Remember when cassettes and 8-tracks competed for dominance of the music storage industry? Or when Blu-Ray competed with HD-DVD for dominance of the high-definition home movie industry? New technologies have always had growing pains during their early stages, particularly before a universal platform is adopted by the majority of consumers.
Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly popular, and some of the largest technology companies are looking to take the total connected home to the next level. One of the ways they are working toward this goal is through the development of “Smart Home” technologies.
What is a “Smart Home”?
“Smart Home” is the term used to describe technologies that automate and computerize the home. Early versions of Smart Home technology can be seen in automated HVAC and alarm systems, but the eventual goal is to have all major systems in the home, including televisions, music, sprinklers, heat blocking shades, lights, and security integrated into a single platform that can be controlled by recognizing your voice or even your presence as you and your family move from room to room. Car manufacturers such as Ford and Toyota are working on health sensors that may alert you of an impending heart attack while driving at some point.
Historically, the challenge with creating a fully-fledged Smart world has been the lack of a universal platform for devices to work on. Unlike computers, which almost entirely run on Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X, home devices and appliances are made by hundreds of different manufacturers. Until there is a way to make them all “speak” to each other, Smart Homes will be mostly limited to single-use solutions, such as automated home security and HVAC systems.
What the technology giants are doing to create smart homes
The major technology companies understand the importance of creating a unified platform, or operating system, for Smart Home devices to work on. While no one has quite been able to create theSmart Home platform, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have been working tirelessly over the past several years.
Apple held their annual developer’s conference in early June. This conference, known as WWDC, has historically been when Apple announces major changes to their operating systems and platforms. This year lived up to expectations when Apple announced HomeKit, a suite of software and hardware that will serve as a platform for Smart Home technology. Although HomeKit is not yet available for consumers, developers already have access to it.
There are plenty of rumors and speculation about how HomeKit will be used. One of the more likely predictions is that HomeKit will automatically turn your air conditioning, lights, locks and other features on or off depending on your iPhone’s GPS location, and could even welcome you as you exit and enter individual rooms within your home. HomeKit will be available to consumers when Apple releases their new mobile operating system, iOS 8, in early fall.
Earlier this year, Google purchased Nest, a “smart thermostat” that was designed to be the hub of Google’s version of the smart home. Since purchasing Nest, Google has partnered with a number of home appliance manufacturers, including Whirlpool, Chamberlain, and Logitech. Much like Apple’s HomeKit, Nest-enabled products will be able to use the Nest device as a hub, which in turn will connect to Android smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, it appears as though Nest and HomeKit devices will not be compatible, creating many of the same problems software and hardware manufacturers in the computer industry have faced for decades.
Not to be left out, Microsoft is also working on their own version of Smart Home technology. It seems as though Microsoft has learned their lesson after entering the smartphone arena far too late, and has partnered with home automation company Insteon in an effort to collaborate and create their own Smart Home platform. Microsoft has the distinct advantage of already being the computer operating system of choice for most consumers and businesses in the United States and around the world. If they play their cards right, they could ultimately be a contender, or even the leader, in determining the Smart Home standard platform.
The alarm industry piggybacks many of the other technology platforms to perform these functions for the homeowner. Honeywell’s Zwave connectivity uses the arming and disarming of your alarm system to lock doors, turn off lights and setback your air conditioning system. Coupled with a simple App named Total Connect, your smartphone becomes a direct link to all of the electronic systems in your home or business.
Being an early adopter for this kind of thing may have setbacks as we wait for the dominant technology to emerge in which these much larger make a play for market share at which point hardware and appliance manufacturers will begin creating products for that platform en masse. If you must have the latest and greatest, don’t get burned owning that 8-track if everyone chooses cassettes.
For more energy-saving tips, or to find out about future-proofing your home with Mijac Alarm’s residential and commercial security solutions, contact us during regular business hours at (909)982-7612, or visit our main website by clicking here.