THE COM­PRE­HEN­SIVE GUIDE TO SMART HOMES

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Technology - By Lynn El Bizri | @lnlne

Imag­ine this: It’s 2025. Your bed, which has tracked your sleep cy­cle through­out the night, is gently jostling you awake as the sun streams through now open blinds. You get out of bed and walk into a warm, pre-heated bath­room, your morn­ing playlist play­ing as you step into the shower. Mean­while, your home con­tin­ues to move your morn­ing rou­tine for­ward: your cof­fee maker starts brew­ing in the kitchen, ready to greet you with a fresh pot of cof­fee, as pre­set lights be­gin to switch on around the house. You leave your bath­room, and stand in front of your wardrobe mir­rors, vir­tu­ally try­ing on dif­fer­ent out­fits, be­fore fi­nally pick­ing the per­fect one with the help of a vir­tual as­sis­tant. In the kitchen, your re­frig­er­a­tor au­to­mat­i­cally sug­gests quick break­fast recipes based on its con­tents and alerts you of which items you need to re­stock. As you head out the door with your cof­fee and break­fast sand­wich in hand, your home au­to­mat­i­cally goes back into ‘sleep mode’, turn­ing off all lights and pow­ered ap­pli­ances, as it turns on your highly in­tel­li­gent se­cu­rity alarm sys­tem.

While this morn­ing rou­tine sce­nario may come across as a lit­tle fu­tur­is­tic, it could very well be our re­al­ity in the com­ing 10 years. Ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Mar­ket­sand­mar­kets, the global smart home mar­ket is ex­pected to reach up to $78.27 bil­lion by 2022. With the de­vel­op­ment of wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the abil­ity for gad­gets to com­mu­ni­cate with one an­other, home au­to­ma­tion is be­com­ing more ef­fi­cient and re­li­able, and with smart­phone/tablet con­nec­tiv­ity, home­own­ers can now control and mon­i­tor their de­vices from wher­ever they are. As home au­to­ma­tion sys­tems be­come more af­ford­able, and global flex­i­ble in­come rises, the adop­tion of smart tech­nolo­gies is ex­pected to grow sig­nif­i­cantly, el­e­vat­ing the de­mand for home au­to­ma­tion and driv­ing mar­ket growth.

In MENA, the re­gional smart home in­dus­try, al­though still nascent, is grow­ing mod­estly, and ac­cord­ing to the UAE Smart Homes Mar­ket (2016- 2022) re­port by Re­search and Mar­kets, UAE is one of the lead­ing mar­kets for smart home sys­tems in the GCC re­gion. Some of the ma­jor fac­tors driv­ing the over­all growth of the mar­ket in UAE are grow­ing aware­ness, and in­creas­ing ac­cep­tance of au­to­ma­tion technology cou­pled with de­clin­ing prices. In ad­di­tion, the coun­try’s tele­com providers, du and Eti­salat, have been im­por­tant en­ablers of the smart home evo­lu­tion, tak­ing ini­tia­tives to help res­i­dents em­brace smart home technology. In Novem­ber, Eti­salat an­nounced the roll out of IPV6, the lat­est stan­dard in internet-ad­dress­ing technology that en­ables ev­ery de­vice in a home to have its own IP ad­dress and con­nect di­rectly to the internet.

In ad­di­tion to the UAE, other coun­tries in the re­gion, such as Egypt, Le­banon and Riyadh, are wit­ness­ing the growth of lo­cal smart home in­dus­tries, with a hand­ful of small, young com­pa­nies in the sec­tor sell­ing and in­stalling re­li­able and fully cus­tom­iz­a­ble au­to­ma­tion sys­tems. Yet de­spite grow­ing in­ter­est, au­to­mated home technology is still lim­ited to a rel­a­tively small mar­ket and num­ber of ser­vices in MENA, due to sev­eral fac­tors such as high cost of im­ple­men­ta­tion, se­cu­rity and pri­vacy is­sues, tech­ni­cal com­plex­ity, lack of aware­ness as well as the lack of a fast and re­li­able internet con­nec­tion. Nev­er­the­less, smart home pi­o­neers in the re­gion are hop­ing their busi­nesses will get a boosts as home au­to­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies be­come more af­ford­able, com­pat­i­ble and user-friendly.

The Evo­lu­tion of Home Au­to­ma­tion

The term ‘smart home’ is mod­ernly used to de­scribe homes that have elec­tronic de­vices and sys­tems that can be con­trolled re­motely by the owner, of­ten via a mo­bile app. How­ever, the con­cept of manag­ing all the func­tions of a home with a cen­tral­ized control sys­tem dates back to at least the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tury. The ear­li­est work­ing pro­to­types of au­to­mated houses de­buted in the 1930s at World Fairs in Chicago and New York City, but th­ese homes were never in­tended to be com­mer­cially avail­able. It wasn’t un­til the 1970s with the in­ven­tion of the mi­cro­con­troller, a com­puter on a chip that is used in most of to­day’s com­plex elec­tronic de­vices, that mar­ket­ing a fully-wired ‘smart’ home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem be­came eco­nom­i­cally fea­si­ble.

To­day, the smart home in­dus­try is in the ex­plo­ration phase, and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ma­jor shifts, with sev­eral play­ers ex­per­i­ment­ing with new prod­ucts or ser­vices and ac­cel­er­at­ing the ex­pan­sion of the smart home mar­ket. The first shift is con­nect­ed­ness and in­tel­li­gence, re­sult­ing in an in­crease in the num­ber of easy-to-use home ap­pli­ca­tions in re­cent years. Homes have be­come much more con­nected thanks to smart­phones, and with the in­cor­po­ra­tion of big data and AI, homes have be­come more in­tel­li­gent too. Sec­ond, smart home ap­pli­ca­tions are be­com­ing more use­ful to con­sumers as greater in­ter­op­er­abil­ity among prod­ucts from dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers be­comes a re­al­ity. In­ter­op­er­abil­ity sys­tems are quickly shift­ing from wire­line and wire­less tech­nolo­gies to more in­te­grated prod­uct fam­i­lies and open plat­forms such as Allseen Al­liance, Open Con­nec­tiv­ity Foun­da­tion, Thread Group, and oth­ers.

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