Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the smart home – Part 2

9. September 2021 Published by Jana Greyling

“The smart home means more convenience, quality of life and security for users,” reads the foreword to Bitkom’s “Smart Home 2020” study. Convenience and quality of life play an important role in the smart home. But what exactly does the term “convenience” mean in the smart home and what requirements need to be met? We try to find the right answers to those questions in the second part of our blog post “Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the smart home.” The word “convenience” is mostly used in connection with the term “smart home” nowadays. Because:

  • A smart home offers even more convenience and efficiency.
  • A smart home ensures far more convenience in your own four walls
  • Smart home technology delivers convenience and security and saves energy
  • Connected home elements offer added convenience.

When awareness for convenience grows

“Convenience” can be defined as: “Comforts and amenities based on technically mature equipment; furnishings and fittings that offer a certain luxury.” Synonyms often used in the context of convenience are comfort, amenity, luxury and nicety.

Every one of us develops their own system for ensuring they feel comfortable in the course of their life and has specific visions of what convenience is and is not. If we were to ask our parents what convenience in the home means for them, their response would doubtless be different to ours or our children’s. They more our needs for comfort and convenience are fulfilled, the greater the needs we develop. We take needs that are already fulfilled for granted and think nothing about them. In order to increase comfort and convenience in the smart home, we need intelligent, connected devices that can be controlled by an app on the smartphone or voice commands. “Probably one of the most popular smart devices is Alexa. Alexa enables skills in the categories Connected Car, Food & Drink, Travel & Transportation, Music & Audio and Smart Home, all with a simple voice command. That not only gives end users the chance to introduce added convenience into their life, but also helps individuals achieve more autonomy and respond to various functional needs.”

People speak more in the smart home

People are speaking more again. Not necessarily with each other, but increasingly with inanimate objects. In particular, the generation born around the turn of the century has become used to getting things done by voice thanks to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. Many of the large car manufacturers have recognized that and are installing more and more voice control services in their vehicles. To enable smooth voice control, they connect their own infotainment and telematic systems with the voice assistants from the tech giants. Audi has put Alexa in its electric E-Tron, while Alexa has long been used at BMW, ensuring “maximum convenience and top entertainment.” Many of Amazon Alexa’s practical functions are now also available in vehicles. For instance, the smart home can be controlled directly from the BMW, as shown on the car maker’s website. Can you imagine anything more convenient?

The example of BMW shows that the car is become more and more integrated in companies’ smart home and smart living concepts and is playing an increasingly important tole for controlling certain processes from on the road, too.

Convenience factors: networked and smartly connected

One of the reasons why convenience usually comes top in surveys on the smart home is that the devices can be networked, according to the market research institute Verivox. “The big advantage and convenience factor is that the products are connected with each other and supply each other with information so that they can take decisions automatically or are very easy to control centrally. Just a few years back, controlling the heating remotely was the stuff of science fiction films. Now the devices have arrived in the future. Their widespread use and possible applications will grow at a rapid pace, with the result that the smart home will deliver greater convenience to many households.”

The electronics retailer Euronics has taken a closer look at the connected home as part of a study. The survey reveals that the issue of greater quality of living is particularly important for many consumers. It is the key factor for around one-third of respondents (31.3%), following by the desire to increase energy efficiency (25%).

As regards the status of digital networking in their own four walls, the majority of the 10,000 respondents aged 18 to 65 was in favor of a better quality of living thanks to smart home technologies. The Euronics survey, which was conducted together with the opinion research institute Civey, comes to the conclusion that security has top priority for Germans. By comparison, entertainment functions are clearly of secondary interest

The Hamburg-based market research company Splendid Research comes to a similar conclusion. In a survey on smart home trends in Germany, 61 percent of participants named “convenience” as the number one reason for buying the technology, followed by security and energy efficiency (41 percent each).

