Monday, 27 January 2014

Home Automation: What is it?

With the acquisition of Nest Labs earlier this month by Google for $3.2 billion, the concept of the automated home is something I feel that needs to be re-evaluated. The automated home is an idea that has been around for many years, but with the recent advances in technology, it could be viable in the future.

The concept of an automated home (Smart home) involves the use of technology to control appliances in the home.The types of appliances and systems it could possibly control include: Audio-visual, Heating, Lighting, Refrigeration, Security, and so on. Control of these systems could allow for more efficient use of energy by homes, improve security of households or provide its inhabitants with improved convenience.

With regards to NEST, they have become pretty well-known in North America for creating a Wi-Fi thermostat which is easily programmable and has the ability to learn its surrounding environment which in turn helps conserve energy within buildings. It's a very unique product which requires minimal effort to use, you just change the temperature to your liking by manually operating the device or by using a smartphone. The system is able to create a personalised schedule around you. It will understand when you come home and when you leave for work, thus understanding when the house should not be warmed and it would also be able to prewarm itself before you get home. This self-learning device helps people save energy and money without being too much hassle and getting in the way of their normal life, fulfilling what I see as the new role for technology being ubiquitous and easy to use.

Nest Learning Thermostat

So why would Google want such a company? Considering it is mainly a software giant mount of information that it already has on you, this would help it to know even more about its users, which would allow it to sell even more focused ads. At the same time, the company provides them with a lead into the home automation market. There is a possibility they would integrate NEST products into Google Now elevating its learning ability with data from your smartphone. It would be able to know your routine and when you are close to your house the heat would start by itself. The possibilities are endless with Google and NEST. They could end up releasing products such as:lights which are aware of the timing and location of people in the house. The lighting could adjust to the time of day as well as the mood of the user in the room. It could provide security by automatically turning out at certain times and then alternating between different houses. In the end, a large company like Google entering the market, validates the ideas of the existing companies and will spur further innovation in the market. It will hopefully also increase awareness of the home automation to consumers as well as lower the cost of products. Who knows we could all have a house like the Jetsons in 20 years time.

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