Smart Homes: Is it a Good Deal
The smart home concept has emerged as a fast-rising technology in contemporary society. It integrates various novel technologies aimed at improving the quality of living, and so, many researchers have explored the costs against the benefits that the technology offers. Consequently, this article explores the advantages and disadvantages of smart homes from a consumer’s perspective. The results demonstrate that, from a consumer viewpoint, there are disadvantages such as high installation and maintenance costs, loss of privacy and intimacy, and incompatibility of software. The advantages include safety and security enhancement, preservation of the environment, and improvement of self-sufficiency. Congruently, the analysis shows that the benefits of smart houses outweigh the negatives. The smart house concept is a good deal.
With technology and the internet pervading virtually all areas of human life, housing systems have not been overlooked. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the phrase utilized to describe the developments in integrating technology, the internet, and everyday human activities. Essentially, IoT refers to a system of interlinked computing devices, digital machines, people, animals, objects, or mechanical machines that possess distinct identifiers and the capacity to relay data over networks devoid of human-to-computer or human-to-human interaction (Yang, Lee and Lee 1). A smart home, a concept that started around 1993, is one of the IoT concepts that is rising in popularity globally. It describes a residence that utilizes internet-connected equipment and devices to permit remote management and monitoring of systems and appliances, which include heating and lighting, among others. While smart home devices might appear to be replications of ordinary electrical and electronic residence appliances like thermostats, televisions, light bulbs with microchips and Wi-Fi capacity, they have the capacity to perform actions and consequences that their appearance conceals.
Consequently, smart home technologies have enhanced the capabilities of home devices. For example, homeowners can now monitor their houses from afar (Shouran, Ashari and Priyambodo 3). Thermostats can hibernate automatically even in the absence of owners, music systems and televisions can integrate content from nearby devices flawlessly, sprinklers can work in synchrony with the weather patterns and forecasts, and lights can be controlled to adjust to television variations. Furthermore, smart homes make it easy to manage content from a device to another or from a human to a device regardless of the geographical location while concurrently tapping into peripheral sources. Most house appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators, and microwaves already have small chipsets that help in the timing and control of functions (Yang, Lee and Lee 4). However, the devices are rarely re-configured and are autonomous, unless their owners service or repair them. Hence, the devices require individual management and control, as well as upgrade.
With the current technological advancements and the continuation of the automation age, smart homes are emerging as an unprecedented, permanent change to human life. Whereas the concept of a smart home is relatively old, it is gaining increasing acceptance as technology advances, becomes available, and more affordable (Shouran, Ashari and Priyambodo 4). Essentially, as per an early definition by Alam, Reaz and Ali, the smart home idea is the interlinking of diverse services in the home through a shared communication system (1190). Included is the notion of home intelligence, which views the smart home as a working environment or home, which has integrated technology to permit systems and devices to achieve automatic control. Developers have conducted smart home projects over the past two decades; they express different philosophies, utilities, and functions.
The advances in technology ease of access, and the need for automation will make smart homes even more popular. As per statistical projections, the worldwide smart home market will grow by approximately USD$53.4 billion by 2022 (Liu 1). In 2018, analysts valued the smart home market at USD 22.72 billion. By 2024, it will have reached approximately 151.38 billion, with a 12.02 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The market share is attributed to the unprecedented penetration rate of items such as smart meters. Given the reality that smart home devices can communicate among themselves and enable cost savings, more consumers are expected to use the concept moving forward. Furthermore, the rising popularity of smart hubs, smart locks, and smart plugs is driving the growth of market for smart homes. Similarly, the demand for entertainment controls is fueled by the rising demand for multimedia, volume, and audio controls. Some of the key manufacturers of smart home appliances include Whirlpool Corporation, the ASSA ABLOY Group, Creston Electronics, Inc., Elan Home Systems, Control 4 Corporations, and Leviton Manufacturing Company. Most specifically, the lighting control segment market is forecasted to advance at a 13.26 percent CAGR to reach approximately $26.68 billion by the year 2024, from the $12.64 billion figure of 2018.
