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How to make Smart Homes even smarter?

Published 18.9.2017

The business concerning smart homes is growing fast despite the fact that sometimes the definition of what really is smart home business can be vague. E.g. Statista has estimated the year-to-year growth of smart home business in the US being +50% in 2017 at $3.3b. One part of the business is the sensors and devices that are being built with connectivity, but an even more important battle is being fought on the ecosystem level.

IoT ecosystems under development

A great infographic by Visualistan presents many ideas for the future Smart home. Smart toilets are still to come and virtual reality is trying to find its place but already now there are lots of connected devices at your home: fire detectors, burglar alarms, cameras, thermostats, AC systems, air quality sensors, locks, and even the first smart fridges where you can see inside on your mobile phone. Maybe the most classical smart home appliance is the lighting control, where the lighting type and mood can be adjusted according to the occasion either automatically or via smart phone. Smarthome – Home Automation Superstore is a nice website presenting different kinds of current smart home products. Smart homes had already 9 Billion connected devices in 2012 and this will be increased up to 40 Billion by 2020, http://futurelab.assaabloy.com/en/business-ecosystems-ii/.

Even though the big IT companies have so far more or less limited their presence at your home to your mobile phone and computer, they are putting the most effort to concur the smart home market! Their idea is simple: make such an attractive ecosystem, that all device manufacturers want to connect to it and all people want to use it. This way they avoid managing a large device fleet but get revenue from everyone hooking into their platform.

Material sensing offers new opportunities in smart homes

Now, is a home where you can adapt lighting through your phone smart? It might be cool, but it doesn’t sound too smart to me yet! When a home is smart, it can start doing things automatically, like vacuum itself when it’s needed, turn off the AC and lock the doors when no-one is in, but it also combines data automatically from multiple sources to create new information: combine data from food consumption (fridge), food nutrition (food scanner), exercise (heart rate monitor, step counter), weight and body composition (smart body scale) with CO2 levels in the room (air quality sensor) and smart toilet ‘output’, and provide user information whether they should exercise more, change diet or something else to feel better.

First steps are clearly taken by bringing next generation material sensing as a part of future smart homes concepts. Tematys published market trends of miniaturized sensors a half year ago, December 2016. Based on this market report, the total market of mini and micro spectrometers is expected to be doubled at 2015-2021. The clear trend in spectroscopy is towards less expensive portable sensors and consumer applications. Heptagon published their first smart spectral solutions in January in Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas. Their solution targeting both demanding industrial uses as well as consumer applications which will bring new material sensing to portable but also home applications. Spectral Engines has also played important role by developing award-winning Food Scanner concept which can be seen as a ready platform for fast application development to many Smart Home applications.

Our vision is to accelerate the development of everyday life innovations

Material sensors are a new, emerging technology field, which is about to appear in peoples’ lives. With these devices, one gets significantly more information on the surroundings where we live – perfect for the smart home! Like I wrote in my blog in May 2017 is the year when this very ‘Star Trecky’ technology starts becoming reality. I know that this technology will find many applications in smart homes and will become significant trend in smart home sensor development by bringing advanced material identification as a part of many home appliances. We have already demonstrated how to build applications, such as food nutrition measurement, textile identification, fake medicine detection and alcohol measurement. Integrating this kind of information with the home appliances through modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions will bring significant added ‘smartness’ into the smart home!

Smart Home business is increasing rapidly but it requires more sensor technologies, more integration and better AI to control it before the Smart Home actually becomes smart. The greatest benefit for people is when smart homes connect to their everyday lives so that one starts to get comprehensive, new data from the variety of sources. This is an exciting time for both smart homes and material sensors – we are honoured to be a part of this development! Don’t hesitate to contact us, if we can help you to create own innovative products for this increasing market and make smart homes even smarter in the future!

By Jarkko Antila, CEO, Spectral Engines