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Ram Dixit (India) - Smart Home Hub: Digital Convergence (Part 1)

A lifetime dream of many Indian families is to build a home of their own. Families spend major portions of their savings to meticulously plan and build custom homes that address their lifestyle needs.

Over the years, communication and automation technologies have advanced so much that there is a big gap in leveraging the same to realize comfortable and convenient homes. Smart or connected home concepts have been around in advanced countries for over a decade now. However, due to lack of integrated and commoditized products suitable for each region, smart home technology has not proliferated well, especially in India and the developing world.

Due to regulatory requirements as well as from a desire to conserve ecosystem resources, home owners have installed solar water heaters which are very efficient in the Indian tropical climate and save enormous electrical energy otherwise used in electrical geysers. However, there is a need to intelligently switch on the geyser when the water doesn’t heat up on cloudy days.

Houses are also fitting PV (Photo Voltaic) solar panels to generate electricity that can be used to light up LED Lamps which consume very low power and produce enough light for living. There are frequent power shutdowns and therefore houses do have Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS) and voltage stabilizers to correct fluctuating voltage levels.

Houses are also installing Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems that would feed into sumps saving water drawn from public water supply systems. Since the public water supply doesn’t have the pressure to feed water to every tap and as it works only for limited hours in a day, houses have sump, pump and overhead tanks to distribute water 24x7 to all taps in the house. It’s also common to find a bore-well and pump in many houses as public water supply may not exist or is insufficient. To turn on the pump when the overhead tank is getting empty or to switch off the pump when the over head tank gets full, pump controllers are fitted. The water is not portable; so many houses would have UV reverse osmosis water filters. There is a need to ensure that enough water is filtered and stored for easy availability.

Many homes aspire to have surveillance systems to thwart burglary attempts when folks are away from home. Many cities don’t have LPG supplied through pipeline so they would use LPG cylinders in the kitchen for cooking. There is a need to monitor usage of LPG and have it booked at appropriate points and switching to a backup cylinder when required. For security, some homes may have surveillance/monitoring cameras and door security controls. There are also opportunities to automate turning on-off of external lights sensing ambient light and also controlling passage lights based on motion detection. Opportunities also exist to control lights as well as certain equipment like air conditioners remotely.

For communication and infotainment, many homes these days would have a fixed/cordless phone, ADSL Broadband connection, Wi-Fi LAN, home PC, printer/scanner, digital still/video cameras, laptops, tablet/net-books, mobile/smart phones with 2G/3G connectivity, DTH connection, STBs, game controllers, TV sets, DVD players, DVRs, home theater, FM radio receivers, etc.

Due to non-standardization and packaging of functions across many devices and gadgets often there would be duplicate devices and the total cost would go up.
There is a need for a standardized smart home hub, associated smart home STBs and smart home apps (software), to save duplicate functions across many devices and gadgets. Further, by leveraging mobile gadgets, the overall number of devices in the house can be reduced.

In part two of this post, to be published on February 14th, I will discuss the use of smart home hub technology and how it can help enable some of the features discussed here.

By Ram Dixit, principal architect with technology, media and entertainment group of Mahindra Satyam

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