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Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the smart home – Part 1

1. September 2021 Published by Jana Greyling

In 1999, when we were still using floppy disks, and long before the Internet of Things (IoT) was a buzzword, there was a film from Walt Disney called “Smart House.” Well, it’s pretty unlikely you saw it, but if you did, then you already know all there is to know about the “smart home”. If not, then please keep on reading.

“Smart House” is the story of an intelligent, computer-aided home that has been specially developed to make life easier. And that house is won by the high school science genius Ben Cooper and his family.  It’s controlled by in-built artificial intelligence similar to Alexa/Siri called PAT (Personal Applied Technology). Since PAT can do just about anything in the film, it also regulates everything in the house. PAT can hold a proper conversation instead of just responding to preset phrases or requests. The AI picks the right clothes for the kids based on “biorhythm analysis,” controls the temperature, turns the lights on and off and automatically sets alarms. Back then there was no Apple Watch, so the AI analyzes the family’s blood and DNA and monitors the kids’ diets by sampling their breath. PAT was too futuristic at the time; at any rate, AI in this form hasn’t completely caught on. But the idea of “Smart House” has – 20 years on, you might say the film was a sort of model for the “smart home.” Now, smart lighting, thermostats, locks and robovacs have almost become part of everyday life, so much so that no one bats an eyelid when they read about them or see how they work in commercials. A home that thinks for itself. Connected intelligent devices that make your own four walls safer and everyday life easier – that’s the smart home.

The “smart home” has already become reality for many people, and every month brings more and more new products that make life at home more pleasant, safer, more efficient and quite simply more beautiful because they enhance our quality of our life and living.  A home is always smart when various devices are connected to each other and share information, and regular processes are automatically controlled and monitored, for example. That’s why the term “smart home” is sometimes substituted by “connected living,” “home automation” or “smart living.”

There are a few things you should know in order to turn a house or apartment into a smart home. In this blog post, we therefore present solutions and products to make it easier for you to make up your mind. There may be pitfalls to be wary about with a smart home solution in a very wide range of different areas, especially if you’re a newcomer to this topic. They include buying the wrong products or ones that aren’t compatible with each other or simply that the technical requirements for them are not met. Deploying smart home solutions isn’t sorcery as long as you draw up a structured plan and know what you want to accomplish at the end of the day.

Times change so quickly

The idea that we could issue a spoken command and expect some household device to respond to it was just a pipe dream ten years ago. OK, you could turn the lights on and off by clapping your hands, but that was about all. Now experts estimate that its second nature for every one-in-four adults in America to utter sentences like “OK Google, set the timer to 15 minutes,” “Alexa, switch on the lights in the living room” or “Hey Siri, I’m in the home office,” whereupon Alexa, Google and Siri automatically know what’s meant and promptly fulfill the wish. One-in-two Germans control their smart home by voice command, as the “Smart Home 2020” study by Bitkom shows.

Modern smart home applications can now be controlled by voice commands or operated and monitored by app from a smartphone or tablet.

Convenience, security and quality of life

“The smart home means more convenience, quality of life and security for users and, in particular for seniors, a longer self-determined life in their own four walls,” reads the foreword to Bitkom’s “Smart Home 2020” study.

This blog post deals in more detail with the first three aspects named: more convenience, more security and a more energy-efficient way of living.

More security

Not least, a smart home can increase security, or at least your subjective feeling of security, in your own home. Connected surveillance cameras, video doorbells and sensors not only sound an alert in the form of a siren, but also send warnings directly to your smartphone or to persons to be contacted in the event of an emergency. If the security technology is linked to smart lights and locks, it can also light up your path as you escape in an emergency and guide helpers to the scene faster.

According to a survey conducted in Germany and the UK this July by the market research institute YouGov on behalf of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics, 30 percent of German and 36 percent of British respondents said they could see themselves investing in smart surveillance cameras for their home in the future. Smart sensors, such as motion and smoke detectors, and those that indicate an open window or door are also popular. In Germany, 12 percent of households currently use such sensors, and 36 percent of those surveyed could imagine installing them in the future. In the UK, the current ownership numbers are slightly lower at 11 percent of households, but 45 percent of respondents would be open to purchasing them in the future.

Smart locks remain an exception. Only 2 percent of those surveyed in the UK currently use a smart locking solution for their flats or houses, although 27 percent can see themselves using one in the future. The figures are similar for Germany, where 3 percent said they currently use smart locking solutions. One-in-four German respondents (25 percent) can imagine installing them in the future.

