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The family-friendly smart home and linguistic confusion

9. June 2020 Published by Jana Greyling

Ever heard the term “linguistic confusion” (Latin: “confusio linguarum”)? It comes from the book of Genesis in the Bible. God confused the builders of the tower of Babel as punishment for their arrogance, so that “they will not understand each other”. And are you now perhaps wondering what that has to do with the family-friendly smart home? Then read on …

Today, so it seems, makers of smart home products confuse their customers with technical jargon and nonsensical abbreviations that can barely be understood. Fuel is then added to the fire primarily by the “smart products” themselves. Each one transmits merrily in its own language and that has consequences: What are actually intelligent products become incredibly dumb when they’re supposed to be communicating with other products. That’s because they don’t understand each other, so there’s no real communication between them at all. And it’s then the user who loses out. It starts right from buying the product or with the first tentative search on the topic: If you Google the term “smart home”, you end up with about 3,360,000,000 hits.

Today, according to the industry association Bitkom, three out of ten Germans use smart home applications. So there’s definitely interest, and maybe there would be more users if unnecessary barriers could be removed and those in charge, for example, could agree on a common language. But there is hope, since the providers have now acknowledged their linguistic confusion. In a new alliance, different manufacturers are working on making their appliances able to also understand each other. “The smart home is therefore conquering the next evolutionary step – and becoming genuinely intelligent after all,” as the German newspaper Die Welt writes in an article.

An intelligence that the family-friendly smart home also or primarily owes to the digital assistants. Most of the connected appliances for the smart home now listen to these indispensable language experts and interpreters. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant understand the linguistic confusion of the products and easily connect lamps, thermostats, cameras, blinds, lawnmowers or fans with each other. The beneficiaries are the users who control their smart home by voice. After all, it’s only when the individual elements communicate and interact with each other that the home truly becomes really smart and hence a real support for its occupants.

The Müllers and the smart home

But it’s not just the communication barriers between the smart home products that are falling. The barriers to comprehension between provider, application and user are also crumbling and being removed layer by layer. To help customers understand which solution suits them, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on the benefit and added value. Only then can the numerous advantages of the various smart home solutions in central areas such as quality of life, security and convenience also be understood and hence demanded. This necessary shift in perspective, in which the user takes center stage and it’s not just the technology that dominates, is currently being presented very well by Bitkom.

The new Bitkom guide uses the example of the Müller family to show how the smart home can make everyday life easier. “The family-friendly smart home” (original title: Familienfreundliches Smart Home) is the name of the brochure and, center stage, representing all users, are the Müllers, a large family comprising three generations. 16 examples are used to present smart home applications that make everyday life easier for the Müller family. In a non-technically abstract, but instead specific and practical way, various examples from the everyday life of the Müllers describe how the smart home can solve a specific problem of the family with children, the grandfather, the single person or the childless couple: from a forgotten door key or looking after a pet while away on a weekend trip to the desire to be able to live independently in your own four walls in old age. A brief section on the respective technology behind it rounds out the stories.

Amelie Dinges

Amelie Dinges, Marketing Managerin at Gigaset

Amelie Dinges, Marketing Manager at Gigaset, is one of the authors of the guide “The family-friendly smart home”. Because of her job, she has been dealing intensively for years not only with the smart home topic, but also, among other things, with editorial topics related to it. So it’s no surprise that her own home is also smart, and that she as a user and tester has enough practical knowledge and experience to write about it.

“I really enjoyed it because the articles were written from the user’s viewpoint,” stresses Amelie Dinges. “It’s not the technology that determines use, but everyday practice. There’s the section about Grandpa Müller, for example. Although he’s still actually able to live at home quite well, he’s highly prone to falling due to poor vision and a heart condition. Here we describe how the smart home or, in the case of Gigaset, even a special smart care system helps him to be able to continue leading a self-determined life in his own four walls,” says the manager.

For older people in particular, smart home applications provide extra security and self-determination. Amazon’s Alexa, for example, provides a personal emergency call assistant that can be activated quickly should it be necessary. To call for help and initiate a phone call, all the user needs is a smart loudspeaker like the Gigaset L800HX smart speaker which already has an integrated DECT telephone.

“The brochure includes examples from everyday areas of life and shows how smart home applications can help make life easier, more convenient and safer,” as Dr. Sebastian Klöß, Bitkom Expert for Consumer Technology, also stresses. Click here to download the current guide free of charge.

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