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SPECIAL REPORT: Future-bound Smart Home System has come of age

The gradual rise in the mass consumption of modern digital devices, powered by IoT (Internet of Things) technology and, connected to wireless communication services, is solidifying the Smart Home lifestyle.

Photo by Jakub Zerdzicki from Unsplash.com

The gradual rise in the mass consumption of modern digital devices, powered by IoT (Internet of Things) technology and, connected to wireless communication services, is solidifying the Smart Home lifestyle.

Urban consumers may not realize it – as they utilize IoT technology and the readily affordable available devices – they are actually creating a Smart Home infrastructure in their residences and home offices.

By 2024, in the United States for instance, the home automation industry is “anticipated” to increase to about USD 150 billion. While, nearer home in the Philippines, scanning over the concept stores mushrooming in malls in megacities like Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, shoppers are witnessing big tech companies (led by China) investing in home automation solutions.

A study on “The Future of Smart Homes in the Philippines” published in Smart Systems and Green Energy (2022) by Clausius Scientific Press, Canada, underscored “Massive adoption may have begun in the Philippines with the boom of internet connectivity coupled with the increasing middle class who can afford such ‘necessary’ luxury.”

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It added, “Smart Home Systems use IoT in order to interconnect the devices at home through the internet. The homeowners will now be able to control these devices remotely to their benefit.”

Three-Tier Technology

The authors identified boundaries of the technology and further classified it into LOW, MIDDLE, and HIGH.

“LOW technology uses appliances and devices that provide a certain level of comfort and efficiency to the homeowner without collecting data from them. MIDDLE technology uses devices that collect data from the homeowners. But the data should be controlled by humans and the processing should not harm the homeowners,” they said. “HIGH technology is the scenario wherein the devices collect and control data on their own which can be borderline unethical and unnatural and might harm humans in the end.”

They continued, using the data of available and installed devices (for the said study), the Philippines, though at the level of middle technology, is still unable to realize the benefits of this emerging technology.

Over five decades ago, automation emerged in most household electronic appliances, leading eventually to the rise of robotics and later on to smart devices powered by computer programming languages and software applications. These days, we are seeing solar-powered gadgets, equipment and devices fast gaining popularity and penetration into future homes and workplaces.

In a mid-year 2020, Statista published an ‘Outlook Report’ which noted, “In the Philippines, the number of active households in the Smart Home System market is expected to reach 4.1 million users in 2026. The household penetration is expected to hit 16.6% by 2026.”

The IoT devices now available are CONTROL AND CONNECTIVITY DEVICES (like motorized window blinds, smart toilets), ENERGY MANAGEMENT (e.g. Smart thermostats), COMFORT AND LIGHTING (i.e. Smart light bulb), APPLIANCES (such as washer/dryer, refrigerator, oven), SECURITY DEVICES (e.g. video door bells and fingerprint locks, motion sensors and wireless security cameras), and ENTERTAINMENT DEVICES (Smart TV, for example).

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Home Automation Features, Benefits and Advantages

An article on home automation published in Smart Home titled “Home Automation…What Benefits will I Get?” reported, “Home automation has been around for several years, with systems that let you control the lighting, temperature, door locks, window curtains, televisions, appliances, and many more.”

It continued, “In earlier years of automation, it is considered a luxury and very expensive but as smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi become increasingly common to every household, home automation is becoming easier to use and dramatically more affordable.”

Take caution though not to overload your Smart Home with said appliances and gadgets. Be warned of electromagnetic pollution. For the low-level radiation emission is more dangerous, according to emerging studies.

The benefits of Smart Home automation include energy savings, safety and better security, convenience and accessibility, and control. For some consumers, they purchase home automation for comfort and peace of mind. Adding also instant notifications (through smartphones) with the help of apps such as (Android or iOS) or with a controller device such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home Assistant. Furthermore, with Wi-Fi technology already a common and accessible item in most homes, home devices can now communicate with each other.

Since last year, leading global provider of smart devices like HONOR, unveiled numerous products to meet the consumer demand. As part of its growth and expansion, HONOR Philippines has been opening numerous HONOR showrooms in megamalls in Metro Manila.

“Many people want the perks of home automation, but they feel uncertain that smart home technologies will provide them these (e.g. privacy and security),” the Smart Home blog underlined.

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Smartphones store very valuable database which is a temptation for anyone wanting to hack into the connected home occupant’s life. The smartphone, if hacked or stolen, could compromise an entire home security system. Thus securing it must not be neglected. A top priority, according to anti-virus software providers is to purchase  Android security  or  security for iOS devices .

Make sure to address potential security issues first if you want to benefit from the advantages of a Smart Home, they reminded.

Securing the Device and Hub

Anti-virus software company Sophos produces security softwares with control features that let you prioritize bandwidth for streaming, gaming, surfing or video chatting. These are classified into Application Priority and Device Priority.

