From Smart Phones to Smart Homes

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Stepping into a cool and comfortable home with a cup of freshly brewed coffee waiting to be served after a hectic day at work is nothing less than luxury in today’s fast paced world. And for this to happen, you don’t need to be Richie Rich or have a butler, but a smartphone and a smart home.

Welcome to the world of Smart Homes

Next generation technology is poised for a more ambitious phase and the concept of smart homes is the most innovative in the league. It works like an internet of things where electronic devices talk to each other to ensure everything around the house works in a customized manner, taking luxurious living to the next level for the common man. Smart homes are woven together by technology that integrates all household devices, primarily utilities (lighting, thermostat etc.), appliances, security and child/ pet monitoring systems by allowing them to be controlled, monitored and accessed through smart devices.

Smart home systems come with unique decision making capabilities such as drawing the blinds, managing room temperature at preset levels, switching lights on and off, controlling air conditioning  and heating food just in time for a meal. What’s more, refrigerators popping up breakfast options from what’s stocked in it can’t make rush morning hours more convenient.

With players like Nest Labs being acquired by industry majors such as Google Inc. (for a whopping $3.2 billion) the smart homes’ industry is evolving and holds much potential now than ever.

Sneak peek into a Smart Home

Smart Homes market – Big players & bigger acquisitions

The smart home concept is gaining popularity world over with several major companies foraying into this business. Siemens AG, Schneider Electric, ABB Ltd., Ingersoll-Rand PLC, Tyco International, Emerson Electric Co., Legrand, Crestron Electronics, Inc., Lutron Electronics, Inc. and Control4 Corporation are some of the top players in this segment. The industry is already beginning to witness a slew of acquisitions with circa 2014 alone witnessing acquisitions worth over $4 billion from two prime players – Google (Nest Labs acquisition) and Samsung.

Samsung, which has been working in the home enhancement segment for a while now, acquired SmartThings for $200 million. SmartThings is also an app developer that allows users to control all connected home gadgets through their smartphones.


10 Easy Steps to Convert your home into a Smart Home

Home automation system: Companies such as Insteon, Belkin and SmartThings offer a variety of kits that allow one to easily set up home automation systems. These range from simple lighting management systems to complex multi-gadget functionalities. Philips offers a simple optimum lighting technology that allows the lights to go on so gradually that it imitates the rising sun to wake one up.

Go keyless: There are smart locks available today such as the August SmartLock that allows you to manage the locking system of house doors through a smartphone app. The app also notes who and when enters and exits the house too.

Video doorbells: Every time a visitor comes along and rings your doorbell, a video doorbell system takes their picture for your records. You can also video chat with them before clicking the door open.

Multi-functional refrigerator: Smart Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators from companies like Samsung come with LCD screens that let you access a variety of apps – from entertainment to managing stuff around the smart home.

Smart television: Roll your computer, internet, TV, social media and gaming console all into one TV unit that comes with a touch screen and voice recognition capabilities.

Smart dishwasher: There are smart dishwashers made by manufacturers such as Bosch that come with space for awkwardly-shaped items, water softening technology, vessel storage facility and maintenance updates.

Water savers: New age water systems measure the quantity of water consumed per shower, including the speed and temperature preferred.  So every time you step in, you have a customized flow of water ready for you.

Thermostat: A thermostat allows you to remotely manage your house heating system.

Smart gardening assistant: Fit sensors in your garden and rest in peace with your plants receiving just the required hydration at regular intervals.

Excellent internet connectivity: High-quality internet connectivity with good wireless LAN capability ensures seamless connectivity between your gadgets and yourself.

Securing Smart Home technology

Smart homes have attracted much interest across economic strata. In recent years, companies have been researching to make this technology more affordable and efficient. Industry majors such as Qualcomm, Custom Command Systems and Lutron Electronics started filing patents in this space in the early 1990s. The overall patent filings however, witnessed an exponential surge with 660 patent applications filed in 2009 to 4,118 patent applications in 2014. A majority of these applications have been filed by Samsung, LG, Qualcomm, IBM, and Microsoft, with Samsung leading the list in 2014 with 513 patents.

One early and highly cited patent is US 5086385A titled “Expandable home automation system”. Published in 1992 and awarded to Custom Command Systems, this patent describes a system and method for controlling multiple electrical devices in a home setup.

Samsung’s recently launched completely automated smart home owes its foundation to its patented technologies. Here’s a glimpse of what Samsung has in store:

Trends and future

Samsung’s Smart Home and houses constructed by ProtoHomes are trendsetters that are pointing to a more convenient future. This industry is set to enjoy a lot of attention from multiple quarters and it will be interesting to see how multiple brands can sync up to create seamless automation. And while we wait for our homes to smarten, we sure are waiting for the future to unfurl Smart Neighborhoods too!

(Featured image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reliance_Smart_Client.jpg)

Kumkum Jain
Kumkum Jain

Kumkum is an expert in patent searching & analytics, who loves to explore Medicinal Chemistry, Pharma and Medical Devices. She also shares a different kind of chemistry with reading and cooking. Most important, she plays her part in reducing carbon footprint in her own small way.


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