Figure 1: Market projections of the smart home market
Source: Liu (1)
Pros and cons of smart homes
Analysts have conflicting views regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the smart home concept. One common argument that some critics of smart homes make is that it is costly. As outlined by Shouran, Ashari and Priyambod, the smart home system is costly in terms of both initial installation, repair, and maintenance (5). Various companies offer such services, but are quite expensive. Depending on the system’s complexity of installation of home automation, appliances and devices can pose considerable burden on homeowners. The process can either cost one time if they do it themselves or money if they contract external specialists. Besides, it is costly to transform existing conventional homes into smart homes. Besides the hardware components required, networking and system architecture are expensive. The smart devices and software are expensive because they are more delicate and susceptible to high-tech breakdowns that will subsequently require frequent, sophisticated care.
On the other hand, optimists view smart homes as helping to contain energy costs, which is an advantage. Home automation structures have proven themselves in energy efficiency (Yang, Lee and Lee 8). For example, automated thermostats permit users to pre-program temperatures within the house based on time of day or day of the week. Besides, some even have the capacity to adjust individuals’ behaviors, acclimatizing to temperature preferences devoid of a pre-entered schedule. Conventional or behavior-based automation is also applicable to virtually every device that can be controlled and managed remotely, right from coffee makers to sprinkler systems. The actual energy savings in due course depends on the form of device one selects and its capacity to automate. However, on average, device manufacturers contend that the systems can help homeowners to save between 10 percent and 15 percent off cooling and heating bills (Shouran, Ashari and Priyambodo 5). Smart homes have even been utilized to drive energy savings campaigns. For example, Egypt has a project known as “Energy Saving through Smart Home,” whose objective is to minimalize domestic energy wasted using sensors that report daily human habits and monitors their routines (Sripan, Lin and Petchlorlean 62). Automated systems control human habits that could increase energy costs.
Another argument by critics is that smart home systems diminish the privacy and intimacy enjoyed by home dwellers. As outlined by Sripan, Lin and Petchlorlean, as with other internet-linked components, smart homes are vulnerable to hacking (65). Every connected device sends a notification to its corresponding software when in use, thereby registering a digital thumbprint via the router. In case hackers are monitoring the router, they will be able to learn about the home dwellers daily schedule, as well as access images or videos of the home. Such sensitive data can be of benefit to malicious people who desire to spy on the dwellers’ intimate lives or take control of the smart home’s system. Similarly, another possible, but uncommon risk, is that the internet-linked devices, which are intended to serve the homeowners, could be serving tech-giants’ and manufacturers’ needs in reality (Shouran, Ashari and Priyambodo 4). The data collected by smart home devices regarding the home and dwellers’ routines and schedules could possibly be shared with organizations requiring accumulated data for economic gains. Such a privacy invasion is permeable in the United States following Congress’ passing a motion that permitted Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to gather and commercialize consumers’ internet usage information.
On the other hand, smart homes enhance safety and security for the home dwellers. Smart homes significantly improve the degree of property and dweller safety (Sripan, Lin and Petchlorlean 66). Through easily turning on and off any smart devices and appliances from one’s phone in a matter of seconds, homeowners tend to panic less when they are outside the house and realize that they have not turned on or off a particular feature. Furthermore, some appliances, for example, coffee makers and ovens, have been programmed to turn themselves off automatically when not being used. For even enhanced security, smart homes permit consumers to lock any house doors they might have forgotten to lock remotely. When afar, parents can monitor the home and the people inside it using smart appliances. Similarly, the devices permit homeowners to exchange voice messages with the people within the house regardless of the distance. They then can acquire peace of mind and go about their business comfortably. Therefore, the assurance of security makes smart homes popular among consumers.
A significant disadvantage of smart home systems is their dependence on the internet. In other words, the automated systems can only function when there is broadband or internet connection within the network (Sripan, Lin and Petchlorlean 65). Devoid of a reliable, robust internet connection, then the home dwellers will be unable to take control and manage their systems. When this happens, the results might be catastrophic. For example, if one forgot to lock a door, a pet might run out of the house and are run over by a speeding automobile. All that could happen because of the inability to monitor and control the system. Based on the reality that the essence of smart home systems is remote access, monitoring, and control, the lack of a stable internet connection could harm the concept.
However, experts contend that the internet might become of less essence as smart home appliances learn to communicate with each other expressly. Presently, many smart home devices depend on centralized hubs such as Bluetooth, WI-Fi, and ZigBee to enable users control their appliances from their laptops and phones (Yang, Lee and Lee 10). In the future, however, such devices will probably leave the hubs and link with each other directly, forming a massive mesh network to cover the entire house. In this way, consumers will not have a single failure point. Whereas the mesh networks will not expressly diminish the smart home’s internet dependency, they might indirectly daunt it through enhancing local connectivity. For example, the use of mobile cloud computing (MCC) and the Thread protocol can permit consumers to add extra devices and appliances to the network using unsupported smartphones, which can be authenticated using a QR code or personal identification number (PIN).
