A few years ago, connectivity and smart home automation systems were only within the reach of a privileged few with sufficient resources to install the different sensors and equipment necessary for the operation of basic applications with crude and sometimes complex interfaces to use.
Fortunately, the situation is changing radically and today, thanks to the incorporation of small fragments of intelligence in the different devices in the home, it is possible to create connected homes capable of offering us a multitude of options. However, we still have the problem of fragmentation. That is to say, there are very varied alternatives of protocols and brands, many times incompatible with each other, so we must choose very well the system that we are going to opt for.
In the last two or three years, this diversity has been reduced, or rather concentrated, in what we can call platforms or ecosystems in which the different sensors and smart home automation elements live. Next, we are going to go over the different most popular alternatives, each one with its advantages, disadvantages, and range of compatible devices.
Amazon and its ubiquitous Alexa
Amazon set out to make smart home automation a more engaging experience for the general public, and it seems to be doing just that with its many products and devices. It started with a modest and simple smart speaker called Echo but little by little it is extending its domains to multiple and different areas of the connected home.
Basically, it has focused on two strategies: first, committing to creating its own teams capable of performing different functionalities that are still somewhat limited, and second, opening its ecosystem to third-party companies that are capable of implementing a common interface, adding value to the platform. And it is probably this last point that has turned out to be the key to success, allowing the development of new capabilities by third parties and even the possibility of installing Alexa in other devices not controlled or manufactured directly by Amazon.
The basic operation of Alexa is very simple. We ask a question or give an order to a compatible device capable of understanding us and it either executes it if it can do so directly or sends the necessary commands transparently for the user to the target gadget in charge of the task. In this way we can distinguish two types of devices, those that have Alexa integrated directly and can understand our commands, such as smart speakers, and those that can receive commands or “skills“ from them and that we will see marked with the typical label ‘ Works with Amazon Alexa‘.
The process to install the different equipment of the ecosystem begins by buying a device that contains Alexa integrated (for example an Echo speaker), to later add different additional elements as long as they are installed on the same local network. We can create groups of devices by zones to, for example, turn on several lights in a room at once or the lights and the music system, etc.
What is a Smart home automation?
It is not about establishing complex systems, although it sometimes seems so, nor about having super-advanced technology reserved for a privileged few. Smart home automation is one that incorporates a set of mechanisms that automate certain installations. How? Through new technologies and connectivity, that is, through telematic control of the different domestic aspects: well-being, communication, energy consumption, security, leisure, etc.
Technology and interior design more present in 2022
The technological interior design concept combines the concepts of interior design and technology, creating a fusion of both ideas to achieve an integrated whole. A company specializing in home theaters, home automation, and lighting, states that “technology is something very useful that has changed our lives, but it can also be invasive and, on the other hand, classic interior design tends to discard technology because it does not understand it, creating houses without all possible Comforts. In 2022 we will continue working on this fusion, that of interior design and technology”. Minimalism is also a concept on the rise, but not only for a clear space, but comfortable and soulful. “Special places where you can add music and get peace and quiet. The pandemic has shown us that being comfortable at home is very important,” he concludes.
Some of the specific trends in smart home automation for 2022 are
In this article, scene space points out specific systems or products that are gaining ground as a trend in smart home automation ideas or technological interior design this year:
1.Beolab 28 and Beolab 90
Beolab 28 is Bang & Olufsen’s new bet for 2022, totally wireless speakers that can sound alone or in stereo, directly with the mobile, or connected to the television. Its subtle forward movement will allow individual sound adjustments for each room. The customizable design to choose between different woods and different aluminum allows perfect integration. And Beolab 90 are Bang & Olufsen’s flagship speakers, a pair of speakers considered the best in the world.
2. VOICE control
This is what is going to stand out the most in 2022, integrating voice controls into smart home automation.
3. Home theater
New 8K vision technologies and new Dolby sound systems will make home theaters even more realistic, allowing you to feel the scene more and more. The pandemic has triggered the installation of large movie screens, especially in large homes. Although it may seem like a lot of space is needed for its installation, the darkest, most secluded, and isolated room in the house is perfect for the cinema. A storage room, a basement with meters but without utility, or an abandoned corner. ” The demand for private movie theaters has increased by 40% after the arrival of COVID in Espacio Scena”, indicates its director, who explains that it is due “to the change in consumption habits by spending so much time at home and the growth of the platforms instreaming “.
The lighting is also gaining strength. According to Espacio Scena, the lighting study and lighting design have grown by 45%, only during the last year and a half. Customers are increasingly demanding more personalized products and it is a trend that will continue in 2022 because we continue to invest in making our home a unique space.