Smart security in L, M or S format

Whether a large house or a small city apartment: Every living situation needs a customized level of security. Gigaset has also recognized that and so has developed its Smart Home Alarm System in three different sizes: Large for big apartments and houses, M (medium) for single-family houses and S (small) for smaller homes. All three solutions have a base station, alarm siren, door sensor and motion sensor.

The Gigaset elements app is the central hub for controlling the security solution and is used to check and control the sensors on windows and doors or the indoor camera, for example. The app offers a total of four alarm modes. “Out of House” (if no one is at home), “At Home” and “Individual” (to monitor a single floor, for example) and “Night.” If an alarm is triggered, you are informed immediately via push message or e-mail. In addition, the siren sounds and all the lights in the home go on, for instance. All events such as movements or alarms registered by the sensors are displayed in your app’s event list. It hardly impossible to imagine anything simpler or more practical.

Smart smoke detectors

Smoke detectors have been obligatory in just about the whole of Germany since January 1, 2021. The small devices can save lives in an emergency. All bedrooms and nurseries in the home, as well as all corridors that can be used to escape or to rescue people, have to be equipped with them. A detector has to be fitted on every floor of single-family houses with an open stairwell. In Berlin and Brandenburg, one also has to be installed in every habitable room, in other words, including the living room. According to a study, short-circuits and cable fires are the most frequent cause of fires in private households. Smart smoke detectors identify these threats in good time and alert residents visually, acoustically and by app. The fire scenario of Gigaset’s new smoke detector, the Smoke Sensor 2.0 ONE X, shows how that works. The Smoke Sensor 2.0 ONE X is able to detect smoke and reports what room is affected directly in the app.

When smoke is generated in the house or apartment, the smart detector sends a warning to your smartphone via the Gigaset elements app. It also automatically establishes a connection to other devices in Gigaset’s security system and activates them. If alarm sirens are also installed, then things get loud – they have a volume of 85 decibels to warn residents. All devices connected to a Gigaset smart plug, such as lights, are activated at the same time – a crucial advantage since escape routes are automatically lit up in the home in the event of an emergency. The Smoke Sensor can also be connected with popular lighting systems from Philips Hue quickly and easily.

Smart cameras for indoors and outdoors

You wouldn’t wish it on anyone: to come home and find the doors or windows open and the interior ransacked. Break-ins are terrible, not only from the material perspective. That’s why more and more private households are investing in security. But is it worthwhile buying cameras? A look at the statistics may help:

  1. A home or apartment is broken into every three minutes in Germany.
  2. 87,145 break-ins were reported in Germany in 2019. The numbers are falling, also thanks to the greater security measures taken.
  3. Just 17.4 percent of cases reported to the police were solved. Burglars can be identified and arrested far more easily if there are video recordings of them.
  4. The average loss and damage due by a burglary is €2,850.
  5. Almost half of all attempted break-ins are aborted and fail.  In particular, thieves often beat a hasty retreat if they see a property is well protected.

The Gigaset smart camera 2.0 checks that everything is alright at your home – in the hall or living room, nursery or kitchen. This indoor camera is unobtrusive and flexible and can be used on its own or to complement a Gigaset alarm system. Nothing escapes the motion sensor’s eye – whether it be your pet or an intruder.

  • The camera supplies images in HD quality and adapts automatically to the lighting conditions in the room. And you also have a perfect oversight of what’s happening at night thanks to infrared technology.
  • It is connected wirelessly via WLAN or Bluetooth.  Video images are transmitted automatically in real time to your smartphone as soon as the camera registers something.
  • It can be used on its own or to complement a Gigaset alarm system. If Gigaset Smart Home sensors are fitted on doors, on windows or in the room, the camera connects with them actively.

The Gigaset outdoor camera can be connected to the Internet via WLAN (WPA2 and TKIP) or network cable (Ethernet LAN). If the camera detects movement on the premises, it immediately records a 30-second video. In addition, a push message is sent directly to the user’s smartphone with the aid of the Gigaset elements app. Because video images are transmitted in real time, you can check right away what is happening on the premises and take appropriate action. After all, it’s usually not the case that an unwanted intruder has set off the alarm, but the neighbor’s cat running over the patio, children playing or a ball blown by the wind and rolling over the lawn.

Smart doorbell

The Gigaset Smart Doorbell lets you welcome visitors at your front door even if you’re not at home. The app allows you to see who is on your doorstep and you can even speak to the caller. If a smart lock from Nuki, such as the Nuki Smart Lock 2.0, is integrated, you can even open the door from your smartphone.

You can significantly enhance security in your own four walls at no great effort and without the need for expensive installations. A smartphone or tablet PC are enough to control lights, smoke detectors, surveillance cameras and many other things.

The second part of our blog post “Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the smart home” will focus on the aspects of convenience and quality of life.

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