Ten years ago, the idea that through a mobile application you can control the light or camera in your home or office sounded like science fiction. However, the year 2018 showed that “smart home” is already a reality, which Zion Market Research estimates at $ 53.45 billion by 2022. By “smart home”, I mean the place where the network of devices (connected devices) perform routine tasks autonomously, without human interaction. For example, a smart light can turn on when someone comes home, and a smart thermostat can change the temperature in a room depending on the time of day or whether there is someone at home, etc.
2019 brings even more hope to the smart home industry, as artificial intelligence develops by leaps and bounds and the voice assistants of the Apple HomePod, Google Home and Amazon Echo are becoming more ubiquitous. In the modern world, manufacturers of home appliances by default embed sensors and Wi-Fi, ZigBee technologies so that they can communicate with each other and monitor each other’s work: see toaster, coffee machine, light, vacuum cleaner, and so on.
Despite the rapid growth of the consumer market of smart devices from early adopters, the full success of this area depends on how quickly they can provide users with:
- More convenient interface (and compatibility of devices among themselves).
- Affordable price.
- Data security
Today IoT / smart home is one of the most promising areas, and developers from around the world are directly involved in the fight against major problems.
On average, a device buyer is ready to spend up to 20 minutes setting it up before giving up and returning it back. The main reason is the discrepancy between expectations and reality. After paying $ 150 for a smart camera, the owner of the new device expects that its setup will take place quickly, and it will work seamlessly for months, and better for years. Instead, users often have to spend a lot of time and effort to make the device work properly.
Smart homes are a relatively new area in which there are no established usability or quality requirements. In other, more established industries, the situation with standards is better: many medical and commercial devices are developed on the basis of generally accepted specifications. In fact, it is not so easy to understand what the user considers to be a friendly interface and how exactly the devices should work in the system. Most of the time when setting up, it takes to install a mobile application for a smart device (for example, light), create your account, connect to a Wi-Fi network, and then to the device itself. This is if the purchased device does not show factory problems. Troubleshooting software and hardware problems during installation is a separate topic.
With the increase in the number of users of smart homes, the industry is gathering more and more information to understand how you can improve customization and provide a more affordable out-of-the-box design. Although the creators of smart assistants (smart / voice / home assistants) are not directly involved in device development, they can influence many decisions by creating UX / CX standards, a list of technical requirements (latency, performance, interworking protocols). For example, Amazon Echo recently launched a feature called “proactive discovery,” which automatically checks for the presence of smart devices in a radius and connects them. This reduced the number of steps during setup from 13 to 2, and the setup time from 15 to 1 minute.
Many will be ready to automate trivial tasks around the house, if, of course, the price does not bite. Most people at the stage of exploring smart homes choose a lamp, thanks to the ease of setup and intuitive interface. Then they often add a thermostat to control the temperature or a smart camera to monitor what happens while they are not at home. In this case, the basic installation will cost from $ 19.99 for the camera, to which the user can connect from the mobile application. If he wants to improve the setting and add a voice assistant and monitor, the price tag can vary from $ 50 to $ 480 (this is with an average salary for 2018: in the US ~ $ 4K and in Ukraine ~ $ 350). So the question is, how can you make a smart home more accessible to more people? I had a few ideas, share yours in the comments:
Do-it-yourself (DYI) projects. Techies can create customized smart devices, and often at a lower price, using Raspberry Pi or similar systems to connect and control devices.
Saving scale. With the development and increase in the number of smart devices, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to reduce prices due to scale. One of the main models used for this purpose is the release of cheap (and simpler devices) by default, with the possibility of updating to premium features, such as computer vision, through a subscription. From
Digital technologies have long taught us to store everything in electronic form: photos, documents, chats, etc. With the advent of smart devices, hackers can hack data from devices, both in the cloud and on a physical device. The consequences of this may be more significant than a stolen credit card or identity. No one would want strangers to access their smart cameras or doors. The issue of data security and privacy remains fundamental to technology. The study “Security Analysis of Emerging Smart Home Applications” breaks vulnerabilities into 2 categories: excessive privilege (privilege) and unsecured messaging (insecure messaging).
Excessive privileges are a security breach when a mobile application gains access / rights to operations that it does not really need to work. When malware (malware) gain unrestricted access to SMS APIs or logs, it can lead to leakage of personal information (PII), including PIN codes or passwords. One of the main methods to prevent such scenarios is to encode, aggregate and anonymize data.
By working together, device manufacturers, the mobile application certification center and the users themselves can reduce the risk of data being compromised. In my opinion, manufacturers should first of all be on guard of user data – starting from the design stage and system design of the product, apply the latest data protection solutions to thorough testing for potential security problems. One weak link will be enough to compromise the privacy of users, and they will not forgive this. “Unexpected” advice to users themselves: we need to keep track of which applications we download and install, where we store passwords, and to whom we give access to our devices. If we treat these things carelessly, manufacturers are unlikely to be able to help us.
Smart homes bring with them the convenience and comfort of new developments, making apartments, houses, offices and hotels more responsive and efficient with the help of mobile phones and voice devices. You may ask, what background will help developers to integrate into the world of smart homes? To overcome these and other current problems, many companies are looking for specialists with knowledge (write, if you have forgotten something, I will add):
Firmware (on device):
OS: Linux, Android-based (FireOS), FreeRTOS.
Protocols: TCP / IP, RTSP, WebRTC, SIP.
Languages: C / C ++, embedded SW development.
Software (cloud side): Java / Python / other object-oriented programming language, AWS or another cloud platform that provides a set of services for transferring data and other tasks depending on the type of device (examples: AWS IoT, Rekognition, Kenesis, Greengrass , Sagemaker).
Between device and server: usually its own (sometimes patented) version of the protocol for data transfer.
Between devices: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-wave, Serial / UART.
For voice-first devices, also Alexa skill or similar, ML, ASR / NLU / ER.
For devices with mobile application support – a standard set of technologies for mobile development (C #, Java, Objective-C, React Native).