The connected house trends for 2021

Now 2020 is coming to its end, I thought it would be a good time to give an overview of what the connected house will bring us in 2021.



Voice control becomes a commodity


In recent years, dominant technological players such as Amazon, Google and Apple have invested heavily in their smart assistant product line. This technology is increasingly being adopted in other objects. We have seen the technology being adapted by other hardware suppliers such as Sonos to include Alexa in their speakers and even collaborated with IKEA to supply a set of low-cost smart speakers.

Mercedes recently announced that it will incorporate Samsung's SmartThings technology into the MBUX infotainment system of the new 2021 S Class model. It's cool because MBUX understands natural speech and communicates with your SmartThings network at home. For example, you can ask: "Hey Mercedes, did I forget to turn off my lights at home" or "Hey Mercedes, is anyone home?" and the infotainment system will tell you.

Today the Amazon Alexa is already available in a number cars, but if your car does not have a smart assistent built-in, don't panic. Amazon just released the Echo Auto Smart Car Hub. This smart assistant can be retrofitted in any car and connects to the Alexa app on your phone and plays through your car’s speakers via auxiliary input or your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection.


Smart home reality


As we become accustomed to voice-driven devices, the dominant technology players are working on the next generation of smart assistance that includes more learning opportunities on the device itself based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies. The new Amazon Echo therefore has a new AZ1 Neural Edge processor chip on board. It will enable the Echo to respond more quickly to user queries by locally processing voice commands and recognising for example the difference between a child's or adult's voice.



But perhaps even more importantly, the use of AI and ML technology enables them to provide better security solutions using facial recognition devices, video door alarms, remote-controlled locks and state-of-the-art intrusion alarms and adding advanced automation based on predictive and prescriptive algorithms. For example, it can advise you to open the front door when Alexa recognises a known courier delivering a package.


Covid-19 impact on the connected home


For years, there has been a clear trend for people to become increasingly aware of the quality of the air they breathe - whether at home, in the office or at school. The rapid emergence and global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has made people even more aware of air quality. The discussion has recently been extended to ventilation and clean air supply in connection with the possible transfer of air via SARS-CoV-2 aerosols. New products such as the Philips Air Purifier Series 4000i are finding their way into our homes.

The Philips Air Purifier Series 4000i removes 99.97% of ultra-fine particles, including pollutants, PM 2.5, allergens, bacteria, viruses, gases and odors.


Standardisation


The main problem with home automation solutions today is that there’s no open standard, so each manufacturer has developed its own proprietary system, and smart home accessories manufacturers need to provide specific support for each system they want their products to work with. Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance have joined forces in a new task force to lead the Project Connected Home over IP.




The group's goal was to create a cross-platform solution for smart home appliances that would provide unparalleled security, while also ensuring that consumers do not have to worry about being locked into a platform or ecosystem, eliminating the "silos" that currently force many users to choose between Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit when purchasing accessories.


Open Source


The reference implementation of the new standard, and its supporting tooling, will be developed and maintained on the GitHub open source platform for all aspects of the specification. For more information visit the GitHub repository. In parallel to this, Apple announced it would open-sourcing HomeKit.


New networks


The connected house is not only within the walls of our house but is also in the perimeter of our home. Today's home networks such as WiFi, zigbee or Z-wave are often challenging when used outside our homes, especially when longer distances need to be covered. Amazon is working on a new network technology called 'Sidewalk' which sill address this problem and will be available in 2021 in the US to start with.


Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network, that helps connect devices such as Ring security cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, smart irrigation and pet tracking devices in the vicinity of the home. Amazon Sidewalk creates a crowd-sourced wireless network, free-of-use, based on Semtech's LoRa technology, amongst others, which extends the range of a customer’s home network to connect both outdoor and indoor, low-bandwidth smart home products.


I have previously published another post about Sidewalk. You can find it here.


Robotisation


Another trend we see in 2021 with regard to the connected home, is the further robotisation in our homes. Last September Amazon announced an autonomous indoor drone that can use a map of your home to independently fly around to check out strange noises or run a patrol when you’re not home. The Ring Always Home Cam will be available in 2021 for $250.



The Samsung Ballie is a companion robot designed to provide personalized care. It is able to understand you and detect your needs to provide personalized care thanks to its On-Device AI capabilities. The spherical robot is able to move around, and with the camera on its face, it can track and detect an individual.


If you want to know more about smart homes and how you can build your own, you can read all about it in my first book called the connected house 2.0


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