Smart Home Solutions: Helping People Live Life – Automatically

An Introduction to the Smart Home

Forget the Smart Home.  Thanks to the rapid growth of technology, these days it’s about the Smarter Home.  More frequently you hear from friends or family about their new security system that they can control from their mobile device.  You listen to stories from coworkers who forgot to turn off the stove when they left in the morning, but, fortunately, had a new system installed letting them turn it off.  The world, as it exists now, is becoming more and more connected every day.  As smartphone usage becomes ubiquitous, the “Internet of Things” or IoT, is becoming a much more ingrained part of everyday living 0 the cloud, mobile computing and increased connectivity all make the Smarter Home possible.

How Does a Smart Home Work?

A Smart Home is connected to the outside world via a communication hub, which links together digital devices throughout the home.  These devices can range from the air conditioning and thermostats to security alarms to televisions and more.  Through the control hub, homeowners can access and control these devices, even away from home.  The market opportunity presented by smart home management solutions is great, and there several factors to consider when choosing an integrated solution.

smart home

Features of the Smart Home

  • Smart appliances
  • Smart meters
  • Smart grid
  • Cloud computing
  • Mobile devices
  • Controls
  • Hubs or Home Gateways
  • Home automation
  • Home security
  • Health and medical devices

As all these individual components are networked together to form an intelligent system, which forms the foundation for both automated control and comprehensive control parameters.  A main command processor connected to the main communication hub.  Connections between single components combined with intelligent control can increase comfort, save ensure and ensure safety in the home.  Control can be exerted over stationary control panels or even mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.

The Smart Home Market

The market revolving around the Internet of Things continues to rapidly grow.  Over the next decade, this market is expected to grow by $14.4 trillion in net profit. This extraordinary growth is driven by a number of factors:

Spread of the Mobile Device:

In 2006, the quarter before Apple launched its first iPhone, only 715,000 smartphones were sold – representing a measly 6% of cell phone sales in the United States.  The following full quarter after its launch, Apple sold 1.12 million iPhones, despite a price point of $399, at the time the most expensive mobile phone on the market.  Since then, the market share of smartphones doubles every year, and now represent more than 65% of all mobile device sales in the US. This trend is a strong driver for new Smart Home devices and applications as these smartphones are the perfect controller for Smart Homes.  By 202, it is expected that there will be over 26 billion connected devices.

Demographic Trends:

In 2000, seniors aged over 65 were only 12.4% of the population in the United States.  By 2030, this number is expected to be 19.2%.  This increasing demographic is expected to drive the demand for home automation, as more aging people desire to age in place.

Home Automation:

Home automation systems are increasing in popularity.  They can increase comfort, allow savings in energy, and even enhance home security.  A Smart Home integrates home systems, and enables homeowners to monitor, control, and remotely access electrical and mechanical devices.

At the heart of these trends is connectivity.  Market research firm Frost & Sullivan predicted that the market opportunity for smart homes could represent $731.8 billion in the next 5 years, and that smart buildings will account for 50% of the market, as “the need for intelligent infrastructure and automation increases.”

Smart Home Benefits

The most important aspects of a smart home improve comfort, save energy, improve safety and support care for the elderly.

 Energy Savings and Cost Reductions

Indoor heating and cooling often account for the largest amount of energy consumption in a home.  In fact, almost 70% of the energy used in private homes is for central heating.  Networking and automating the integrated components ensures that heating or cooling consumption can be customized.  Saving potential can vary from 17% up to 38%.

Smart Metering for Energy Savings

Smart metering is another method for homeowners to save money through a smart home feature.  Home consumers, by automating energy controls, can utilize these parameters to ensure that washing machines, dishwashers, and A/C units activate or can be used only at times when the energy prices are cheapest.  Smart metering also gives homeowners insight into their own energy usage, and thereby allow them even more control over energy usage.

Additional Comfort and Convenience

Multimedia is a significant part of smart homes.  When people imagine smart homes, they imagine touching a button on their tablet, the shades closing, the surround sound turning on at the right volume and the movie starting.  Due to the outstanding innovations in the last few years, consumers have access to this type of technology.  Homeowners now want as much control from as few devices as possible.  Why use 2 different remotes, and walk to a control panel to lower the shades, when all 3 of those actions can be completed by a single control.

