How to Design Smart Homes

How to Design Smart Homes

One of the buzzwords of the decade in Singapore has been ‘Smart City’. Just as in centuries past, society has always been searching for ways to increase their quality of life. The latest advances in technology such as the Internet-of-the-Things (IOT) and the emergence of big data has shown potential to allow us to take the next big leap.

While many of these advances have been applied at large commercial spaces and in public sector works, individuals can get in on the act too. The prospect of having many mundane tasks being automated or optimised, is highly enticing. As such, demand for smart home technologies has been increasing, with residential interior design firms rising to meet this challenge.

At commercial level, smart technology has begun to take root in our homes with the emergence of remotely or semi-artificial intelligence (AI) controlled electrical appliances. In this article, we provide an overview on designing smart homes and answer some common questions. It should also be noted that the purpose of this article is not to review individual devices, instead it focuses on the creation of an entire ecosystem of smart appliances.

Creating a Smart Environment

A smart home performs automated actions based on two inputs.

  • The user’s inputted command from a controlling device
  • Environmental data that is collected by the system’s sensors

 

In the latter, sensors collect data such as heat, light and humidity while actuators interpret the data. A prediction of the impact on the home in the real world is then made, triggering the individual appliances to react as programmed. The key benefit here is that it requires no human intervention. Hence, your home will be operating at peak efficiency even when you are away. This takes away worries such as energy efficiency, ventilation and wet weather.

Do Platforms Matter?

Similar to the mobile phone and computer market, smart appliance brands have produced separate operating platforms for their smart devices. In this space, the following brand platforms are highly prominent:

  • HomeKit by Apple
  • SmartThings by Samsung
  • Alexa by Amazon
  • Home by Google

 

When smart home appliances first emerged, platforms were a dominant factor in purchase decisions. The rationale for this was that smart appliances that belonged to different platforms were unable to communicate with each other. As such, the user had to individually control each component of their house. Without the synergy between the appliances, the whole was indeed lesser than the sum of its parts.

Fortunately, suppliers are increasingly open to the concept of an open application programming interface (API), thereby allowing for cross platform communication. Nonetheless, as a purchaser, you should clarify as to whether the device of interest is compatible with the existing system in your home.

Choosing the Network

As mentioned above, a key component of smart homes is the communication network between the individual smart devices. Currently, three primary types of networks exist:

  • Wireless technology based on fixed topology
  • Wireless technology based on a mesh network
  • Laying special cables or power cables

 

Without going into too much detail, fixed topology is a classic network design that is designed and deployed manually. In contrast, a mesh network relies on a routing table which tells each node in the system how to communicate and how to direct data traffic. While the first two networks are wireless, the third requires the laying of cables to connect all appliances.

At this point, it is important to get the help of interior design services to make technical assessments of your requirements and to create an initial design. You should inform the designer of your budget and request for proper documentation of all systems and networks.