Updated: Oct 20, 2019
Smart home experience refers to the use of internet-connected smart things or devices, like, smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, appliances, lighting, LED's, cameras to digitize contemporary homes, offering convenience and comfort living. It is enabled by the internet of things (IoT). Smart home gadgets are being introduced into mainstream by High-Tech companies, like, Amazon, Google and Apple.
Smart home devices
The smart home devices are managed with smartphone apps or user's voice. Voice is beginning to replace typing in any online queries. For example, customers can place orders online to Walmart using Google assistant. Google's voice recognition (assistant) can understand human language with 95% accuracy. This level of understanding has been achieved through advancement in machine learning algorithms which identify human voice, synthesize data, identify patterns and respond back with results. Voice search is helping customers to have quick and personalized digital experience with AI tools. Thanks to the partnership between Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana, the AI tools are now able to communicate with one another thus creating a new frontier of retail and business application in voice AI landscape. Voice and visual are creating new avenues for how customers search and browse the internet. Talking to AI tools, like voice assistant makes AI seem alive. In the era where people prefer to spend more time on their smart devices than talking to each other. Humans will have AI friends.
To name a few examples of smart home devices:
Internet connected smart lighting
Smart lighting generally uses mesh networking, where each smart bulb wirelessly connects to its nearest neighbour. That network is controlled by a hub that plugs into your router, enabling your other networked devices - such as your phone or tablet - to communicate with your bulbs (Techradar, 2017).
Smart appliances, for example, smart fridge, stove, washing machine
Smart thermostats learns your habits over time, turning down the temperature automatically when you're not home and increasing it when you're about to come back. This can help save electricity. Good opportunity for entrepreneurs that are innovating in this space, especially in areas, where the cost of electricity high.
WiFi enable or internet connected cameras
Internet connected cameras can record and stream video from the house, for example, Nanny cameras. Using AI these smart cameras can now differentiate between the house cat or robber and can alert homeowners if they are being robbed. The fact that you can monitor your home over the internet, anywhere or everywhere is amazing.
A smart speaker is a wireless and smart audio playback device that uses several types of connectivity for additional functions. Some smart speakers feature voice-activated digital assistants and can operate as home automation hubs (Techtarget, 2017). An example of Amazon smart speaker is depicted below.
Amazon echo dot, voice controlled speaker
The latest smart home devices are combining AI with voice recognition, for example:
Customers can track their orders with Alexa, asking Amazon Echo (smart speaker), "where's my stuff" and can play music, check weather, or read latest news headlines.
According to Google (2019), Google Home is a voice-activated speaker powered by Google Assistant. Get answers straight from Google, manage your everyday tasks, and easily control smart devices around the home. Google Home's smart audio design integrates a high-excursion driver with a dual passive radiator design that delivers crystal-clear highs and deep lows for Hi-Fi sound that streams over WiFi. It can easily hear you from across the room, thanks to two omni-directional microphones and neural beam-forming.
According to Apple, HomePod is a breakthrough speaker that adapts to its location and delivers high-fidelity audio wherever it's playing. Together with Apple Music and Siri, it creates an entirely new way for you to discover and interact with music at home.
According to IDC report, the global smart home market is expected to grow by 31 percent in 2018, with total sales of 643.9 million smart home devices. Based on an average annual growth rate of over 20 percent, as many as 1.3 billion smart devices are expected to make their way into households in 2022. Markets and Markets suggests, a Smart Home Market worth $151.4 billion by 2024.
Let's look at some of the benefits for smart homes:
Better home security.
The "wow" factor of impressing visitors, including yourself.
This "wow" experience comes with some of the challenges, for instance:
Limited knowledge to install and configure these smart home devices. I see this as a niche markets for entrepreneurs to innovate and advance in this space.
Growing competition in smart home gadgets. Companies innovating in this market want to capitalize as much as possible, as a result there's little cooperation between companies. This can make it difficult for consumers to integrate these gadgets in their homes.
Security vulnerability - does the smart home benefits outweigh the threats of malicious hackers? As much as technology always provide great opportunities, unfortunately hackers always find a loop hole. There's a common computer security saying that if something is connected to the internet, someone out there is trying to hack it. With smart home devices, a hacker can hijack and effectively assume control. Even connected baby monitors are vulnerable to digital intruders. Security concerns remain one of the biggest stumbling blocks preventing growth in the smart home technology market. Another space for entrepreneurs to innovate and develop cutting-edge security products to protect the ecosystem. However, this is a marathon, it may take sometime for security around AI, voice recognition in smart home to advance to an enterprise security level.
Many smart gadgets are known for collecting personal data, for example, my Samsung G Sport Watch collect health data about my heart beat, diet, exercise, weight management etc. Are we ready to trade-off comfort, convenience, personal data over safety and security? This is another concern that might slow growth in this market. Future jobs that will emerge in this market are digital smart home specialist, advisor and security expert. Even home robot trainer and specialist jobs are imminent.