Evolving smart home technology enables smarter lifestyle

Evolving smart home technology enables smarter lifestyle
The networking industries continue to grow amidst four to five years of market declines in the PC industry and slower growth of portable PCs. The Internet of Things (IoT) is believed to drive the growth momentum in the next decade. To seek industry transformation and new opportunities, exhibitors showcased their innovations related to smart technology and IoT applications at COMPUTEX this year.
Thanks to smarter algorithm and evolving cloud computing technology, the manufacturers put smarts into the smart home products by utilizing robotic technology and cloud platforms. The rapid improvement of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies make it possible for human-machine interaction.

Intuitive control

The evolving voice control technology creates space of possibility for intuitive home control. Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri empowers users to control connected home devices via their voices. Featuring a native app for home automation and control over 100 HomeKit-compatible devices, iOS 10 is projected to boost the ecosystem of smart home. An Israeli company WonderVoice developed a contextual speech O/S for the wearables and the connected home applications. The company claimed that the patent-pending intelligent voice platform can offer a personalized and contextual solution that responds to any user voice request to enhance user experience. The company said the solution leverages big data and context to overcome voice engines' incompetence when handling unpredictable and unstructured social and real-life content. The O/S is designed for hardware manufacturers, OEMs and ODMs, who want to develop connected devices enabled by advanced contextual speech solution with fast time to market.

Smarter cloud data analytics

The cloud platform is no longer just a place to connect things via P2P technology or to provide video storage. The award-winning MoBagel provides predictive analytics for connected devices, aiming to enhance time to market and reduce the barriers for hardware manufacturers who would like to develop IoT solutions timely. Currently, the company’s cloud platforms are located in 51 locations globally.
The Kalay platform from ThroughTek (TUTK) provides real-time data analytics for managing connected devices with visualization and recognizes patterns to help customers improve business operations. For device management, the platform can locate and manage devices by group or individually, and collect those data for further analysis.

The essence of smart technology

Robots are considered to be the essence of smart technology. We saw introduction of the robotic technology into smart home products like ASUS Zenbot, Vstone Sota and Amaryllo ATOM AR2 auto-tracking security robot.
Vstone uses the Intel Edison compute module, which supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, to develop a robot called Sota. With Sota, users can control smart home devices with their voices to turn on lights, lock doors or raise the blinds. 
ASUSTeK presented Zenbo to revolutionize the homecare industry. The full-functional home robot, designed as a little companion at home, can understand voice commands and help senior family members to safeguard their health and well-being. The little machine is also a hands-free household helper that can connect to and control smart home appliances like lights, TVs and air conditioners. Besides, homeowners can even use Zenbo's built-in screen to view visitors at the door and then unlock it with a simple voice command. With the built-in camera, the robot can work as a remotely-controlled home security device.
Amaryllo launched its award-winning ATOM AR2 that can detect human faces and features 360-degree automated people tracking, and introduced an outdoor robotic camera AR3 in mid-June. Those cameras are embedded with multi-core CPUs and artificial intelligence, being able to talk, see, hear, sense, and auto-track people even in complete darkness. When detecting human faces, AR2 will dispatch face alerts or 10-second video push-notifications to users’ mobile devices. The robots can talk to intruders when they detect people’s presence. The company’s dynamic P2P server can provide smooth video streaming with automatic adjustments of streaming video format based on available bandwidth.

Innovations from IC vendors

Leading IC vendors like Intel, Qualcomm, Silicon Labs, Marvell, ASE and Realtek introduced new SoCs for smart home applications at COMPUTEX 2016. It’s been a primary design trend to reduce power consumption and increase functionalities within low profile and energy efficient SoCs.

