The digitally networked intelligent home, a.k.a. the smart home, is no longer a vision, but increasingly a reality. The fascinating possibilities offered by digital control systems for home technology are generating an increasing amount of interest. Google searches for the term "smart home" have increased 25-fold over the past five years.1 However, the intelligent home has not yet become a mass phenomenon – for very diverse reasons. Time to take a snapshot of the current state of affairs and explore the question: where is the "smart home" today?
Turn up the heating while you're on the way home, control the stereo with voice commands, see from any location who just rang the doorbell – what until fairly recently sounded like raucous fiction is now technically feasible. And it's not just about the remote control of certain building technology functions via smartphone, but also about artificial intelligence (AI) in the home. Thanks to self-teaching algorithms it is already so advanced that devices and systems – similar to a self-driving car – can make independent decisions; for example to adjust the strength of light in a room when daylight increases. So what actually makes a home intelligent?
More explanation and information is required Let's take a look at existing buildings. The applications currently most prominent in intelligent homes are sensor-equipped and automatically controlled heating and ventilation systems, door lock systems, windows, awnings, blinds and lighting systems. This corresponds with the definition of a smart home as an "internally and externally networked home upgraded with information and sensor technology" 2, as the German economics dictionary "Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon" states. But, in terms of a practical example, does the option of being able to control the shower/WC at home with a smartphone app by selecting preset programs make the product "smart"? Or can we ascribe to it a certain intelligence only if it detects the degree of soiling with its sensors integrated in the ceramic and adjusts the flushing volume accordingly? These questions show that there is currently no clear differentiation between what may be termed "smart" and what not. "The dapper 'smart home' label attached to many technical gimmicks that offer no real contribution towards coordinated networking of the home, nor much added value, causes uncertainty and hesitation in many consumers," says Gira Managing Director Christian Feltgen, reminding the company of its responsibilities. "We need to provide clearer information." Transparent, simple and comprehensible explanations and offers of support are of key importance to explain the advantages of the smart home to people more effectively. According to surveys, vendors focus too much on technical capabilities and features, but too little on existing desires and questions.