Modern Technologies of Smart Homes
It is very difficult to surprise a person in the modern world. Technological and scientific progress reached a huge success, and its pace is constantly increasing. If someone told a person from the early XX century something about the mobile phones or computers, he or she would be taken for a full. The main reason for the development and progress is a desire of a human being to live comfortably. That is why today we can talk about such technology as smart home. Many people know about the existence of smart homes already. In brief, they are fully monitored by machinery, or the CPU. They can regulate microclimate, open and close the curtains, turn off the flow of the water or gas or vice versa and much more. As a result, we face a living space fully adjusted to our needs. Naturally, it is not a cheap pleasure. According to Sripan, Lin, Petchlorlean, and Ketcham (2012), “Although smart homes have many properties that make human’s lives convenient, these smart properties are in a higher price tag. The cost of an intelligent home is high because some of the technology is relatively new.” (International Conference on Systems and Electronic Engineering) However, as practice shows, automation always has a positive effect on savings.
According to Harper (2003), “The word “smart house” was first used in an official way as long ago as 1984 by the American Association of House Builders, though the first “wired homes” were actually built by hobbyists in the early 1960s.” The first smart houses appeared naturally in the USA, back in the 50s of the last century. At that time, smart houses were really unique apartments equipped with special electronics that controlled many things in the house, for example, washing machines, TV sets, microwaves, etc. All these appliances have been combined into one, and managed from a single console, which gave a person a possibility to control them by “Disable” and “Enable” buttons. Over time, intelligent buildings began to appear; they have already been fully equipped with various automatics combined into a single network. At this time, development has been rapid; researchers and developers have been paying particular attention not only to comfort but also safety, economy and resources.
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Funds, invested in the development of new technologies for intelligent buildings were huge, and people believed that it will bring substantial benefits in the future. Since 1978, the developers were able to achieve control of electrical appliances through conventional wires with the electricity voltage of 110V. It was a real breakthrough that enabled further development and implementation of this scheme. Special development began in the 90s, when there was a considerable amount of various detectors and sensors, without which it was impossible to even process automation.
Modern smart home contains many innovations that have ensured total safety and comfort. Having all of these developments makes dreams come true: now people are not supposed to worry about their houses, because they are always controlled by the equipment that does not fail working for years without any problems, even when no one is in the house.
Some decades ago, by saying “smart house”, people often meant a complex and expensive system of remote control of lights, heating and other systems, but now it has become much wider. There are “smart” building materials and applications for the iPhone, which allow a person to turn off electrical appliances at a distance (in case a person forgets to turn off the iron from the socket), and robots that can do the cleaning instead of a person. Here are the most famous technologies and materials that have changed our home and the way we live.
The issue of a large number of light switches in smart houses is solved due to their high flexibility. Any switch can be reprogrammed, so that it may be used for turning on or off any light device or devices in the house depending on one’s choice. In addition, there are registers for individual light scenarios for each group of light devices. There may be light scenarios for reading, cleaning, working on a computer, etc.
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Sometimes people need to simultaneously turn on or off multiple light sources, for example, to create a comfortable atmosphere for watching television. In this case, the smart house turns off all lights in the room except for emergency lighting and simultaneously closes the curtains. If one wants to turn on or off the light in the room, then “use an iPad® to simply touch an image of the actual light in the room you desire to control, and not only will the light in the room turn on/off or dim when pressed, but it will also illuminate on the iPad to confirm the command” (Savant Systems, n.d.).
To implement lighting scenarios, the light control in a smart house is automated. For this purpose, there several types of sensors: motion sensor, light sensor, sensor indicating door position, etc. For example, when a man enters the room – light illuminates. On the contrary, when the room is empty, the light is turned off. It does not require additional efforts in order to switch on the lights; therefore, it is a very convenient tool, especially if someone is busy with both hands.
In response to movement in the room, smart house simultaneously estimates the amount of natural light. As soon as the brightness of daylight decreases, smart house will increase the intensity of light in proportion to the daylight. If the room has enough sunlight, lights will be automatically turned off.
The same principle is working in response to the day of the week, time of the day or a specific event, such as opening/closing blinds, doors, etc. If one gets up at night to check how the baby sleeps, a smart home lamp will automatically regulate the required intensity of light, which will be enough to see the objects in the room, and the light will not cause a nuisance to the eyes.
