Smart Home Automation - How Easy Can It Be?

Sarah wants to automate the low-energy lamp in her conservatory, to make it look like their home is occupied and also for convenience.

Sarah has a Smart Home service running on a Smart Home Controller. She doesn't know how it works or what technologies it uses. She bought this model so that she doesn't need to know.

Sarah orders a lighting controller on-line. She knows it is compatible with her controller because it is certified and bears the same certification logo. She knows it will just work.

Sarah and plugs it in to a wall socket in her conservatory and then the lamp into it, ensuring the wall switch is on.

Within a few seconds, Sarah receives a notification on her Smartphone (or tablet). It informs her that a new lighting module has been added to her Smart Home. [1]

Sarah follows the link on her Smartphone and this starts her Smart Home app and it opens at the 'installation wizard':

  • Sarah chooses to name the device as 'Conservatory Lamp' and selects 'Conservatory' as its room.
  • Sarah then selects the 'On' time to be sunset each day.
  • Sarah then selects the 'Off' time to be 10:30pm Sunday to Thursday and 11:30pm on Friday and Saturdays.

The installation and setup is now complete. Sarah can push the physical button on the lighting module to toggle it on or off. Sarah can also use her Smart Home app to remotely control the lamp if need be.

A few months later ...

Sarah has noticed that the Conservatory Lamp sometimes switches off whilst they are in the conservatory in the summer months. She wants it to know when the conservatory is in use and to keep the lamp on a bit longer.

Sarah buys a wireless, battery powered PIR sensor (in wood effect to match the conservatory frame) and uses the Velcro pads (supplied in the box) to stick it above the double doors leading to the garden.

She presses the button on her smart home controller to tell it to look for new devices. A few seconds after switching the PIR sensor on, she receives a notification on her Smartphone and her new tablet. It informs her that the PIR sensor module has been added to her Smart Home and that it also has the ability to measure temperature and humidity. [1]

Sarah follows the link on her Smartphone and this starts her Smart Home app and it opens at the 'installation wizard':

  • Sarah chooses to name the device as 'Movement Sensor' and selects 'Conservatory' as its room.
  • Sarah then selects an option to extend the 'On' time of the 'Conservatory Lamp', so that each time movement is detected the 'Conservatory Lamp' stays on for at least another 10 minutes.
  • Sarah notices that her app now has automatically added two new sensors called 'Conservatory Temperature' and 'Conservatory Humidity' and she can monitor these from the Smartphone app.

The installation and setup is now complete and Sarah knows that she won't be left in a dark conservatory again.

Simplicity

This is an example of 'zero touch' home automation. Once the above installation and configuration steps are done, Sarah will not need to interact or control the conservatory lamp again, unless she wants to change the timings. The Smart Home controller calculates sunset time for her location and controls the lamp accordingly. It also automatically adjusts for British Summer Time (daylight saving time) so she doesn't have to do this.

If Sarah was to add a twilight sensor, she would have the option to choose 'dusk' instead of sunset. This would allow the lamps to react to local weather conditions as the twilight sensor would measure ambient light levels and know if it was overcast or cloudy.

Our Views

The above is a simple scenario but, it shows how simple smart home automation can be and how simple it needs to be before mainstream adoption happens. This is the kind of installation and configuration experience that we are aiming for with the development of our own Home Control System (HCS).

There are going to be cases, where a professional electrician is required to install devices and modules into switch plates and wall boxes and to wire up and test them but, the configuration experience should be something that anyone can then do.

Our Home Control System (HCS) works with both wired and wireless technologies and is both a hybrid technology solution and a solution that employs technology abstraction.

[1]

We know that Z-Wave inclusion is not currently this simply with existing products on the market but, this is the simplicity we are aiming for. The end result may be with a simple sequence of button presses to achieve this part of our scenario though.

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