Thermostats and smart lighting reign supreme in home energy management

Thermostats and smart lighting reign supreme in home energy management
Thermostats and smart lighting are often thought to be the prerequisites for home energy management (HEM) adoption. Product-wise, 4.9 million smart thermostats have already been sold globally since 2015, of which North America alone accounted for 70 percent of the total share, according to a report by IoT Analytics. Similarly, smart lighting controllers is another major HEM product category which is expected to account for substantial market growth in the years ahead, leading research firm Marketsandmarkets also revealed.

With the increased energy-efficiency concerns of consumers, these quintessential devices are driving the overall HEM hardware market, and to some extent, help spur the smart home market growth.

First, the birth of home temperature control was made popular when the Nest Thermostat came into existence, as it was the first “king of the hill” when launched back in 2011, and it is still what everyone thinks of when they hear the word “smart thermostat.” It was so popular that the device fabricator, Nest Labs, was eventually acquired by Google in early 2014. This trendsetting device later helped spun slews of smart thermostats on the market today, each wrestling for a spot in the highly competitive market segment.

Besides thermostats, smart lighting also has substantial energy-saving potential in the home. The call for energy-efficient lighting only became more prevalent in recent years, as different kinds of solutions are increasingly being adopted in homes, public buildings and offices.
 

Seamless connectivity

When it comes to user experience, nothing will ever beat the call for ease of use, Xing Connected Corp. CTO Kent Hsin pointed out, attesting that it has chosen Wi-Fi as its predominant protocol for connectivity because it is something everyone is familiar with. “The mishmash of protocols we see today only confuses consumers,” he said, adding that the smart home would be able to reach mass adoption only if things were kept simpler.

Similarly, Meo CEO and founder Saketaram Soussilane sees that seamless and hassle-free integration of new appliances, and connection reliability are some of the key HEM features that customers are yearning for. “The home energy management requires a 'seamless experience' for customers to be satisfied,” he said.

In short, if smart products can't talk to one another, made worse by interrupted connectivity and interoperability issues, consumers will only be left out frustrated and in dismay.
 

Geofencing is the new buzz word

Geofencing (aka geolocation) is a relatively new technology that makes gadgets like the momit Smart Thermostat so promising. Geofencing is a technology that defines a virtual boundary around a real-world geographical area. In doing so, a radius of interest is established that can trigger an action in a geo-enabled phone or other portable electronic devices – and in this case, some newer smart thermostats also have it as an embedded feature.

According to momit, its device uses geolocation to adapt itself to user's habits. Its sensors allow it to automatically switch on or off the heating or cooling according to the distance from your home. It detects when you leave and when you are on your way back home to pre-emptively switch on the heating.

Put simply, geofencing works on location detection rather than the traditional motion sensing as in many other smart thermostats or smart lighting. It can therefore work immediately once it's set up, and recognizes when the user leaves or approaches.

Another company that has put geofencing into practice is the totally-revamped, second-generation Lyric Thermostat by Honeywell. It also can be easily integrated into other current ecosystems, such as Samsung SmartThings, and link to many home products and services that customers choose, including those from Honeywell.
 

Self-programming

One of the most popular features of a smart device – whether it's a thermostat or lighting – is its ability to program itself by remembering user's manual adjustments and preferred settings. Some models, such as the Vine Thermostat by Xing, has the ability to learn your daily schedule, adjust the temperature of individual rooms, and anticipate your heating and cooling needs in conjunction with the local forecasts, which can receive up-to-date weather reports broken down by the hour or as broad as a 5-day forecast.

It's very intuitive. Simply download our app on your smartphone or tablet to control the Vine thermostats on the go,” Hsin said.

Self-programming is not solely reserved for temperature control devices. Makers of smart lighting have also been quick to catch on with an array of self-programming wireless lighting control systems that reduce lighting energy consumption – some claiming they could save up to more than 50 percent.
 
Another example of such raving feature can also be found in the Family@Home application by GreenPeak. “Our solution is based on a self-learning algorithm with behavior pattern recognition. No rule-based programming is required and exceptions are automatically reported. It provides intelligent status updates in a dashboard app and generates alerts when something unexpected happens at home or with family members,” CEO and founder of GreenPeak Technologies Cees Links told SMAhome during CES2016 earlier this year.
 

Energy conservation

Focus on energy conservation and convenience is fueling the adoption of smart thermostats and lighting. To date, North America and Europe are leading the way in the adoption of HEM devices. However, in the next decade, markets in Asia Pacific and Latin America are expected to offer growth opportunities.
“Users are becoming more and more aware of their energy impact and they want to be able to reduce their energy waste,” Soussilane said.
 
Thanks to the dropping price points, ever-increasing technological capabilities, increasing Wi-Fi coverage, and the widespread proliferation of mobile devices, HEM devices are increasingly becoming easier and more affordable than ever. And more so they are poised to hit the mainstream.
 

Sustainability & standardization

While the smart home and its involving technologies continue to evolve over time, sustainability and interoperability between devices will continue to remain topics of discussion. Put simply, the range of different smart home technologies available will inevitably lead to compatibility issues and there is therefore a drive to standardize home automation technologies and protocols.
 
“Machine-to-Machine (M2M) protocols are progressively coming to maturity, but no standard has yet emerged. The M2M connectivity has challenges due to the existence of a mix of rising M2M protocols and appliances related systems which have developed their own protocol,” Soussilane explained, adding that he hopes to see the market rationalize in the next 2-3 years, and converge towards few major M2M communication protocols.
 
Besides the quest for standardization, sustainability will be remain one of the keys to driving the smart home industry forward for many years to come.
 
“This sector is all about R&D and constant change so there's bound to be innovation in every sense, from the way people purchase products to what those products offer users. Sustainability is something that most companies are aiming for. Hopefully we will be able to see the concept expand to more products in all types of markets, making them accessible to everyone,” momit General and Innovation Director and Co-Founder Eduardo Rodriguez concluded.
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