Similarly, dependence on the internet is not a major problem today as many ISPs provide reliable, steady internet connection at affordable costs. Subsequently, smart homes have been viewed as reliable enough to be applied to critical spheres of human life. For example, some healthcare facilities have started adopting smart home care for patients, geriatrics, and even healthy individuals (Yang, Lee and Lee 8). Traditional facilities provide healthcare services as stand-alone solutions on site to produce health reports of patients locally. An alternative to this is to utilize remote healthcare service providers to offer emergency support. For instance, the smart appliances within healthcare homes can perform local monitoring of patients’ vitals and transmit them to the relevant healthcare departments or practitioners. Smart homes offer patient-monitoring services within the home setting to detect health conditions, generate alarms or local warnings, and ensure assistive services that the consumer or medical staff can analyze to make rational decisions (Yang, Lee and Lee 65). The implication is that the smart home concept can be applicable to many other spheres of life to enhance quality and productivity.
Another advantage of smart homes is their consideration for the wellbeing of the environment. As outlined in subsequent sections, smart home technologies are more energy efficient and cost efficient than conventional home electronics and appliances (Shouran, Ashari and Priyambodo 6). Because the interlinked devices are designed to function with the least possible amount of energy and offer feedback on the optimal energy necessary, it cuts down on gas usage, water, and electric bills. As per a United States Environmental Protection Agency report, consumers utilizing smart home alone for controlling the thermostat save between 10 and 30 percent on energy bills (Shouran, Ashari and Priyambodo 7). Additionally, smart shower systems have novel sensor technologies that save costs through minimization of waste and maximization of water usage. Besides, smart homes enhance self-sufficiency (Yang, Lee and Lee 6). The rate at which applications and devices connected to smart homes are entering the market, human life is being made easier and access by disabled or elderly family members is improved. Thus, their quality of life improves overall. Through permitting such members to use voice commands to turn on or off appliances or utilize their phones to use robot vacuum cleaners, their lives become much easier and comfortable.
Results and findings
From the analysis and discussions, it is evident that smart homes are a good deal for contemporary users. Smart homes are becoming more popular, with the growth expected to reach 13.26 percent CAGR, representing approximately $26.68 billion, by the year 2024 (Liu 1). The 2018 figure is $12.64 billion. The projected growth and figure demonstrate an increasing appetite for smart homes because of its beneficial features. Currently, research is concerned with how the smart home concept can be translated into other areas of life, for example, health care and ecological preservation in residential areas. The analysis of the concept’s pros and cons reveals that the benefits of a smart home outweigh the negative ones. Critics of smart homes contended that they are expensive to install and maintain, depend too much on the internet, and leave consumers vulnerable to privacy and intimacy violations. However, the optimists had much more elaborate and weighty points. Their arguments included the positive impact on security, self-sufficiency, cost efficiency, impact on environment, and application to other critical areas of human lives. Smart homes is a trend that cannot be ignored now and in the future.
Smart homes are beneficial to elevating the quality of life and should be considered. The concept has integrated various technologies that ensure remote communication, monitoring, and control of home appliances. The implication is that they enhance security, ensure cost savings on energy, guarantee self-sufficiency, and have a positive impact on the environment. On the other hand, smart homes can leave homes susceptible to privacy and intimacy violations, and are generally difficult to install and maintain. However, a cost-benefit analysis following the argumentative study demonstrates that smart homes are a good deal and should be embraced.
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Liu, Shanhong. “Forecast market size of the global smart home market from 2016 to 2022 (in billion U.S. dollars)*.” Statista, 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/682204/global-smart-home-market-size/
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Sripan, Meensika, et al. “Research and Thinking of Smart Home Technology.” International Conference on Systems and Electronic Engineering (ICSEE’2012), vol. 18, no. 19, 2012, pp. 61-71.
Yang, Heetae, Wonji Lee and Hwansoo Lee. “IoT Smart Home Adoption: The Importance of Proper Level Automation.” Journal of Sensors, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/6464036.