At the last WWDC conference, details were revealed about the Matter interaction standard, which will make smart devices from Apple, Google and Amazon work together.
We tell you what the problem is with combining different types of devices, why smart homes are not always convenient, and what mobile applications have to do with it.
According to the VTsIOM survey, Russians include “Smart Home” among the top 10 inventions that have decisively changed a person’s life in the XXI century — it was mentioned by 15%, the system is in 7th place in the top ten leaders.
But what we call a “smart home” most often involves the automation of specific actions — control of lighting, security, multimedia devices. Behind each such control loop are different device vendors, different approaches and logic of operation. Is it possible to automate the house completely by organizing the management of everything from one point?
When your house gets smarter
The first attempts to make the house “smart” were made 70 years ago. Back then, data transmission between devices was mostly wired, and the entire infrastructure had to be laid at the construction stage. Add smart devices to
ready-made housing meant serious repairs. In general, the idea did not take off.
Decades later, it became possible to turn on and off the light with the help of sensors that record movement or the level of illumination.
Then the housing security systems were automated — video surveillance, auto-locking of doors and gates, then-monitoring of water and gas leaks.
And only after that, device manufacturers began to pay attention to comfort — there were systems for controlling the climate, humidity and air temperature.
Many other spheres of life are gradually becoming “smarter” — manufacturers of household appliances offer their intelligent solutions, large IT companies build their home ecosystems, as a rule, around their own voice assistants. There is a demand for smart solutions for the home, it is growing, and even those companies that are not related to IT can find their niche. For example, manufacturers of furniture, plumbing and any other household goods are ready to offer their customers a new level of comfort. Imagine a “Smart living room” that includes several solutions from different areas at once — control of lighting, climate, multimedia devices from a single remote control or even completely remotely, using a mobile application or voice. Is this possible? Let’s figure it out.
How to build a “smart home”
There are different ways to combine devices into “smart systems”. For example, Internet giants such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Yandex build their ecosystem around “smart speakers”. Devices from other manufacturers are connected to it using a specific protocol.
The device manufacturers themselves offer a different approach. Various devices are connected either to a common hub inside the house, or directly to a single mobile application.
Among vendors, Xiaomi can be considered a clear leader in the field of “smart devices” — the company produces hundreds of OEM devices and under its own brands. Manufacturers of household appliances are also developing their lines of smart devices. For example, Redmond offers a set of devices that are managed from a single application. It includes smart household appliances, as well as solutions for security and climate control.
Russian companies are also not far behind. Recently, a new platform “Beber Smart Home” was announced, smart security systems are offered by Rostelecom.
Why “smart” does not mean-convenient
In an ideal view, a “Smart home” is a whole complex of devices that allow us to change our usual idea of everyday life.
I would like to manage everything from one application at once:
a comfortable atmosphere thanks to automatic control of temperature, humidity and illumination in the rooms, automatically opening curtains;
household appliances: remotely turn on and off the coffee maker, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and with them the media center, TV;
security systems: automatically locked doors, gates, video surveillance cameras, gas leak and water leak monitoring systems, etc.
But no. While such a convenient management is difficult for everyone to implement at once. There are solutions, for example, Majordomo, which combine the control of both devices and sensors at one point — but an ordinary user is unlikely to cope with the settings of this system. And easy-to-manage solutions, such as a smart speaker, do not work with all devices.
There are no simple solutions
What is the problem? There are several completely different protocols for exchanging data between devices and they are incompatible with each other. It’s not about the stubbornness of the vendors. It’s just that different solutions are suitable for different tasks.
For working with sensors, climate equipment and lighting systems, special Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols were originally developed — they are distinguished by low power consumption and high reliability.
The ZigBee protocol combines various sensors into one network: water, gas, electricity meters, temperature, light, humidity sensors, locks, relays, lamps, etc. Systems based on this protocol are fault-tolerant, but not all devices are compatible with each other, even with the use of a common hub.
Z-Wave offers greater compatibility — today it is the most popular protocol for home automation. But it also has its disadvantages. For example, devices with Z-Wave support are almost twice as expensive as similar solutions based on ZigBee.
Protocols of a broader profile — Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-are used to connect household appliances: refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, kettles, as well as multimedia devices.
It would seem that why invent other protocols when there is Wi-Fi almost everywhere — connect and manage. It is widely distributed, has a large range of action, provides a high data transfer rate. But it is not suitable for sensors and switches — the power consumption is too high. There is also no single standard to manage devices from different manufacturers from a single application — each vendor provides its” smart ” devices with a separate application.
It’s about the same story with Bluetooth. Despite the fact that the most modern version of the Bluetooth Low Energy 5.2 protocol is much less demanding on energy consumption (devices such as sensors often run on batteries), it will not work to build a “smart home” on it. Just like with Wi-Fi, there is no single standard for device management, and using several applications for different devices is unlikely to make a smart home even more convenient.
As a result, we have a lot of solutions based on specialized protocols that connect to a common hub, and a lot of household appliances that work via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
How can we assemble the same “Smart living room” or “Smart Kitchen” when the devices we need simply cannot “agree” with each other or connect to a single control center?
In pursuit of comfort
Today, it seems the most logical and affordable to connect all the necessary devices to a single mobile application. Similar solutions exist for device vendors, those who produce various household appliances under their own brand.
Companies that have nothing to do with the production of household appliances and electronics are entering this market. They offer ready-made solutions for specific tasks. For example, the” Smart bedroom “from Ascona, built on the basis of several OEM devices: a controlled bed base, a temperature and humidity sensor in the room and a “smart pillow” that monitors the respiratory rate, pulse and the number of revolutions of a person in a dream.
In such solutions, sensors and devices working via ZigBee and Z-Wave are connected to the hub. The application is also connected to it via Wi-Fi. And the other devices are connected to the same application via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The next step is total automation
With the help of a mobile application, you can not only allow the user to control the entire complex of devices from one point, but also accumulate data received from sensors, analyze the operation of devices, instrument readings. Then the information obtained can be analyzed and used to improve the system’s performance, to make recommendations to the user.
The next step is to make decisions without the user. Imagine that by analyzing the sleep parameters (pressure, pulse, temperature and humidity), the system itself can understand that to improve rest, it is necessary to make the air cooler, and transmits the necessary command to the sensor that controls the valve on the battery, for example.
The example of Ascona is indicative — if you do not aim at automating the whole house, but also do not limit yourself and users to a set of available solutions for security, multimedia management solutions, you can come up with and implement a system of intelligent devices for specific tasks. It is quite possible that after the “Smart Bedroom” there will be “Smart nursery”, “Smart kitchen” and even “Smart bathroom”. And maybe a “Smart vegetable garden” for lovers of country life.