Best home automation system you need to know
There are thousands of gadgets and devices compatible with Alexa from very different brands, but we must know English to handle them with ease
What devices are compatible with Alexa right now? Well, thousands and their number continue to grow day by day, although it must be made clear that their artificial intelligence does not understand all languages. If we speak moderately well English or we are able to handle different commands in this language, it should not be a problem, but if we do not, it can become an inconvenience.
To start creating an Alexa ecosystem, we must first get hold of one of Amazon’s speakers, such as the Amazon Echo which costs about 130 dollars. From there we can search for a multitude of devices and accessories available on the brand’s own website. There is practically everything, from light bulbs to WiFi repeaters, lighting systems, plugs, speakers, etc. Of course, we must bear in mind that many of them are from a little-known brand
We also have some of Amazon’s own launches that are not yet available outside the United States but that can be imported if we are very interested, such as the Echo Button interactive buttons, the Echo Spot, a new gadget that we can use as a smartwatch, the Echo Plus, the most powerful version of the original Echo speaker, or the Fire TV multimedia devices of which in the USA we can buy the basic version for about 80 dollars.
But the interesting thing about Alexa is its expansion beyond the Amazon store, capturing the interest of manufacturers already positioned in their respective sectors. Thus, in recent months we have seen its arrival in home theater equipment and soundbars from well-established brands such as Denon and Polk Audio, its incorporation in some smart TVs, in HP printers, in the latest 4K projectors from Acer, or in Hisense air conditioning systems.
Google Assistant, your new virtual butler
Google also wanted its share of the cake and for this reason, in recent years it has been subtly sneaking its virtual assistant Google Assistant into our lives. First in the form of software for mobile terminals and with language limitations that little by little has been overcome with forecasts of already surpassing more than 30 languages. And later as a complete device for the home in the helpful form of a connected speaker capable of helping us with basic tasks.
It was with the arrival from 2017 of the original Google Home, the Home Mini, and later the Home Max when the plans of the search engine giant have been outlined beyond the smartphone in two modalities: devices with the assistant incorporated inside and equipment that do not have it but can be managed from them, a strategy very similar to that of Amazon.
Assistant thus opens the door for third-party companies to bet on the Google ecosystem and integrate it into all kinds of gadgets and accessories for the home such as speakers, stereos, televisions, light bulbs and a long, etc., also allowing multilanguage support or change of language and some touches of artificial intelligence in the cloud that will be in charge of answering certain simple questions. We can ask about weather information, traffic, check our calendar, flight data, sporting events, request translations of a phrase, dictionary entries, schedule tasks, etc. The virtual assistant will use your AIto try to satisfy our requests in a similar way as it does in a new generation smartphone.
But the most interesting point is found in the ability to interact with smart home automation equipment, appliances, and devices of the Internet of things. If we have a Google Home speaker or a device that incorporates an Assistant inside, we can use it directly as a hub or control center for the rest of the compatible connected elements of the home. Once all the devices on the same network have been detected, we can give different orders regardless of whether or not they are in the same room.
Depending on the device itself, we can ask the lights to be turned on or off, change the temperature of a thermostat, access surveillance camera functions, close and open electronic doors, change the channel or station, control multimedia playback, etc. In addition, after the Mobile World Congress of 2018, Google announced that its Assistant ecosystem will allow the support of the so-called routines, which will allow a simple voice command to carry out various programmed actions. For example, telling the assistant “Ok Google, I’m home” could turn on the lights in the house, play music and change the temperature of the air conditioning, or saying “OK Google, activate cinema mode” could lower the blinds, turn off the lights, turn on the TV and turn on the surround sound system.
One of the strengths of Assistant is its ability to speak multiple languages and its adoption by third-party companies, already having more than 5,000 compatible devices
As we can see, some very interesting possibilities, although of course they depend on how they are finally implemented in the devices and whether there are compatible gadgets, something that is becoming more and more common, reaching the most important brands in the consumer electronics sector. Although interesting proposals began to arrive last year, this year as of CES 2018 the available equipment has grown considerably and Google recently announced that there are already more than 5,000 compatible with its ecosystem.
For example, there are already monitors with assistants from brands like Acer or Nvidia with advanced second-screen functions. It has also reached devices with Android TV as the operating system and has begun its deployment on Sony smart TVs (for the time being in the United States). The idea is to be able to have the television as the control center for home automation equipment with a more visual interface instead of using a loudspeaker or mobile phone
In fact, Sony is not the only interesting brand. A few months ago, Philips showed its own implementation of Assistant on its smart TVs from which we can access services and control connected objects from the company such as Philips Hue lights or soundbars. We will have control over the brand’s thermostats and lighting from the television itself through simple voice commands and by pressing a single button on the remote control if we do not want to use the famous “OK Google”.