In Application Priority, the network is optimized by assigning priority for favorite activities like gaming, streaming, chatting and surfing, while in Device Priority, you can choose which devices always have the fastest connections, or set a schedule to assign device priority for different times of the day.

Sophos has home edition products that may be configured to best achieve protection against IoT attacks, and security of IoT devices.

Securing your IoT devices is something everyone can and should do – right away, underscored Sophos Cyber Security Advisor James Lyne, in a TV guesting at ABC’s “Good Morning America” where he demonstrated how easy it is to hack into a Smart Home through its internet-connected devices.

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He emphasized updating the software and making sure to replace factory-default passwords to ensure your IoT devices are not vulnerable to attack.

The Sophos official recommended setting up a second or guest network that is not connected to your personal or work computers to manage all your devices. This simple step can prevent insecure devices from being used by attackers to steal data and engage in illicit surveillance.

Sophos Home customers may use their mobile devices to access the Sophos Home Dashboard and use the Add new device/Add device button to reach the appropriate store. They, too, can download the app directly from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store on their devices.  

Best System Offering

On the matter of what is the best home automation system, Top Consumer Review suggested, “A basic home automation system should at least have a doorbell intercom and camera; detectors for motion, doors and windows left open, smoke, and carbon monoxide; plus a few cameras to monitor exterior and interior spaces. If you have more budget, find a provider that also includes entertainment and environmental controls for television, music, lighting, and temperature.”

In recognizing the advantages of Smart Home automation, several property and condominium developers now include these in their value propositions for work-from-home setup.

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An example is Robinsons Land Corp. It wrote, “RLC residences with smart home features will allow unit dwellers to have a more productive life. The basic features are light control, socket control and door lockset.” For future-proof protection versus outdate device and technology, actual deliverables for Smart Home devices will depend on available devices and technology.

“At RLC Residences, we wanted to ensure our homeowners that they can enjoy easy access to their daily household tasks, while still focusing on building connections. For example, our units at SYNC have an infrared emitter – a deliverable that allows homeowners to connect any infrared-capable device or appliances and control these using their mobile devices,” said Stephanie Anne Go, assistant vice president and business development and design head at RLC Residences. 

“Also, our smart lights and sockets give our homeowners the convenience to control their home lights using their phones. So, in case they forgot to turn off their lights after leaving the unit, they can easily check it on their phones,” she continued.

“As for security and safety, aside from the CCTV across common areas, we have installed an audio-video intercom so they can easily view and see their guests in the lobby while in their unit. Our smart locks also add an additional layer of security since it can be accessed via traditional key, key cards, biometrics and passcode. This allows easier access to the unit as long as the unit owner can provide any of the mentioned methods,” she added.

RLC Residences started designing Smart Home condos as early as 2020.

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“We first integrated these features in The Sapphire Bloc South Tower and Sierra Valley Gardens Building,” Go narrated, “When we launched the second tower of SYNC in 2021, all units have these features as well.”

In raising the standards of condo living, RLC Residences also designed its properties to be fiber optic-ready. It added work-from-home provisions in each unit to answer the evolving connectivity and lifestyle requirements of its homeowners.

“Generally, we are catering to the young professionals and growing families looking for a home where they can achieve their goals,” she said. Specifically for SYNC, “we designed the property for the millennial modern urban dwellers – working professionals who look for a home where they can live secure, live out their passions, live near their work and essential establishments, and ultimately live a comfortable life.”

As of the moment, RLC Residences smart home-ready properties are still on the pre-selling stage.

Rising Demand

Smart technology helps create an inviting environment for rest, play and leisure and work-from-home. Connected devices create a comfortable atmosphere with elements of adaptive lighting, sound (e.g. music and audio-video) and temperature.

The idea behind home automation as a time saver is for household occupants to simply control the appliances and features in their house online to improve convenience, increase security, and even reduce household expenses.

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“Xiaomi products are the in-thing right now. These include Smart High-Definition TV, Smart Tower Fan, Smart Antibacterial Humidifier, Smart Microwave Oven, Smart Cooking Robot, Smart Blender, Hot Pot, Induction Frying Pan, and Rechargeable Handheld Fan. All smart products can be utilized through mobile phone integrated apps,” cited Nereo Bolante, operations manager of Officemoto Corporation, a one-stop source of office essentials e-commerce site online.

Done online, simply control these appliances, gadgets and features in your house with either a click of a button or transmission of a SMS/text message.

Bolante narrated when they saw the growing demand for smart office equipment, “We decided to open Officemoto to answer this need. Later on, we added smart home products.”

He added, “The highly skilled staff behind Officemoto knows how to anticipate market needs. Not only in terms of what products would be in demand but also when.”

The excitement derived from enjoyment of smart devices is telling us clearly that the future-bound Smart Home System has come of age.

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