Making Smart Homes in Sri Lanka

12 March 2020 09:09 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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One of the fastest-growing areas of consumer technology at the moment is home automation devices. From smart speakers to coffee makers and washing machines

Home automation is a network of hardware, communication, and electronic interfaces that work to integrate household devices and appliances with one another via the Internet

Cleaning is probably the worst chore of all. But with a smart device, you can make use of the time you spend at office to get your home vacuumed and that too without the intervention of a human

 

Chances are you love (or hate) getting to know your daily step count, the flights of stairs you’ve taken each day or even the distance you’ve walked or not walked during your day. Yes, it can get you a little distressed sometimes, but let’s face it; it does motivate you, without a visit to your doctor and an uncomfortable reminder of having to exercise more. All this and a nudge towards managing a more active lifestyle is possible with a smartphone and a wearable device.  


Now imagine having the same or even a more advanced degree of convenience, in managing things around your home. Sounds too alien? Let’s dig a little deeper.   


One of the fastest-growing areas of consumer technology at the moment is home automation devices. From smart speakers to coffee makers and washing machines, nowadays it’s easy to buy a smart version of nearly any tech product or appliance. Globally, some of the most popular smart home automation tasks are lighting, and temperature control. All these devices are designed and enabled to do one important thing, make your life easier.   

 

Globally, some of the most popular smart home automation tasks are lighting, and temperature control

 


But is it all the rage in Sri Lanka? Does it really work in the Sri Lankan context? To find out ourselves, we recently visited the Connection Workshop, a subsidiary of South Asian Technologies (Pvt) Ltd in Colombo. Smart home automation is a fascinating new market, which almost every major tech company is experimenting with, at present. Just as there exists an endless sea of smart devices, with its manufacturing around the world showing no signs of slowing down, so are the options or uses of these devices. 

 

 
What is a smart home?
What exactly is home automation, we asked Dilshan Boteju, VP - iOT and Home Automation at South Asian Technologies. “Most people think of smart devices as being able to switch on and switch off a light remotely. Or to check if you’ve left the iron on, so that you can switch it off even if you’re out of the house. But it’s not just that. I would say that’s a myth,” he says.   
It does work that way, Dilshan explains but only to a certain extent. Home automation is a network of hardware, communication, and electronic interfaces that work to integrate household devices and appliances with one another via the Internet. Each of these smart devices has sensors and is connected through WiFi. “These smart devices basically have an intelligence of its own and will work alongside with other devices in your home. For example when you leave home the smart devices will automatically switch off, if there’s a security system off, that will be switched on. It’s an integrated solution that these devices will provide,” he explains.   


 “Although this technology, amongst most of us is still considered a Western thing, in India, our closest neighbour, home automation is already a buzz word. This is especially because the wave of second generation home owners are growing, they want more than just shelter, water and electricity and that with minimum waste which is where they turn to smart automation,” Dilshan opines.   


As we discuss home automation further, one employee from his team commands Alexa, the smart speaker to turn on presentation mode. “This is a smart board room” Dilshan adds. In a matter of seconds, the board room automatically prepares for a presentation, with blinds rolling in and the lights dimming. The air conditioning meanwhile turns into a more comfortable temperature.   

 

According to Dilshan the idea of smart home devices is becoming intelligent. Decades ago, home automation was bound with a few limitations as it is used to control devices only over the internet when you were away from your place

 


How does it work?
According to Dilshan the idea of smart home devices is becoming intelligent. Decades ago, home automation was bound with a few limitations as it is used to control devices only over the internet when you were away from your place. “Combined with the potential of Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (iOT), it has transformed the way our devices interact. We live in a generation where human intervention is no longer required, and smart devices are taking autonomous decisions,” he says.  


Utility products such as air conditioners, thermostats, refrigerators, washing machines, coffee makers, sprinklers and even the water pumps are operated traditionally by switches. They own a scope of controlling it from mobile phones, smart wearables, voice commands, and web platforms. The platforms are gradually standardised which will effectively allow manufacturers to develop smart products that can communicate across brands. With smart devices, home automation does make the most routine of household chores easy to bear with.   
Something most of us would agree on would be that cleaning is probably the worst chore of all. But with a smart device, you can make use of the time you spend at office to get your home vacuumed and that too without the intervention of a human. No, we’re not talking about getting domestic help, but a smart robot vacuum. 


“This device will vacuum your home and get back to recharging mode and be ready for the next command by the time we get back home. If there is a power drop or excess, iOT-connected system will trigger sensitive connected devices to shut down and re-commence once power stabilises. All these will take place with cloud interventions,” Dilshan describes while giving us a demonstration of the robot’s capabilities. According to his team many of these models can pair with smart speakers like Amazon Alexa or 
Google Home.

 


Not just efficiency
Entertainment, Control & Security, Utility products, are undergoing a transition to become greener and smarter. Key applications of machine learning, lightning fast and constant internet connectivity along with an ability to collect and analyse the data is itself providing a vital contribution in advancing the Internet of Things space. The Connection Workshop partners the global leader in iOT and smart home, Tuya Technologies in this futuristic journey. Tuya provides a leading Global iOT platform that enables manufacturers, brands, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and retail chains to develop one-stop smart home solutions.  


Home automation isn’t simply all about efficiency either, we discover. “With smart improvements, our home air conditioner is able to communicate with the smart fan and synchronise the operation to make our sleep as comfortable as possible. What this means is that the AC will reduce or power down at a set temperature and get the fan to start at a comfortable speed and if the room temperature exceeds comfort level, the AC will kick start once again. Furthermore bedroom curtains can also be drawn automatically at the appropriate time, all operated hands free using smart cloud – no more getting up in the nights feeling tired and warm,” Dilshan muses.   


Some may argue that these products make us lazier, but Dilshan doesn’t quite agree. “These solutions actually help us in getting more productive things done. For example one of our clients, quite a big company, found out that there’s quite a lot of water being wasted in their washrooms. They reached us with their issue and asked us, ‘do you think AI will be able to help us?’

 

We live in a generation where human intervention is no longer required, and smart devices are taking autonomous decisions


Yes, AI definitely was able to help. The solution was quite simple, according to Dilshan. “We fixed a small sensor, which talks to the light switch in the washroom and it also talks to the water pump attached to the washroom. 


Together these devices make sure that when someone goes into the washroom, the lights and water are switched on for use. 


The moment the person leaves, both utilities are shut down. There was no need for human interaction to either stop the water or switch off the lights,” he explained. According to Dilshan this efficient system saved this company more than Rs. 150,000 spent on water alone, since the system was implemented.   


Across the world, meanwhile governments and medical charities are looking at home automation with increasing interest. 


Even for those who struggle with simple household tasks, such as the elderly, home automation could actually make all the difference between individuals being able to live independently in their own home, or having someone to care for them. According to iOT analytics, 30 billion objects will be connected to the Internet by the year 2025 and iOT will play a critical part in the infrastructure of technology in the coming years. These are staggering prospects as the opportunities for new lines of service and new business models grow out of this realm.   

  Comments - 1

  • A dumb ass Thursday, 12 March 2020 04:20 PM

    Don't you think it is better to make the "people smart" rather than making the "homes smart"? Is it better to have smart people living in dumb homes or dumb people living in smart homes?


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