In today’s smart home, all light sources, including street lights and RGB background light can be controlled remotely using the remote or a single control panel. Smart house is able to protect itself during the absence of the owner. It can simulate the presence of a person in the house, periodically turning lights on and off in different rooms, creating noise and other effects of the presence of people.
To my mind, this technology is very comfortable. Sitting in a chair and watching TV, one may easily turn the lights on or off in the garage, hallway or in any other part of the house by pressing some buttons on the control panel. What is more, one can control the light in the smart home from anywhere in the globe.
Control of Appliances
Household appliances are designed to provide people with comfortable existence. However, over the last decade, almost every house has accumulated so many appliances that today, there is a new problem: how to control their work. Smart house itself manages the operation of all appliances.
To make sure that such electrical appliances in the house as TV, iron, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, electric heater, etc. are subordinate to one or two push buttons on the control panel, all sockets are tied together into a single network and are controlled by a smart house. This will save an owner from the familiar concern: “Did I turn off an iron leaving the house?”, “Did I leave the oven turned on?” or “Does the washing machine work fine during my absence?”
Now with the help of one touch of a button on the control panel, one can enable or disable the device he or she wants. It is important that it can be done even if a person is away from home by using a mobile phone. If he/she is in doubt whether you turned off an iron today before leaving, just disconnect the outlet into which the iron was included using a mobile phone. If necessary, smart home can stop energy supply to all devices, except for those groups of consumers of electricity, which are critical to the operation of the system. Remote control allows people to program work appliances so that they turn on or off in accordance with a particular scenario or predetermined schedule. So, if the house has exterior lamp that is plugged in, one can program its work depending on the time of the day.
I am pretty sure that remote control is extremely useful. If parents, for example, do not want their child to watch TV after 21:00, they may configure the system in order to turn off the power of television in 21:00. While at work, one can check whether all the appliances are turned off after the child goes to school. As a result, people not only feel safe, but save energy as well.
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Creating the desired indoor climate is achieved by coordinated operation of a range of appliances. It can be electric and gas boilers, radiators, “warm” floor, air conditioners, humidifiers, or ventilation system. In smart house, climate control is carried out by using a mobile phone, personal computer or single control panel. A few clicks are needed to create personal microclimate for each room. Automatic climate control and management. The micro climate in the room is fully dependent on the heat source. This can be radiators, fan coils, converters, warm floors, or air conditioners.
Smart home can choose the most cost-effective heat source for any time of the day. Smart home is called smart because it, for example, will not allow the inclusion of radiators when the air conditioner is working. Availability of special temperature sensors allows it to respond to changing weather conditions outside. In warm weather, smart home disables the “extra” heating, thus saving electricity consumption. When it is raining or snowing outside, smart house will inform the owner about the open balcony door or window and, if necessary, independently include the snow melting system.
Scenarios of climate control
One can easily use the control panel or mobile phone to set a particular scenario of heating a house. The house temperature may be controlled depending on the day of the week or time of the day. “From your Apple iPad, Savant’s HVAC Scheduler allows users to quickly create their own climate schedules based on time of the day, month of the year and annual including season change, temperature and humidity” (Savant Systems, n.d.). For example, Monday through Friday, during the daytime, when the house is unoccupied, the rooms will be supplied with economical heating. And in those days when one is at home during the day, the temperature will correspond to the desired rate.
Smart house can achieve more efficient use of such common devices in the home such as air conditioner. Thus, if the room temperature is low, the air conditioners can be used as heaters. On the other hand, thanks to special sensors, smart house is itself smart enough to turn off the air conditioner when the windows are open.
Using a mobile phone, one can control the air conditioning at home, while being in the office or in the car. For example, in the hot afternoon, one can turn on the conditioner, and it will cool the apartment before the person’s arrival.
Smart house has a special ventilation system that not only brings the fresh air, but also makes sure that it is clean. Ventilation is controlled either according to a schedule or on a specific event. In the first case, the ventilation is switched on / off at the required time of the day. For example, before going to sleep air is automatically ventilated in the bedroom. In the second case, the ventilation can work on a specific event: special sensors will monitor the “quality” of the air and the amount of CO2 in it. I think this is very helpful, especially if there are many people in the house, because the sensor responds to the increase in carbon dioxide concentration and the ventilation system will start working more actively. And vice versa – if the house is not crowded, the system will operate in a power saving mode.