Greater convenience thanks to smart home automation

The heart of many smart home solutions is home automation. That denotes all items of equipment to do with monitoring, surveillance, control, regulation and optimization, like the heating, alarm system, lighting or airing. Connected home technology allows the lights and heating to be controlled centrally or roller shutters and blinds to be activated as required depending on the time of day and incidence of light. Yet all of that is only smart if the products are not only connected to each other, but can also share information. Let’s take heating and airing – two fundamental areas and key parts of the smart home.

Smart thermostats control the heating

For decades the concept of convenience has often been associated with maintaining a suitable temperature at home during the heating season. But things have changed greatly today: People want to have an ideal climate in their home the whole year round and control relative humidity and, compared to the past, they also pay more attention to the quality of air in the room. The advantages of smart solutions in terms of energy consumption, sustainability and cost-effectiveness are considerable. Smart automation and control systems for the home allow the climate and air quality to be regulated and, as a nice side effect, also enhance the quality of living. Instead of going from radiator to radiator and turning them up and down manually, you yourself can determine the temperature you want in the smart home. Provided you have programmable thermostats. Then you can set the temperature at which you feel comfortable from an app on your smartphone, by voice command, fully automatically thanks to sensors and individual time programs/timers or by calling “scenes” where what has to be done and when is defined beforehand.

Gigaset offers the Gigaset thermostat to enable smart regulation of the heating so that you can cut energy consumption and heating costs, for example. They can’t perform magic tricks (they’re also dependent on the central heating’s temperature curve), but they can communicate with other sensors and share data so that you can get a handle on energy wastage. In conjunction with smart window sensors, such as Gigaset window, they also prevent heat inadvertently escaping through the window: When you open the windows to give rooms a short, intense airing, the thermostat turns the radiator down. As soon as the windows are closed again, the temperature is restored to how it was set before. That avoids keeping the heating running all the time, also saves costs on the heating bill, and reduces unnecessary emissions.

The heating accounts for around 70 percent of the energy consumed in the home – so heating the right way is the best means of reducing costs, as well as CO2 emissions.

Greater comfort thanks to an ideal room climate

Most people feel a temperature of 19°C to 22°C to be just right for them, while the ideal relative humidity is 35% to 60%. After all, the air temperature alone is not vital to a pleasant room climate. The temperature of the surrounding walls is another factor: The colder the walls, the higher the air temperature has to be. It’s sometimes difficult to set the desired temperature, especially in large rooms with several radiators. That’s why smart home solutions like the Gigaset Climate Sensor also keep an eye on humidity. If it falls below 30 percent, no mold forms, but the dry air can irritate your mucous membranes. If it’s regularly above 50 percent in the winter, for example, there is a greater risk of mold. The walls must not feel damp, nor should any condensation be visible. Too high a humidity is often a problem in old apartments and mold can soon form as a result. The Gigaset Climate Sensor helps avoid that by permanently measuring the room’s relative humidity and sending recommendations on airing it via the app directly to the user’s smartphone.

The Climate Sensor measures the exact temperature at a central point in the room, away from the heating – as a result of which the room climate can be determined very accurately and controlled in a pinpointed manner.

The advantages of the Climate Sensor in conjunction with the Gigaset thermostat

  • It supplies reliable information on the temperature and relative humidity
  • It ensures ideal living conditions and a pleasant climate where you feel comfortable
  • It prevents costly damage in the home (due to mold, for example)

Smart home systems will evolve at a rapid pace in the coming years. One day we’ll take it for granted that the smart systems will be able to tell when we’re close to home on the basis of the GPS data from our smartphones. And then turn on the lights and heating and deactivate the alarm systems. Of course, it’s a matter of personal preferences as to how smart you want your own home to be. We can already have our refrigerator remind us that we need milk or have our dishwasher tell us that it has run out of tablets. Some find that useful information, others simply technical gimmicks. Anyone who feels that quality of living and convenience are important and has got to know the many amenities smart products and solutions offer will sooner or later decide in favor of a smart home solution that lives up to their vision and understanding of convenience.

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