Assisted Living Controls

As the population grows older every day, designing homes that make life easier are important.  Specifically, technology can facilitate life at home.  Smart home technology solutions can monitor vital signs and alert authorities in case of emergency.  Sensor mats or motion detectors can register a person lying on the floor and notify emergency services.

Security and Peace of Mind

Security measures generate the largest part of the smart home area currently.  In a fully featured system – motion detectors, cameras, and alarms – are integrated together and connected with a home security provider.  The monitoring system can be configured and expanded according to customer requirements.

Creating a Smart Home: Networking Solutions

A smart home is a constantly expandable system, and must be designed with both flexibility and interoperability in mind.  This allows homeowners to change and adapt their smart homes according to changes in technology or evolving needs.  There is a myriad of different networking structures and options.

Cloud Computing vs. Traditional Servers

Cloud computing allows applications to function using internet connections.  Devices and applications with cloud capability require internet connectivity to function, but allows the storage of application functions and data that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, so that functions can continue so long as connection to the cloud exists.  A Home Server is a more traditional, hardware-based solution wherein the data and the applications must be directly connected (either through a wired cable or through a wireless connection) to a functioning server that hosts all of the commands and data.  The advantage of a home server is that it requires connection to the server only – and not to the cloud – in order to continue operations.

Home Gateways

“Gateways” allow the connection of a local area network (commonly known as an LAN), to the wide area network (or WAN).  The WAN is typically a larger network of computers but also includes access to the Internet and World Wide Web.  “Home Gateways” were originally designated as such because they did not have the capability of their corporate counterparts, and have become much more powerful, robust and user-friendly.

Current  Gateway Technology

As homeowners continue to acquire more and more digital content through the Internet, it becomes important to structure the home gateway in a manner that can handle the presence of more devices and sheer quantity of multimedia content.  Currently, most home gateways are centered on a microcontroller. Next generation mass market home gateways will have:

  • The significant processing power that can handle multiple voices and high-demand data streams. Intel Quark and Bay Trail architecture represent a good example of technology who can fit the market demand. Future Intel platform like SoFIA and Atlas Peak with integrated communication will perfectly match market requirement
  • Flexible architecture and configuration options with multiple I/O and expansion slot for communication modules
  • Video decoding capability for streaming contents
  • Smart Metering option to retrofit previous generation of electric meters
  • Multiple Bus and Protocol support to interact with all the hardware on the markets
  • Open platform architecture that can support both WAN and LAN

Available Smart Home Communication Technology Standards

A given residence will have a broadband service provided by a combination of telephone carriers, a cable service providers, utility companies, or a wireless communications providers, hybrid fiber coaxial cables, or RF transmission.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a proprietary wireless technology from Sigma Designs, a US-based company in Milpitas, California.  It is essentially a wireless communications protocol designed for home automation.  Used mostly for remote control applications in residential and light commercial environments, it utilizes a low-power RF radio embedded or retrofitted into electronic devices and systems.  The Z-Wave can configure home devices into nodes, each one serving as a point of communication for the entire network, allowing communication of a command or message from one device to the other in what is called a “mesh network.”   A Z-Wave product passes the signal along to another until the final destination is reached.

Specifications:

  • Bandwidth: 9600 bit/s, 40 kbit/s or 100 kbit/s,
  • Range: Approximately 100 ft
  • Frequency band: 908.42 MHz

Limitations:

  • Devices linked by Z-Wave cannot remain in sleep mode, or the network will be unable to route messages

BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth Smart

BLE is a wireless personal area network technology designed and marketed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and is meant to provide considerably reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining Bluetooth’s communication range.   With its low power profile, it has wide applicability across the smart home market and generally has a small size, low cost, and high compatibility with mobile phones, tablets, and computers.

Specifications:

  • Bandwidth: 1 Mbit/s
  • Range: Over 330 Ft.
  • Frequency band: 2.400-2.4835 GHz

Limitations:

  • BLE is not backward compatible with previous Bluetooth technology
  • High risk of data collision

ZigBee

ZigBee is a set of high-level communication protocols based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard that uses small, low-power digital radios to create personal area networks.  Using ZigBee, users can create a “mesh network” which can extend the network range.  ZigBee is typically used in low data applications that need long battery life in conjunction with a secure network and is well suited for non-continuous data transmissions from sensors.  This includes electrical meters with in-home displays, wireless light switches, and other consumer equipment needing short-range low-rate wireless data transfer.