The Assistant is also present in lighting systems from brands such as IKEA, in Devolo smart home automation control and sensor systems, in multiple speakers and sound equipment from brands such as Sony, JBL, Bang & Olufsen, or Panasonic and has even called the attention of companies like LG that intend to incorporate it in their next ranges of refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioning systems, ovens, cleaning robots and dryers by adding direct voice control without having to use the mobile. It’s also found its way into Nest security systems and some headsets like these new Quiet Comfort from Bose.
Apple could not be left out of the smart home automation sector and to enter through the big door there was nothing better than taking advantage of its broad customer base with an iOS terminal. This is how HomeKit was born, the brand’s smart home automation solution, offering manufacturers the possibility of integrating their products into iOS in a simple way and everything can be controlled from a single application.
HomeKit coordinates the different apps that manage our home automation systems working in the background and making the applications connect with each other so that it is possible to manage them from a single device, also including support for the Siri voice assistant. All this is done from the Apple Home control center of the iOS terminal, which contacts the compatible gadgets that must have the “Works with HomeKit” seal.
This interaction allows us to have a list of the devices connected to the network with which we can operate, group devices in different locations in the home so that they work together or are related in some way, and finally automate actions and behaviors based on multiple parameters and scenarios.
For example, we can program an action that turns off the lights when we leave the house or one that activates our TV, media player, and sound system when we want to watch a movie. All of them are controllable from the smartphone or tablet as a remote control.
As we can see, basically it is something very similar to what Amazon and Google offer in their respective systems, but focused on the ecosystem of Apple terminals, which has its advantages and disadvantages. If we already have a smartphone of the brand, it will probably be easy for us to take the step and start buying compatible accessories, but if we are not Apple users, we will also have the initial cost of the mobile or a tablet.
Are there any compatible accessories, gadgets, and devices? Yes, and the list continues to grow. In fact, on Apple’s own website they have an updated catalog with all the products that are coming out around the world and those that are available in our country of residence.
Among the most outstanding we have a little of everything. There are indoor sensors and surveillance equipment from brands like Elgato with its Eve Door Window, Eve Energy, or Eve Thermo, security cameras like the new D-Link ranges, air quality meters like the Netatmo Healthy Home Coach, lighting and dimmer switches from well-known brands such as Philips or Ikea, weather stations or advanced thermostats.
In addition, in the past, CES 2018 more compatible equipment was announced that will be arriving in the coming month’s thanks to agreements with different companies such as Groupe Muller, the new Belkin Bridge that will be responsible for integrating all your smart home automation accessories with HomeKit and even Connected showers like this one from Moen will be sold. As we can see, there are many options, although it seems that at the moment the large home entertainment equipment (TVs, home cinema, etc.) and electrical appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, etc.) have not shown much interest in Homekit, perhaps because some of the big brands have an ace up their sleeve: creating their own home automation ecosystem, as we will see below with the examples of Samsung and LG.
Unlike the platforms that we have been seeing so far, Samsung decided to consider creating a new home automation ecosystem-based mainly on its own appliances and devices, thus avoiding having to depend on third-party companies (although little by little they have been opening up to this possibility). This is how SmartThings arose, both integrated into some brand equipment and through the Samsung Connect Home hub that it put on sale in 2017.
SmartThings also arises as an evolution of the previous application for smartphones Connect that helped us control the manufacturer’s appliances compatible with the platform and that has now evolved by improving the management of all our Samsung equipment (or compatible third-party manufacturers) that we have connected to the same network at home.
With SmartThings, Samsung has managed to create its own home automation ecosystem mainly oriented towards the household appliance sector
What can we do with SmartThings? Well, the typical of a home automation platform but applied mainly to household appliances. Using the mobile application as a remote control for the home we can find compatible devices, manage them, see their status, start their operation, create custom modes to easily control several devices with a single command, receive notifications from the equipment or alerts depending on the type of equipment we are using. For example, we can receive an alert if there is someone at the door of the house or a message from the washing machine when it is ready for us to collect the clothes.
Is there a lot of compatible equipment? Well, according to Samsung’s own website, there are currently more than 100 both from the company itself and from third-party manufacturers (those in which we find the label “Works with SmartThings” ), a figure that is considerably lower than the thousands of options in the case of Alexa and Google. However, the ecosystem continues to grow and Koreans continue to ally themselves with different companies in the technology sector to increase the possibilities of their platform. For example, a few weeks ago we learned about an agreement with Vodafone for the development of new services in the smart home thanks to the use of a new generation of sensors and connected devices.
