing unit that transmits and receives signals from endpoint devices, process information, run basic analytics - such as energy optimization, alerting a trigger to your mobile phone or transmit data to the utility service provider or the smart grid over the Internet. The idea is to keep the overall model fairly simple, without attempting to reprogram the current set of devices. In other words, the Gateway individually 'talks' to each endpoint device, aggregates and processes information to take action on such signals either locally or triggers an alert to the backend system. This also means that the endpoint devices can stay primitive without compromising on the combined intelligence of the entire home automation unit. While we are still in the formative years of technological developments in the IoT largely hampered by non-existence of protocols and standards (they remain work in progress), the home automation market continues to march ahead with all such inadequacies.

So who exactly is creating these gateways? Do clear industry standards exist for creating such gateways or can we assemble our own based on emerging standards? The answer is – anyone with access to reference design documents, basic programming knowledge and hardware set (DiY smart/controller kits available in your local supermarket) can create the basic Gateway. With some of the larger technology players taking the plunge you can expect to see more action in the space along with availability of platforms that can connect a range of devices to the cloud.

Now that gateways are simplifying the integration of devices and sensors at home, let us scale up our understanding to a broader level.

Imagine a modern residential complex with thousands of dwellings. Now multiply that by the variety of signals emerging from various types of sensors such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Energy consumption
  • Climate control/ air-conditioning
  • Appliance efficiency
  • Air-quality monitoring
  • Soil moisture-level from your kitchen garden
  • Security-systems

This volume, velocity and variety of signal is now giving birth to intelligent community networks. Advanced analytics and intelligent response system sits on top of the cloud or locally hosted solutions that churns out real-time decision making based on the signals transmitted by the gateways, aggregated and transmitted by the modern data pipe. Now imagine thousands of such connected communities!

These enormous "network of networks" are slowly giving rise to the next level of urban management, planning and informatics. Applications sitting on the cloud will churn and analyse the data coming out of connected communities in real-time, take corrective action and drive predictive decision-making.

By many industry estimates, the home automation market will continue to flourish and outperform some of the other IoT sub-classifications for a few years to come. Wider consumer adoption and creation of aggregated smart communities will blur the lines between consumer and enterprise solutions. In the coming years we may also witness consolidation in the home automation space with the emerging technology fabric. Our connected lives as we see them today are about to change forever!

Is your startup innovating for the homes of tomorrow? We are now accepting applications for our Home Automation accelerator in Seattle. Apply here.

We're hitting the road in July to meet startups interested in the program and answer questions. The tour will take us to 5 cities across the US, kicking off in Chicago on July 2nd. See the full schedule here. You can register from the schedule page or by following #MVMeetup on Twitter.