The Connected Home was a new zone on display at the 2015 Hong Kong Electronics Fair, providing a glimpse into the future with the application of Internet of Things (IoT) in the home environment. Here are five lessons we took away from the show.
1. Smart Manufacturers will make smart products
Much that is written about home automation focuses on the consumer benefits of IoT, but there are also potential for manufacturers investing in building smart devices to save themselves money in the long run.
Andy Lau, executive director of SAS Dragon Holdings Limited which specialises in marketing of digital products, illustrated this point by using the example of the air conditioner, “How many buttons are on your air conditioner remote? How many of those do you ever actually press?” He asked.
A smart air conditioning system allows manufacturers to capture consumer behaviour and habits, for example which buttons they are using on the remote to redesign and simplify the product. The remote can be personalised and customised for different markets he said.
“If I capture the data I can make an even smaller remote control. The design is much cheaper and user friendly,” Lau said.
Another advantage Lau highlighted was by monitoring a smart air conditioner manufacturers could predict faults in key components like the fan or compressor and easily identify what needs to be repaired, saving on maintenance costs and labour.
2. Zigbee versus Wi-Fi
Two major protocols to power the Internet of Things were dominant during the Hong Kong Electronics Fair: Wi-Fi and Zigbee. Starting with the less well known, Zigbee is a radio frequency that uses less battery power than Wi-Fi, making it suitable for low data rate applications that require long battery life for example door locks, scales and sensors. Wi-Fi is better for audio and video, designed to facilitate high-speed data communication.
3. ‘Siri turn on the light please’
HomeKit is Apple’s framework for controlling smart home devices, as such it allows HomeKit devices to be controlled by voice commands given to Siri. On display at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair was ChampOn Technology, an approved Apple HomeKit smart home products manufacturer. ChampOn is certified by Apple MFi Program and is one of the first to develop HomeKit products, including IP cameras, smart sockets and adjustable LED lighting.
4. Set the scene
Smarthome controls can be simplified by predefining specific modes. For example, Wulian SmartRoom products allow you to set different modes for each room, such as Movie Mode, which might automatically dim the lights, draw the curtains and switch on the TV, or Wake Up Mode would open the curtains when the alarm clock rang.
5. All powerful cameras
Security cameras, smart sockets and adjustable LED lighting are the most common applications among the products on display in Hong Kong. Also present were automatic curtain switches, window openers, garage door openers, gas detectors and garden sprinklers. The security camera is a key component to a smart home system because it allows you use home automation while you aren’t at home, for example it is no use remotely unlocking the front door if you cannot see who is standing outside.