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Smart Homes – Improving Quality of Life in a Smart Way

  -   20. March 2017
Source: Monam/

We have all already heard of the so-called “Smart Homes” and the many advantages they have to offer. Smart refrigerators, which take care of the shopping, Virtual Butlers, or smartphone apps or Siri-like systems, which manage multiple devices: There seem to be endless possibilities in the area of Smart Homes. As a result many different players have recently entered the market to develop their own solutions. But what exactly are Smart Homes? What are the major risks and challenges the industry has to face? And what does the future of Smart Homes look like?

What are Smart Homes and What can They Do?

Smart Homes are defined as living environments in which devices have the capability to interact with the occupant and also between each other. They can predict and respond to the inhabitants’ needs and have the goal to improve quality of life. The term ‘smart’ also implies that Smart Homes have the capability “to react ‘intelligently’ by anticipating, predicting and taking decisions with signs of autonomy”.

There are currently many forms of Smart Home developments, which make some sort of classification necessary. Aldrich offers the following categorization of Smart Homes:

1. Homes containing intelligent objects: Single, standalone appliances and objects, such as surround sound systems or smart heating systems, function in an intelligent, but yet independent, manner.

2. Homes containing intelligent, communicating objects: Appliances and objects function independently but also exchange information between each other to increase functionality.

3. Connected homes: Internal and external networks, which allow interactive and remote control of systems, as well as access to services and information, both from within and beyond the home are installed.

4. Learning homes: Patterns of activity in the homes are being measured and recorded in order to anticipate inhabitants’ needs and to control the technology accordingly. Based on the acquired data, these homes for instance have light systems which are automatically turned on when the occupant gets out of bed.

5. Attentive homes: Activity and location of the different people and objects within the homes are constantly registered. This information is then used to control technology in anticipation of the occupants’ needs. Functions include for instance, automatically closing roof windows in case of rain or ovens which are automatically turned off if occupants leave the home.

These 5 categories of Smart Homes can also be seen as stages: The more connected the Smart Home is, the more ‘smart’ it actually becomes. In addition, the ‘smarter’ the home, the more advantages it has to offer and more effects of simple human errors can be prevented.

The Risks and Challenges of Smart Homes

Despite the many advantages of Smart Homes, “to date only a small number of expensive “smart homes” have been built and sold on the commercial market”. This slow implementation of this rather incremental innovation, which attempts to improve the existing housing situation and standard of living has several reasons. Here are four of the most important reasons:

Security and privacy issues have not yet been fully solved. Who has not yet at least heard of a movie, where someone from the outside hacks the Smart House, consequently has insight into all the data of the occupants, gains control of all the devices and thus terrifies the people living inside? These scenes are not only science fiction, as Smart Homes do not yet provide secure privacy standards and the risk of being hacked is still very high.

Too much focus on ‘technology push’. Suppliers so far have adopted a too narrow ‘technology push’ approach and have not paid enough attention to the actual needs of the consumers.

Compatibility of devices is very low. As different players have mainly focused on their own developments, devices are most often not compatible at all.

The initial investment is very high. This does not only make convincing possible users more difficult, but also restricts the market to the middle and upper income class.

The Future of Smart Homes

Currently, most research has been on the earlier stages of Smart Homes, where different players develop independent appliances. This means that Smart Homes can still be much smarter in the future. Thus, despite all the challenges the industry has to face, the market of Smart Homes still has the potential to become “a major growth area over the next decade”. Of course, there are many key barriers and risks. But once these challenges are overcome, it is very likely that one day even the dream of entire “Smart Cities” will become reality.

Who wrote it?

Sophia Pan

Sophia Pan studies at the European Management School in Mainz.  


Silas Nikolaus
22-03-2017 19:33

In my opinion the topic smart homes is very interesting because it will eventually effect our lives in the future. The new trends in technological innovations are a lot about how to make our daily lives easier and more comfortable. In general, I agree that the interconnectivity in your home will make things easier for us also with different other complementary inventions like the home robot that also helps older people with tasks they can not handle by themselves anymore. On the other side if you see it in a drastic way, it can make people lazy if your smart home does everything for you. Just tell your robot to the vacuum cleaner to clean the floor and sit back while the kitchen is cooking for you. If it will really look like that in the future is the question but with more features the smart home can take of there are fewer things to do for us in our homes. Besides that I find it scary that your smart home is able to make autonomous decisions by using data and information. Somehow I have to think of a haunted house where things are moving around the house without having control about what's happening. I can imagine that not everything can be predicted even through a high-tech learning system and that you would still like to make own decisions in your home. Overall it is a good idea, but different aspects are needed to be considered and further developed.

Van Nguyen
22-03-2017 17:49

Smart home will be definitely a big part of our life in the near future, not only in the future but also for now! Even though this innovation is not fully developed, it makes our life easier and more convenient and that is what innovation is all about. We do rely a lot on technology, and we have to admit that our life without technology would be a mess. With regard to the con of this article, I guess security and privacy issues are a heated topic. Nowadays it is so easy to have access to our data and hacking is nothing difficult anymore. In conclusion, smart home will be a part of our lives and everyone has to decide whether they allow this innovation or not. But for sure is we have to get used to that changing environment.