Multiroom is a system that takes video and audio from any source in the home – TV, stereo, DVD, TV-tuner, Blu-ray or computer and distributes them around the house. From any room, one can watch videos, listen to favorite songs, no matter where the source is. And all this can be controlled with a convenient touch panel. There is no need to clutter up the house with all sorts of wires or speakers as all equipment is compactly collected in a single place. It may be, for example, home theater or other room convenient for a person. Here is how this is implemented in Savant multiroom system: “Any iPhone or iPod touch becomes an active media player within your smart home’s whole house audio system. Simply connect your iPhone or a guest’s iPod touch to a Savant Media Dock, and the media content loaded on each device can be distributed to any room” (Savant Systems, n.d.).
Smart house is a real music box. People can create unique musical arrangement in each room, filling their home with originality and peaceful atmosphere. And it is all thanks to the multiroom. In the morning, people will wake up to their favorite tune that will accompany them to the bathroom and wardrobe, and the kitchen will become a place where they will watch news on TV. It is up to people to decide what to play, control the volume and at what time.
Home theater can be found almost in all modern houses. And in the smart house theater system turns into a professional cinema. All a person needs is to comfortably settle in the favorite chair. A multiroom will make sure that the home cinema show is truly memorable. Multiroom outputs video to any screen in the house. For instance, a person decides to watch a movie in the sitting room, but eventually he/she got tired and decided to go to the bedroom. This person can send the video to the screen which is in the bedroom and lying in a comfortable bed can continue watching the film.
Thanks to multi-room, smart home lets one easily establishes an intercom system between rooms so that one can call wherever he/she wants only by pressing one panel button. Besides, one can establish a special baby monitor regime that gives an opportunity to hear everything that happens in the house.
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Smart house constantly monitors the consumption of gas, electricity, water, heat etc. All these data is captured by special sensors and sent to the management system, where the entire picture of consumption of resources for the chosen period is created. Result can be seen on any screen existing in the house. It is also possible to see energy consumption by individual devices or a group of appliances individually. The system displays not just “dry” figures; it shows consumption statistics in graphs, tables, charts, etc. Thus, it is possible to use all the resources of “smart” home effectively and save money of its inhabitants.
If an owner wants to know which of the subsystems of the house have been used and how many resources have been consumed on Friday or what the temperature in the house or the humidity level was, etc., then a person should select the date on the panel, choose the desired device or subsystem and see the statistics. A person can analyze the operation of any equipment at home and, if necessary, adjust the settings and the amount of resources consumed. The database stores information about the work of all, without exception, members of the smart house. Everything is very simple and convenient!
Where does the money go?
This question does not disturb the owners of smart houses, because thanks to such scrupulous monitoring consumption of all resources (water, gas, and electricity), they know the exact answer. They can easily give an assignment to the system to adjust consumption by various devices, if they “eat” too much energy.
Pay the bills without leaving home
Smart homes can generate bills for gas, electricity or water on their own, without any help of their owners, and promptly pay for services such as gas, electricity, water or Internet. As for me, this technology is like a third hand, because it can fully control the house bills and pay them. What is more it tries to do that with the lowest cost. However, it is important to periodically look over the consumption statistics on the control panel in order to ensure that everything works smoothly, without spending unnecessary resources.
Safety takes a special place in the structure of intelligent home security system. Its work is carried out in two main directions. The first ensures safe operation of all systems at home, while the second performs security functions.
As a result, the security system will protect the house from the penetration of undesirable persons, supervise the correct operation of gas and water supply systems, and keep the doors and windows under control. In case of emergency, smart house informs the owner wherever he or she is. According to Robles and Kim (2010), “If an individual has difficulty moving around effectively, they are often forced to depend on others for care. A smart home security system allows the homeowner to remotely view visitors on a camera, and speak to them via microphone and speakers.”
Protection against water leaks and domestic gas. Failure of the elements of water supply system is not as destructive as, for example, fire, but it can lead to a household disaster. To prevent the unfortunate consequences of water leakage, the smart house uses special sensors.