Specifications:

  • Bandwidth: 20, 40 or 250kbit/s
  • Range: 30 feet
  • Frequency band: 915 MHz

Limitations:

  • Low power limits transmission to about 330 feet

RFID

RFID – or Radio-Frequency IDentification – is a wireless use of electromagnetic readers to transfer.  RFID tags are attached to objects and contain electronically stored information.  RFID technology can be used inside homes to provide digital information.  RFID sensor tags could be placed inside a home to measure things like humidity and air circulation.  A homeowner or property manager can regularly scan these RFID tags and fix the problem before it becomes costly. Parts that need maintenance in certain intervals could inform the RFID reader when it needs to be replaced or cleaned the next time.

Specifications (Depending on Tag Type):

  • Bandwidth: Low to High
  • Range: Up to 650 ft.
  • Frequency band: 120-150 MHz, 13.56 MHz, 433 MHz, 856-868 MHz, 902-928 MHz, 2450-5800 MHz, 3.1-10GHz

Limitations:

  • Has limited read range depending on the size of the RFID chip
  • Cannot be connected to a mesh network or communicate with devices
  • Usually stores digital information only

EnOcean

The EnOcean technology is a wireless technology that can be used in smart homes.  EnOcean technology combines micro energy converters with low power electronics and allows wireless communications between sensors, switches, controllers, and gateways. EnOcean radio products have great flexibility and low installation costs, and with no additional cabling requirements.  EnOcean sensors use energy from the surrounding environment, drawing on changes in movement, pressure, light and temperature to transmit signals.

Specifications

  • Bandwidth: 125kbit/s
  • Range: up to 100 feet in buildings
  • Frequency band: 902 MHz, 928.35 MHz, 868.3 MHz and 315 MHz

Limitations

  • Data packets and speed are relatively small
  • When multiple signals are transmitted there is possible risk of collision/interference of signals

LoRa

LoRa-WAN is a specification intended for wireless battery operated devices in a network. It provides seamless interoperability among smart devices without the need of complex local installations.  Communication between end-point devices and gateways is spread out on different frequency channels and data rates. LoRA manages the data rate and RF output for each end-device individually.

Protocol

 There are much proprietary communication protocols, but the following ones are the most interesting and popular.

6LowPan Protocol

6LoWPAN stands for IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks.  The concept originated from the idea that even small devices should be connected and controlled through a network.  It is meant for applications that need connectivity at low data rates for devices with a very limited form factor. Examples could include, but are not limited to entertainment applications in home and office environment.

KNX

KNX is a standardized communications protocol for intelligent homes.  KNX is meant to be independent of hardware platforms, and is compatible and can be controlled by anything from a remote control to a PC.  KNX encompasses several communication media:

  • Paired wiring
  • Power-line networks
  • Radio
  • Infrared
  • Ethernet

LonWorks

LON refers to a “local operating network” and is a platform created to address the needs of control applications.  It is a completely peer-peer network, that sets up. Instead of moving data through a “Master” device, any device can exchange data with any other LON device on the network. LON can use twisted pair, Ethernet or even a power line as its communication channel.

Security Concerns:

While the pursuit of the Internet of Things continues to march on, concern about possible vulnerabilities not only within each smart home, but throughout the entire connected landscape, grows bigger.  ]Are consumers stopping to ask what operating system is behind the screen on the fridge? Where is the smart meter storing the data? Can someone hack into my media network, my refrigerator, or my thermostat? If so, does that open a back door into my home network, my computer, and my critical and confidential information?  One possible solution is the adoption of a protocol or standard throughout the IoT space, such as IPv6.  Pv6 supports unique IP addresses by which the activity of each device can potentially be tracked. The design of IPv6 emphasizes the end-to-end principle of network design that the IoT utilizes. In this approach, each device on the network has a unique address globally reachable directly from any other location on the Internet.

Conclusion

Wireless systems are now firmly in place in building and home installations, and can be equally if not more effective than wired systems.  At this time, there is no single system that can satisfy a user’s requirements in full.  Some applications need to be used in more data heavy applications (such as communication with a home printer).  Flexible controls need cables sensors or switches.  Wired solutions often require cabling which raises costs.

