The very first attempt I made towards connecting my home was a very simplistic hook up of few wi-fi cameras from Costco. I instantly possessed simple yet powerful capabilities by which I can now monitor my home remotely, no matter which part of the world I am in. Whether it was to keep an eye on the kids arriving home from school or for general security purposes. It was fun controlling the movement of the cameras through smartphone app and even receive SMS with pictures as soon as motion/voice is detected.
As more and more home devices and appliances are coming with standard connectivity features, whereby the devices could be monitored and controlled remotely, it is paving the way for homes to become ‘smarter’ and connected. The possibilities are enormous, however the adoption is slow. Typically average consumers still don’t fully understand the power of connected homes and the possibilities in this space. Once there is a better understanding and adoption, I would expect a tremendous growth in this space.
So, what really is a connected home? It definitely is much more than my attempt of connecting those wi-fi devices. It is about embracing technologies for a greater management of home appliances and systems – whether it is for convenience, security, safety, entertainment or for energy management. Nearly any devices or appliances we can imagine now have the capability to be connected through a network – whether it is the refrigerator, washer, dryer or smoke detectors.
In terms of convenience, imagine getting up in the morning and having the electric kettle receive a signal to prepare your favorite tea by the time you are out from the shower. How convenient it is to have the ability to adjust the temperature based on weather conditions and to turn the heat/lights on before you come home after work on a dark and cold day. How about appliances sending out notifications to your smartphone in case of maintenance needs.
Regarding energy management, find out how your electricity usage is being affected by the outside weather and what you can do to manage it. How about auto-starting of a pre-loaded washer, dryer or dishwasher when the time of usage rates are lowest. Getting to know more precisely the consumption patterns of each and every appliance, and how your electricity usage compares with neighbors is a huge benefit towards energy management.
Utilities and energy service providers have started to penetrate the home automation market, thus creating a natural intersection with solutions and services in this space. Primarily, utilities’ use cases revolve around home energy management and demand response programs. Utilities are encouraging customers to participate in these programs by connecting their high energy devices in return for incentives based on level of participation. For instance, provision of Demand Response options for customers to enroll to receive monthly payments based on the amount of energy they can pledge to reduce upon request. These customers would receive additional payments for actual load reduced during demand response events. Such incentives and programs undoubtedly encourage customer’s participation.
Connected homes and corresponding devices thus have got a huge potential to grow in the coming years and it creates enormous opportunities for utilities and energy service providers. In fact, it is predicted that the home automation market is expected to grow significantly. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, it is estimated that 5.5 million new things are getting connected every day. These numbers could be different based on studies and sources, however what it tells us is the extremely high pace of device connectivity coming down the line. No doubt, it will generate massive amounts of data to manage, the overall benefits should far outweigh the potential risks related to security and data privacy, assuming those are managed properly.