Sandra Bleher
22-03-2017 13:36

In my opinion smart homes are one of the leading technological innovations and I really enjoyed reading your article about it, especially because you showed both sides of the coin. For me especially the security and privacy aspect is a priority, because in our homes we need to feel secure and not worry about someone hacking into our system and collecting our data and maybe even watching or spying on us. And I'm not sure how this security can be given if you're handling everything online. However the advantages of smart homes seem to be quite endless. A smart refrigerator that takes care of grocery shopping so you would have just to receive the ordered goods? Sounds perfect to me. And I think by turning of the heating when leaving the house or in certain rooms over night you would not only save money but also do good for the environment. So I totally agree to you that if they can overcome the challenges we may be able to expect whole m´smart cities in the future!

Samantha Beidinger
22-03-2017 12:16

I personally would like to see a smart home warning me when windows or doors are opened at home. Also the idea of the fridge, which is informing me about its content, is great. Or even better: communicating with the heating system so it sets the temperature in the bathroom to a comfortable 23 degree just by voice command. On the other hand the aspects of security and control are evident to many people when it comes to “Smart Homes” and I totally understand this issue. There are still some weaknesses, which you extensively mentioned in your article. Even though the smart homes have still a long way to go, I am sure that they will convince us sooner or later to adapt them into our everyday lives.

Isabelle Hachenberg
21-03-2017 16:33

Very interesting post about a yet not completely developed innovation! So far, I haven't read a lot about smart homes, but the opportunities and the potential seem to be enormous. I like the point of the smart city. But I guess that is is difficult to achieve this goal in nearer future, because the technology is not on a stage where this could be possible. Moreover, with the instruction of a smart home, a lot of costs come along. For most people it will not be affordable. Still one day technology will rule our entire life and probably smart houses will be a standard.

Franziska Blum
21-03-2017 13:50

I think the idea of smart homes is very good. It can make our lives a lot easier and allows us more flexibility. However, I am also very concerned about security issues. I recently saw on TV how people can steal cars using technology to block the signal of the key to lock the car. Or they use certain technology to intensify the signal the key constantly sends, while the key is in the house of the owner, and then give the instruction to open the car and even start it. Of course, this only works with the modern technology that, for example, the key just has to be in the car to drive it. But what if people are able to control things in your house?! Stealing a car is one thing. But what if someone can control your house? This could also make them able to kill people in their use using their smart technology. Unfortunately, hacking and security vulnerability can always happen and people always come up with new technology to break through security arrangements.

Letizia Credico
21-03-2017 13:24

I really enjoyed reading your article as "smart homes" will most likely be the future way of life. Since technology is more and more taking over our lives, it will definitely be found in our own four walls any time soon. I can well imagine that people will benefit of smart home automation. Smart homes provide several benefits in any case, since all home devices can be managed from one place, home functions can be remote-controlled, and energy efficiency will increase as one has more control over heating and air-conditioning for example. I cannot wait to install remote-controlled applications in my house!

Patrick Hanke
20-03-2017 19:25

I've also recently heard of an interesting device in the context of smart homes. It is called Goji and basically is a digital lock for your door with an integrated camera enabling the user to remotely allow people access to your home via a Bluetooth connection with your phone. It does sound like gadgets such as Goji or smart heating systems as you pointed out in your blog are the future, though I am still rather sceptical. In this context, I completely agree with Patricia as there are security concerns coming along with these innovations. Cyber fraud and hacking have become really important issues that can disrupt these systems and may cause more harm than the gadgets were aimed at preventing. Nevertheless, I believe that these issues can be resolved after first having been uncovered. Therefore, it is important to rigorously test the devices and further develop them especially with respect to security. If this is done, these devices definitely are of immense assistance for us to live smarter.

Katharina Blanckart
20-03-2017 13:52

The idea of smart house does sound very interesting and I can see how these devices or entire housed benefit the people using them. I really liked that you pointed out both positive and negative facts associated with smart homes, this gives the unexperienced reader a good overview and a much better entry into the topic. It would be very interesting to learn about more examples like the fridge you mentioned. The concept is clear but practical example always illustrate this a little bit nicer and it is easier to draw a connection to it. Besides that I am simply curious about what kind of technologies are out there which we do not know about but might be relevant at some point in future.

Patricia Hofmann
20-03-2017 13:16

Smart Homes are the future of living to me. In times where artificial integligence is becoming a bigger part of our lifes, Smart Homes is a way to make it easier to be connected to our home all the time. It is also a good way when you are on vacation and no one can take care of your house or appartment. But there are also negative sides of Smart Homes, startig with security issues, especially hacker attacks, and that the costs of 'tuning' your house to be a Smart Home are very high and not everyone can afford it. I think smart homes can become an important market in the future especially when the risks are faced and minimized.



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