THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO SMART HOMES
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.