However, SmartThings is still in the minority, being especially attractive if we are regular consumers of the brand’s products and especially its high-end televisions, which we can use as a user interface, becoming the hub or main brain of the home without needing to have a separate team. As for the rest of the appliances, the most cutting-edge ranges of washing machines and refrigerators are already compatible with the platform and the brand intends to expand its catalog in the coming months.
Another of the major consumer electronics brands that have not wanted to miss out on the opportunity of the connected home has been LG, whose home automation ecosystem solution has been called SmartThinQ and has followed two strategies: using an external device from which to control the home in the purest style of Amazon or Google speakers and the most effective formula for integrating connectivity directly into appliances.
For the first case, the brand launched in 2016 a small cylinder-shaped device that would be able to connect with all those devices compatible with AllJoyn, a platform for the Internet of things promoted by Qualcomm that accepts Bluetooth, WiFi, or Zigbee devices. It was a kind of communications hub that served as the operations center for the rest of the connected devices and also had a built-in speaker. However, since there are already more options on the market, it seems logical that finally the most interesting option for the consumer is direct control of their appliances from the same application and without the need to buy separate accessories.
For this reason, LG has been incorporating into its ecosystem in the last two years more than 100 devices compatible with the SmartThinQ seal (although not all of them are available in all countries), including refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, etc and has also made them compatible with voice control from Alexa and Google Home or directly from an Android or iOS terminal.
What can we do with SmartThinQ? Well, basically control some functions of our appliances and manage their status remotely. For example, the refrigerator sends us notifications to our mobile if we leave the door open or there is some other problem, the washing machine tells us that the washing cycle has finished, we can ask the cleaning robot to do its job or control the air conditioning before arriving home.
Smart Home automation ideas in the kitchen
Can you imagine being able to manage your kitchen appliances even if you are away from home? This is possible thanks to home automation that allows us to control energy consumption, for example, starting the washing machine or dishwasher based on hourly electricity rates, or disconnecting them from the network when they are not working. You can also program the lighting depending on whether you are cooking, dining, working, etc.
What is expected for 2022 in home automation?
For Joan Carles Reviejo of Domintell, in this sense, “‘artificial intelligence’ is gradually being incorporated into home automation systems. It allows a large amount of data to be collected with which control systems can predict needs and anticipate them . As long as we authorize them. This type of technology is already used, for example, in the creation of music or video playlists on digital platforms. Integration with voice assistants will also be important”. In the image, a touch screen for handling and control, a system installed in a home by Domintell.
Technology makes life easier
From controlling the lights of a house, improving its thermal comfort, security to cleaning. We have become accustomed to having increasingly intelligent appliances that help us and make life at home easier. Not only complete home automation systems but appliances that make the house smarter and that can also be linked to systems for voice control, for example. From robots that vacuum and scrub for us, like iRobot’s Roomba j7+ robot vacuum with cord detection pictured; even ovens or washing machines that are managed with an app even if you are not at home or applications that let us see what is left of food in the fridge while we do the shopping.
How much does it cost to carry out an installation for a ‘smart home’?
Do you like the idea of controlling the blinds in your house? Lights? Then you may be considering a home automation installation. At Domintell, its director advises us on the price: “it depends on the size of the home, the level of automation and the quality of the products we use. In new construction or comprehensive remodeling projects, carried out with professional material, it will not go down the 2500 Dollars “.
Is the work of a home automation installation complex?
The material execution is not complex if it is carried out with qualified personnel. The difficulty lies in the programming and integration of equipment. The systems we use have been designed to facilitate the installation and programming of the home as much as possible.
Is home automation safe?
Many people are reluctant about the waves emitted by devices and their impact on health or about the idea of connecting the life of a house to a system that records all our habits. In this sense, Domintell reminds us that home automation and automation allow us to achieve healthier and more comfortable spaces, integrating the control of air quality, temperature, and humidity, for example. “Home automation installations are safe. Installations with wired systems that we have worked at very low voltage so that by focusing the maneuvers on the electrical panels we can reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields inside the home. If possible, we recommend not using control systems based on radiofrequency, whenever possible”. There is a percentage of the electro hypersensitive population, that is, very sensitive to the electromagnetic fields generated by radiofrequency, electrical conduits, and even by some household appliances. A well-designed and executed home automation installation helps to achieve what is called biocompatible installations.
Finally, In addition, as we use the application and the equipment, the system is supposed to learn about our guidelines and remember our habits in order to anticipate our needs.