- Smart Homes
- CES 2023
- Smart Devices
- IoT Standards
- Wireless Communications Protocols
Smart Home Semantics
A recurring theme among many manufacturers at CES 2023 was connectivity within the smart home. The announcement of the Matter wireless protocol was a major topic of discussion for many companies. Besides Google and Amazon, dozens of exhibitors such as Schneider Electric, LG, and Haier made announcements about supporting the Matter protocol. This included Samsung’s press conference where the company announced its new combination smartphone charger and smart home hub called the SmartThings Station, which is compatible with Matter. The focus on Matter and the smart home raises an important question: At what point does the presence of smart home technology make a home “smart”?
What Constitutes a Smart Home?
It is unlikely that anyone would consider a home smart if it only had one smart home product, because one of the key benefits of a smart home is connectivity for added value. For example, while the newly released SmartThings Station can charge your smartphone, a resident does not derive additional value when no other devices are connected through the hub. In research for its Smart Home Connectivity report, Guidehouse Insights found that the average number of elements a smart home homeowner claims to own would involve between 10 and 20 links. But it is the number of connected devices that makes a home smart?
Levels of Maturity for Smart Homes
A more meaningful approach to evaluating smartness would be to consider the level of integration of smart home components within the home. Guidehouse Insights identified four levels:
- Standalone Operations: Devices and appliances are capable of communicating but are set up to operate independently. The devices may be labeled as smart, but their capabilities are not leveraged.
- Communicating Smart Devices: The resident can control the individual devices remotely through a smart speaker or an app on a smartphone. For example, the SmartThings app can control many appliances. Or you can ask Alexa to turn on your lava lamp through a smart plug a few hours before you get home so it is warmed up and flowing when you walk in the door.
- Smart Device Scripts: The next level of smartness involves programming scripts or routines. This allows you to initiate several actions from a single command on a smartphone or smart speaker, such as turning off the lights and turning on the electric blanket when you say, “Alexa. Get ready to sleep.”
- Artificial Intelligence: The ultimate implementation is when the home tracks the behavior of the residents and applies machine learning to identify patterns. It can then incorporate predictions to anticipate needs, allowing a smart home element to revert to low power mode most of the time but be ready for use when needed. The accuracy of the predictions can be enhanced with information on residents’ location from geofencing apps on their smartphones, weather patterns, traffic conditions, and other data sources.
A Smart Home Should Provide Added Value
The goal of a smart home is for the residents to derive more value from the devices in their home than they otherwise would get from independently operating devices. That value can come in the form of greater convenience and comfort with lower energy use and associated lower costs. The challenge today is discerning whether a product labeled “smart” can be easily integrated into a smart home. Common communications protocols like Matter make it easier for homeowners to move to the most effective level of implementation.