The first quarter of 2016 is bustling with a handful of smart home related tradeshows in Europe. Light + Building, the world's largest light and building automation trade fair reveals the market trends in Germany—energy efficiency, ease of use and personalized home automation experience. The solutions are designed to enhance home security, comfort and energy management.
Germany is the largest national economy and smart home market in Europe. In the region, the home automation market is composed of professional installation and retrofit markets. KNX and Internet Protocol (IP) are dominant in wired network technology for professional installed systems in Germany. With increasing demands for add-on smart home devices and renovation in the existing homes, wireless communication becomes a popular adoption. Besides easy installation, wireless solutions are considered to be more affordable and accessible to the mass market.
Major communication protocols
Popular wireless communication standards include EnOcean, ULE, ZigBee, Z-Wave and proprietary wireless protocol from eQ-3. EnOcean is a popular wireless communication protocol in Europe with more than 150 manufacturing partners. EnOcean is famous for battery-less and energy harvesting technology that generates power via movement, sunlight and heat. ZigBee is also a major wireless protocol, especially for smart lighting applications.
ABB, a global leader in power and automation, launched ABB-free@home
wireless system under the Busch-Jaeger brand. The system is designed for installers and the retrofit market to install home automation systems without re-wiring the home. Adapting a 2.4 GHz frequency communications protocol and mesh network technology, the system is used for lighting, heating, blind control and door communication. free@home wireless can be used as a stand-alone solution or as an extension to the wired version of free@home. Furthermore, the system supports voice control to provide more intuitive control.
When it comes to connectivity, Bosch believes open standards and open platforms make the technology as user-friendly as possible. Also, Bosch smart-home system is designed to be modular and expandable to make it easy to connect and compatible with smart devices from other manufacturers.
KNX is one of the dominant communication protocols for building and home automation, adopted by 400 manufacturers and 50,000 system integrators, including leading European companies like ABB, Gira, Legrand, Bosch, Philips, Jung and Schneider- Electric.
Through support of Apple HomeKit, users now can control KNX IoT enabled home automation devices via their smart watches. nomos Box is a gateway that lets users to control their connected home devices via an Apple Watch. The gateway supports different protocols with its nOS (nomos operating system). nOS connects them with IoT apps such as Samsung's SmartThings or any other Apple HomeKit compatible app.
Intesis introduced new gateways— Universal AC to KNX and AC to WiFi Gateways for controlling air conditioners. These solutions feature quick setup and easy configuration. The new universal air conditioner gateway IS-IR-KNX-1 is compatible with more than 40 different AC conditioner brands.
The device is installed next to the air conditioner and sends commands using infrared codes. With the built-in infrared receiver, the gateway can capture the changes made by the user through the AC IR remote controller. The configuration can be downloaded via USB or via KNX TP1. Moreover, the new IS-IR-KNX-1 is powered from the KNX bus directly. Another new WiFi gateway launched by Intesis is designed for home automation manufacturers and integrators, using a simple local protocol over IP. The device can automatically discover the installed devices; its Wi-Fi configuration allows dynamic or static IPs. The company announced a new app for Apple Watch and VoiceOver support for the IntesisHome iOS APP. VoiceOver can help blind or visual impaired people to control the air conditioner with ease.
Integrated systems on offer
The Robert Bosch GmbH launched Bosch Smart Home GmbH which focuses on smart home solutions, providing comfort, safety and convenience to the end users. The company introduced Bosch Smart Home System that comprises a smart home controller, smart radiator-thermostat, door and window contact, and supports Philips Hue lights for the retrofit market. When the door and window opens or closes, the radiator-thermostat would automatically control the heaters and adjust the indoor temperature for efficient energy management.
Homematic IP from eQ-3 is a comprehensive smart home system that includes nine connected home devices, supporting remote control via the smartphone app. The solution can control home security and energy management devices. The system supports bidirectional communication and operates at RF868MHz frequency. The proprietary system is free from interference caused by WLAN, Bluetooth and other wireless standards. To address privacy concern, the company’s server is located in Germany having strict compliance with German and European privacy policies.