Water sensors are installed in the areas where the probability of occurrence of leakage is the highest, most often under the bath or washing machine. If the floor is wet, the sensors will give the signal to the valves that would prevent water supply to the system, thereby preventing flooding in the room. At the same moment, smart house will send a message to the owner, warning about the accident.
According to El-Basioni, El-Kader, and Fakhreldin (2013), “Smoke detectors and gas detectors will be used to measure the required type of gas concentration, and warn about that following the same behavior of the windows motion sensors, in addition they will aid to home ventilation as a quick countermeasure through running the electric air hood.” Thus, the intelligent home security system not only controls the operation of all systems, but also responds to emergencies, notifying the owners at the same time.
House Security System
It often happens that a person needs to leave the house unattended for a long time. For example, if he or she left for a business trip or on vacation, the smart house would be useful.
Presence simulation. Smart house allows people to simulate their presence at home. There are many ways of imitation; they differ in intensity and frequency. According to the scenarios developed by the owner, the light may be switched off or on periodically, and smart house may turn on soft music or some voice. In some scenarios, even the sounds of running water, whistling kettle and other evidence of human presence in the house can be provided.
The house is equipped with a group of sensors. According to Laberg, Aspelund, and Thygesen (2005), “Sensors monitor and measure activities in the surroundings. Examples are movement and heat sensors, humidity sensors, bed mats, thermometers and smoke detectors.”
Signal of penetration of unknown person into the building will allow the protected object to be instantly transferred to the security service and the owner of the house. Such devices are good, if the house is empty for a long time.
Control over windows and doors
One important element of intelligent home security systems are magnetic contact sensors closing / opening windows and doors. If a person is away from home or goes to bed, the system will inform him or her about an open door or windows being closed not tightly.
If a habitant decides not to close the window, then the window sensor shuts down, and motion sensors installed in the room will be upgraded to a reduced sensitivity mode to avoid false alarms due to the fluctuation of curtains. Each sensor can be set on the required level of sensitivity so that it would not react, for example, on the slightest hesitation or pets.
Well-organized system of intelligent home security is not a luxury. It is a way to prevent extremely unpleasant situations in life. This is the opportunity to live in peace, without flinching from a suspicious noise and not being afraid to leave the home, going on vacation or on long trip.
Smart Home Control
Thanks to modern touchpad control, smart home is interesting and fascinating process that delivers a lot of fun. It is so convenient and comfortable when the house is full of systems and functions that can satisfy all wishes and requirements of the habitant. And a person can control this entire kingdom with easy-to-use touch panels. This is a sophisticated development with modern design and virtually limitless possibilities. Panel contains literally all the technical structure of the house, and only one touch is needed to make any system or equipment work. With the help of the panel, one can easily control the lighting in any room of the house and on the local area, as well as all appliances, ventilation, climate, in general, all home engineering systems.
The panel has a nice, simple, and intuitive interface with a schematic picture of the home, which marks all devices and available features as well as their scenarios. All this makes managing the smart house simple and convenient. The touch panel is a reliable assistant in the management of smart house as well as a collection of entertainment. It replaces a music player, computer and video game console.
To my mind, smart house would not be that “smart if it did not have a possibility to be controlled at the distance. Even if people are not at home, they may still see what is happening in his or her home. How? Very simple: via mobile phone (smartphone). It is important to install an application with exactly the same interface as the touch panel. This allows having an access to all control functions of smart house. Besides, one can manage his/her smart house through a conventional mobile phone via SMS as well. I am sure that there is no any other technology that is easier in control.
Smart home is more than just another gadget of today’s progress. This is the first necessity for modern people. People spend a lot of time in apartments that is why they need to be as comfortable as possible. Besides, they should also include the preservation of mental health as in the current digital age everyone is feeling the pressure of the flow of information, which can lead to discomfort, stress and even illness. Processing this flow and selecting only the most necessary and fun information is the task of information systems of the smart home. Today, smart houses cannot do that, but I truly believe that scientists have a great potential to solve this weakness.
On the other hand, smart home preserves physical health. This is facilitated by a variety of climate-control systems that seamlessly, but unconditionally create optimal indoor habitat. Those moments of human life, which are saved day after day, turn to the additional years of one’s life.