Check AAEON solution at http://www.aaeon.com/en/c/iot-gateway-solutions/

Want to know what rugged is? Give it to a 5-year old kid!

You have tablets and you have AAEON rugged tablets. The difference? You can safely give an AAEON rugged tablet to a 5-year old kid, tell him or her to do whatever they like with it and get it fully functioning back after a days’ worth of playing.

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In that day of playing with it, the tablet would have probably endured the following agonizing scenarios:

  • Food & Drinks: Kids generally do not want to interrupt their tablet play time for something as time-consuming as eating/drinking, so they combine the two. With a consumer-grade tablet, this would normally result in peanut butter-clogged and juice drained connectors (yes, kids tend to knock over drinks…). Conclusion: Unusable connectors or, even worse, a broken motherboard inside the tablet.
  • Let’s go outside: Small kids do not have the same constraints adults do when it comes to weather conditions. When we get inside when it rains or snows heavily, they go out…and (because we did not tell them they couldn’t) the tablet goes with them. Walking with a tablet in the rain/snow and occasionally dropping it in a pool of water/mud or snow would dramatically shorten your consumer tablets’ life.
  • Combine physical games with electronics: Why not makeshift mount the tablet to your BMX bike, race with other kids and make good use of the onboard camera? Well, when you fall, the bike (and tablet) does as well resulting in (at least) a broken screen. Even better, for lack of a better alternative, let’s use the tablet as an ice hockey puck on the frozen pond in the winter. Normally the freezing temperature alone will do the damaging trick, but if not, the ice hockey stick slapping the tablet will finish the job.

In a normal situation, you would not give your kid an industrial grade tablet just so you do not have to worry about it. Instead, you would just tell the kid to give the tablet some respect and there is hell to pay when they don’t.

The kids do give us a good test lab when extrapolating it to real-life work for adults, though. Similar conditions, as described above, will come forward in people’s working life as a Field Service Engineer, Construction Worker, Police/Fire(wo)man, Land Surveyor and many more. So if you recognize the described conditions in your daily job, think again before going on your job endeavor with a consumer-grade tablet.

Check all the details on AAEON rugged tablets here

The Internet of Things Is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes

When people talk about “the next big thing,” they’re never thinking big enough. It’s not a lack of imagination,  it’s a lack of observation.

The Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication. It’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors. It’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection, and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”

Here is the part where AAEON Gateway solution can help. An IoT gateway can gather, store equipment data and send it to the cloud offering the advantage of big data analysis and giving the opportunity to create innovative products & services, and drive down operational costs. IoT is going to unlock the value of customer experience, innovation, supply chain logistics and productivity. Some benefits are:

Preventative maintenance: Reduce maintenance costs through real-time diagnostic and predictive analytics. It also resolves a majority of field failures on-line.

Predictable Service: All machine conditions are monitored and analyzed. Service staff is able to prepare service parts and regular check-ups before customer`s call.

– Advanced marketing: User behaviour is instantly fed back, product development teams can pre-empt starting the next design based on field operation experience.

Some of the markets which AAEON successfully covers are:

– Building Management & Smart Metering systems

The IoT Gateway for Building Management Systems aims to improve the residents comfort by tracking and controlling energy consumption, light intensity levels, humidity and temperature. It allows the energy provider to predict and manage the energy distribution in an efficient way.

– Vending & Retail

IoT Gateways can be used for tracking inventory levels, consumer purchasing behaviours and machine maintenance prediction enhancing the customer experience and reducing the total cost of ownership.

– Digital Factory

The IoT Gateway in the digital factory encompasses many applications, however, to fully utilise IoT in this segment, Field Buses are needed. Leveraging HMS IXXAT INpact solutions AAEON ensures seamless communication between machine and cloud.

Fleet Management

IoT Gateway in Fleet Management allows better control over the fleet of vehicles reducing the total cost of ownership. Fleet maintenance prediction, driver behaviour and fuel consumption, and route optimisation are just a few examples of the possible use on an IoT gateway.

– Smart Grid

The IoT Gateway in Smart Grid and energy markets focuses on the monitoring and controlling of energy production and distribution. It allows optimization of energy stream through real-time control of the smart grid but also maintenance prediction for the entire energy network.

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