After acquiring Lantiq, Intel has expanded its presence in the smart home space. Intel introduced AnyWAN GRX750 SoC family based on the Intel Atom microarchitecture and reference designs for smart home gateways. The solution is designed to enable service providers and retail OEMs to develop connected home products in a fast and cost-saving way. With the Intel AnyWAN GRX750 SoC and XWAY WAV500 Wi-Fi chipset, it provides OEMs the flexibility to connect wired or wireless technology, including optical fiber, DSL, G.fast, 4G/5G and Wi-Fi.
ASE Group announced new additions to its sensor lineup, including UV/ALS Sensors, Motion Sensors, Gesture Sensors, Environment Sensors, Gas Sensors, and so forth. Its SiP solution can reduce the module size from 20 percent to 30 percent, and be applied for low-powered controllers and sensors with small footprints but large memory having very tight space constraints.
Realtek demoed Ameba Wi-Fi module and low-power BLE SoCs for smart home appliances, healthcare, wearables and other connected home devices like Wi-Fi light bulb, IP camera, gateway, interactive toys, smart blender and cleaning robots. The company works with ASUSTek to develop a Linux-based Weave-capable Gateway, which supports ZigBee, Z-Wave and BLE protocols. Its SoCs can also support Apple HomeKit. For home and industrial automation, the company provides wireless IoT solutions, including WiFi MPU, MCU and adapter. Later on, the company plans to release solutions based on uWeave technology—an implementation of the Weave protocol for use on RTOS microcontroller based devices. The company’s ecosystem partners include Apple, Acer, Google, Alibaba, JD, Haier, Tencent, Ayla, Huawei, and IBM.

Qualcomm Technologies introduced the new QCA4012 chip that features low-power dual band Wi-Fi, enhanced security, low power, and a small size for energy-efficient connected devices. Qualcomm Technologies also announced the expansion of the QCA401x software ecosystem that supports the HomeKit, Google Weave and AllJoyn software framework. The improved Bluetooth mesh technology is gaining attention. CSRmesh technology is incorporated into smart lighting solutions from GE, LIFX, Feit Electric, Megaman, and more. Currently, around 20 million units adopting CSRmesh technology are shipped. Through the BLE connectivity, no additional hubs are needed for connecting smart home devices.
Silicon Labs, the founding members of the ZigBee Alliance and Thread Group, displayed energy-friendly wireless Gecko SoCs supporting Thread, ZigBee, BLE or proprietary protocols. The company provides wireless modules, kits and reference designs to accelerate time to market. The company indicated that home automation and smart energy applications like smart meters are two largest applications for ZigBee. Smart lighting and security sensors like PIR and door/window sensors are major applications in terms of home automation. Meanwhile, Thread technology is fast-growing, and currently adopted by up to 250 connected devices.
Marvell introduced IoT Application Processor IAP220 which is an integrated multimedia and senor fusion. The low-power SoC features ARM Cortex-A7 dual core processor, GPU, sensor hub, display, touch and video codec that can be applied for home automation products with a touchscreen and high-level O/S, such as smart appliances and security systems like IP cameras. The SoC features low-power architecture by supporting multiple power domains, low voltage operation, and dedicated engine to read from sensors. The company demoed a 360-degree IP camera to provide that utilizes IAP140 process coupled with Avastar Wi-Fi / Bluetooth combo IC, panomorph camera module, and 360-degree viewing software. In the home automation space, the IAP platform can provides remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance as well as remote monitoring of home activities. Through analytics, the developers could improve customer experiences. In addition, the IAP platform features integrated sensor hub that enables rapid and low-power sensor input processing, ideal for context-aware IoT devices for smart energy management or industrial automation. Users or developers can set rules for automation and process efficiency.
The IoT provides unlimited possibilities, enabling developers to add smarts into their smart home solutions with artificial intelligence, cloud platform and more. With a smarter cloud platform, users can have personalized and intelligent user experiences; vendors can have new revenue streams by charging monthly fees. From the hardware perspective, smart home devices will become more compact, energy efficient and interoperable between one another. The IC vendors make the connected devices smarter and more secure. The artificial intelligence and smarter cloud platforms enable more possibility and opportunities for a new profitable business model, as well as improve human lives.

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