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Gira and sustainability
Report 2017

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.

84%

of 18-29 year-olds
find the topic
of networked living
very interesting.

 

 

 

62%

of 45-59 year-olds
think that
savings in energy costs
are a decisive
advantage of smart homes.

The smart home is a major trend In Germany, just nine percent of people feel that they are well informed about the technological smart home trend, although nine out of ten know the term. 84 percent of people aged 18 to 29 consider networked home living interesting or very interesting, and even among those aged 50+ that number is still more than half at 51 percent.3 Meanwhile, nearly two thirds of the people throughout the country are convinced that smart home solutions will prevail in the long term and are bound to become as commonplace as smartphones.4

But what can do what and who can do it with whom? Until then it is important to explain the practical advantages of intelligently networked home technology to consumers and what they should consider when deciding on a smart home solution. This is made more difficult not just because of the unclear terminology indicated above, but also by a confusing market that is being entered from several directions by an increasing number of suppliers offering more or less network-enabled devices. It is not always apparent which device is capable of what, which applications can be networked with others, and how it can all be integrated into a primary controller. This applies all the more as there is a large number of allegedly smart individual products of which each has its own manner and tools of operation. Due to this confusion caused by the many means of operation, users are quickly left with a sense of personal inadequacy and feel overwhelmed when handling the "new" technology, rather than gaining positive user experiences.

52%

of 30-44 year-olds
think that the heightened
security is the most
important smart home
argument.

 

 

39%

of 18-29 year-olds
think that smart homes
are "really cool".

WHAT DO WE UNDERSTAND BY SUSTAINABILITY?

Making complex systems manageable Such negative experiences and corresponding apprehensions play an important role among the 20 percent of the population who reject a smart networked home on principle. They claim there is excessive dependence on technology in everyday life or fear a loss of independence in their own home and have a fundamentally critical view of increasing digitalisation.5 Only those companies that manage to make the complex systems of digitally networked building control easy to handle and intuitive to operate, for the installer as well as for the user, will remain successful in the long term. And those who are able to manage the various communication channels and 'languages' of the different disciplines in building technology in such a way as to enable unproblematic communication between them," stresses Christian Feltgen, giving a reason why he believes that the abounding isolated solutions will not succeed in the future.

More energy efficiency Even more important for consumer acceptance of smart home solutions is, of course, the tangible advantages they offer. 62 percent of Germans aged 45 to 59 would install smart home technology if it resulted in energy cost savings. According to calculations by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, intelligent building technology control leads to potential savings for heating costs of up to 40 percent. This is surely an ideal case and not generally valid, however.6 Lighting with self-regulating intensity depending on the amount of daylight, or a heating system that turns the heat up or down depending on the outside temperature or the occupant's presence, can help to improve energy efficiency at home. The same applies to a smart meter, an intelligent electricity meter that will autonomously obtain electricity at the most economical times. Operating devices with a high electricity consumption, on the other hand, will again increase energy use. Several factors determine the amount of energy savings in a smart home in each individual case: for example, personal temperature sensitivity and usage behaviour of the occupants, but also the building materials and the location of the building play an important role. 7

More security To more than half of people aged 30 to 44, increased security is another argument in favour of a networked home.8 Automated security technologies, such as motion detectors that send information to the owner when triggered or comprehensive alarm systems, are also becoming increasingly popular. Interest is also growing in networked security technology that can be integrated into a system, especially smoke, gas, CO₂ and leakage alarm devices.

20%

of the population reject
smart homes.

 

92%

see the future of
smart homes in
age-relevant
assistance systems
for homes.

 

40%

lower energy costs
in an ideal case
seem to be possible with an intelligent
home control system.

Assistance systems for self-determined living Ensuring a self-determined life in one's own home up to an old age is viewed as another potential benefit of smart home solutions by end users in Germany. 92 percent take a favourable view towards smart, age-appropriate assistance systems for their own four walls. The range of appropriate products includes orientation lights that are automatically controlled by motion detectors, making night-time visits to the bathroom safer, or hand-held wireless transmitters that detect medical emergencies via a pulse measurement function and automatically contact emergency responders. In this respect, however, even the most intelligent technology for this Ambient Assisted Living cannot replace personal care, especially in the case of patients or other people in need of care. But it will give people significantly more self-determination. In this context, it is of course important to prevent any ineffective or unethical invasions of privacy from the outset.

At the user's service Smart home solutions will only reach the mass market when they represent an affordable investment for many people. This requires, on the one hand,"good - better- best" solutions to become available in the foreseeable future at their respective price levels, but also offering different performance packages. On the other hand, hardware as well as software must always be updateable, allowing for new functions to be integrated with little effort. "For customers this means they can have peace of mind when investing in a specific system, as it will continue to serve them for many years to come," explains Christian Feltgen. And that personal data security and protection against unauthorised external access are quickly updated. This is best realised using encrypted data transmission and a security concept covering all systems and all network devices and servers in the building. "This corresponds to our approach that a good smart home system takes into account and serves the user," emphasises Christian Feltgen. "It also includes that users are at liberty to decide at any given moment how smart they would like their homes to be. Meaning that it's the user who determines how much control he is willing to hand over. The answers to this will be different, but unwanted loss of control certainly won't provide anyone with a positive user experience."

SOURCES
 

1
www.intelligenteswohnen.com


2
wirtschaftslexikon.gabler.de


3
de.statista.com


4
de.statista.com


5
de.statista.com


6
www.focus.de


7
www.verbraucherzentrale.de


8
GfK: "Consumer Life",
2016 – featured in:
"Tech Trends 2017",
GfK 03/2017 (values for
Germany)

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Gira and sustainability
Report 2017