Skynet has become self aware…

Hello viewers!

We’ve admittedly been a bit slack lately, what with the website redesign and other commitments we’ve been, as usual, super busy! So, er, yeah…sorry? This month we’re going to have a quick chat about smart homes. We really love the smart home concept but unfortunately don’t get that much time to do any real work in this area. Most of the engagement we have with automated or smart buildings is purely side project work. We’re hoping to change this in the coming months though!

In the last 3  – 5 years automated products have absolutely exploded onto the market. Many of the main manufacturers have their own product offering, mainly focusing around kitchen goods; fridges, ovens and washing machines. There’s also a gamut of smart TVs floating around which have been on the market for much, much longer.

One of the questions that marketing these potential smart home products raises is, are they actually useful? Well, that really depends…It’s all well and good to have an internet connected washing machine that sends you a push notification when its cycle finishes, or an oven that can be turned on when you’re almost home so that it’s up to temperature by the time you walk in the door. The are two problems here – one problem is how one interacts with these devices. Every manufacturer has their own app and quite likely, their own API / interface on each device. This creates a real headache trying to manage the devices, your mobile device ends up having multiple apps installed to manage all the devices in your home, all with different user interfaces and methods of doing things.

The other problem is how the devices that can offer a smart home interact with each other. Currently, very, very few of the devices on the market are able to interact with each other. Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, if your fridge knew that the chicken on the bottom shelf needed 30 mins at two hundred degrees centigrade and could tell your oven to turn on so that it was ready to cook the chicken so that it was ready for your tea time?

So what are we proposing? Well, industry-wide change and the proper implementation of the interent of things. Do we think it’s going to happen? Not anytime soon… In the meantime there are options that can bridge the gap.

Two of our favourites to are IFTTT and OpenHAB. IFTTT allows devices and online services to talk to each other using triggers. The simple ‘If this, then go do something’ event driven structure of the service and the simplicity of setting things up is truly brilliant! It has lots of triggers already installed. Functionality can also be added to non-internet connected devices by integrating IFTTT with devices such as the Belkin WeMo or the Flic Button.

OpenHab is a heavyweight, home automation server intended to be run on its own server. It allows one to connect all smart devices by abstracting out the interfaces used by manufacturers. This allows a user to have their whole house full of devices to be controlled by one, convenient interface. The benefit of using openHAB is you’re not bound to one supplier, you could have a washing machine and oven from different manufacturers and also not have to worry about future upgrades having to be bound by one particular manufacturer.

Well, that’s it for now! Sorry it’s a bit short this month. We hope you’ve been inspired to go and make your house or office so automated it becomes self aware…