ComfortClick bOS platform provides special features like logical operations, presence simulator, data logging and text-to-speech in additional to remote controls. When the user leaves home, bOS will turn off the lights, lower the shades, reduce heating, turn off electrical sockets and activate presence simulation. The user can also monitor the energy consumption of electricity, water and gas for better energy management.
Stiebel Eltron showcased DHE Connect, supporting WLAN connectivity to the Internet, can be remotely controlled and monitored via a smartphone or tablet. The appliance supports temperature pre-setting, graphic information displays of consumption and costs, and personalized setting.
The award-winning Enno Panno S is an intelligent control panel that supports KNX bus technology, EnOcean wireless technology and RS485 communication protocols. The device supports voice control of lighting, shutters, air conditioning, heating system, multimedia devices. It adjusts the indoor climate when detect ing outdoor temperature change, providing comfortable living environment. With built-in infrared and motion sensors, Panno S lights up when the user is near in the dark, and automatically switches to the energy-saving mode when detecting a person.
Zipatile is an all-in-one gateway that supports gesture control. The multi-functional device can be used as a home security system, automation application, elderly care system, thermostat, intercom, room controller, and video surveillance system. The device is compatible with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0 and Z-Wave protocols, and supports Philips Hue, Sonos and Nest.
Philips Hue white ambiance starter kit comes with two Philips Hue white ambiance bulbs (800 lumens at 4000k), a Philips Hue dimmer switch and a bridge that supports Apple HomeKit. It enables users to control devices via the Philips Hue app, Siri voice control and Apple Watch.
To provide better user experience and interoperability, Philips Hue now has more than 600 third party apps that can interact with it. The smart lighting solution can work with Nest Learning thermostat, Nest Cam, Nest Protect, Amazon Alexa and Bosch Smart Home System.
With Philips Hue white ambiance, users can create their own light recipes to change the ambience and light effect in different home areas. Philips Hue white ambiance supports ‘Routines’ feature. In the ‘Wake up’ mode, Philips Hue will imitate the rise of the sun by gently increasing light intensity to naturally wake up a user in the morning. When ‘Go to sleep’ routine activates, the light bulb gradually dims until it is off to let users to prepare their bodies for falling asleep.
Safety and security technology
Video monitoring, fire and burglar alarms, and access control systems are popular items for home security and safety.
Supporting remote control via a smartphone and smart watch is a popular trend. For example, Legrand’s Hausstation Classe 300 X13E has a 7-inch touchscreen display and supports remote control via a smartphone. The users who have Siedle intercom system can have remote control of their door phones and better access control via their smart watches.
Schüco DCS (Door Control System) combines door communication and access control functions. Besides, when the motion is detected, the video camera activates the system as soon as a person approaches the entrance. Supporting IP network, voice and video calls are transferred through open SIP standard; the system can connect to IP videophones, smartphones, tablets and softphones. If the DCS is stolen, the IP secure connector will automatically break the network connection so that the lock cannot be manipulated and the internal network cannot be accessed either.
Siedle provides a new video station that enables lower price at over 20 percent than that of the previous hands-free device. Catering to the IoT trend, the company provides smarter door communication with a new app for Access and Smart Gateway. Users can receive a door call or unlock the door via a smartphone and Apple Watch. Apple Watch will sound a signal when somebody rings the door, and displays a live image to show who is standing in front of the door. Integrated with external IP cameras, users can select cameras directly with the App 2.0 to see what is happening around the house.
In Germany, energy efficiency has become the norm when designing products. In addition, there are more integrated systems in the home automation marketplace. We see a convergence trend toward more Internet connected and interoperable system as well as the combined functionality of home security and energy management. For smart home, human-centric designs are gaining traction. We can expect more and more intelligent gadgets that support intuitive operation and smart algorithm to improve home comfort and safety.