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Home, Smart Home

The idea of smart home is steadily gaining popularity. Technologically it has been possible to construct a smart home for a long time yet really smart software with useful feature set software for controlling the operation of such premises is yet to come.

Now, what can we automate in a smart home? We can automate all the things that we do manually and turn our home in a personal secretary and butler via omnipresent sensors and internet-aware appliances. So let's dream!

Firstly, a smart home must start outdoors. When you approach your smart home in a vehicle the home should recognize your approach (e.g. via pressure sensors in driveway), read the RFID signature of your car to authenticate the vehicle and open the garage doors for you. Similarly, when you pullout the garage doors should close automatically (unless especially directed otherwise).

Similarly, when the owner enters the home through the front door the home must recognize the owner (either via RFID key or by reading fingerprints through the doorknob) and let the owner in.

Other outdoor functions may include keeping track of precipitation and outdoor temperature for initiating sprinkler system on dry days as well as scheduling automatic lawn mowers to groom the lawn.

Indoors the most useful feature would be to keep track of residents' location (e.g. via pressure sensors or RFID technology) and turn on the lights automatically when the ambient light is insufficient or when one enters a bathroom or closet. Another reason for keeping track of resident’s location is communication: each room can be equipped with speakers and microphone such that residents could communicate with each other and with the home’s control system and the software should be smart enough to activate speakers and microphones using the resident’s location information.

Appliances should loose confusing controls and become autonomous and voice activated, e.g. a washing machine must come on automatically when it is full and should pick a washing cycle appropriate to its load (e.g. heavier for fry pans, lighter for classes). The same rule applies to washer and dryer. The appliances may also inform the owner via the smart-home interface and the speaker system about pending activities such as the need to dry the washed laundry, or a necessity to add detergent or to replace the filter. The notifications, however, should be convenient and in no way annoying.

Lastly, the home’s central computer should also serve as an entertainment center by hosting music and video collection (as well as the cable or satellite hook-up) instantly available for enjoyment. Another useful feature would be the integration of the phone and the email system with the home’s software such that the resident could receive voice notifications of the important phone calls or emails instantaneously in its current location with the ability to respond interactively to the voice calls.

Furthermore the home’s speaker system should be able to receive commands to control the smart appliances, e.g. the home’s resident from a bedroom should be able to direct the coffee maker in the kitchen to make fresh coffee.

The smart home can also take care of the chores by scheduling robotic vacuum cleaners at convenient times (e.g. when there is nobody home or upon voice commands) as well as dispatch store orders for refilling the refrigerator and supplies.

Safety features could include intruder detection (e.g. forced window entry) and 911 calls when the owner falls downstairs and fails to respond to status inquiry. The latter feature could be especially useful for senior residents requiring extra care. The smart home can monitor movement and life signs of such persons and call emergency or care services when the resident status is outside the normal range.

Surely I described just a tip of the iceberg of what a smart home should be. RFID technology seems to be necessary to tag supplies, food items and residents for easy recognition by the home sensor system. And the construction cost would definitely be higher due to the necessity for large quantities of pressure, RF and other sensors as well as wiring, speakers, microphones and central computer system hook ups. Yet just as air conditioning the smart home features and software will not leave our life style as soon as we get to taste it. Don’t you think?