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Smart Homes & Domotica

Smart Homes & Domotica

At A-Knowledge we don’t really talk about domotica systems VS Smart Homes. We believe that domotica actually is a term often used loosely for defining any kind of home automation and the use of Smart Devices, sometimes without seeing the bigger picture that is “Smart Homes”. As such it is our opinion that many interpretations of Domotica are in fact part of a larger view on Smart Homes.

Domotica’s Past

Times are changing rapidly, even for us in the home automation market. When talking about domotica at the time, it was essentially about managing a series of digital devices, often via a custom touch panel interface. With a click of a button, owners could adjust an entire room to their needs. A cozy dim of the lights, some pleasant Jazz in the background and automatically closing curtains. Large high end brands were very eager to respond to these needs and went out of their way to offer and control an ever growing amount of devices. Hence, at the time Domotica was deemed to be a fully custom and luxurious add-on to a residence, meant for the happy few only.

With the amount of Smart Devices available today and generally accepted new terms such as IOT, it’s safe to say that those days are over now.

IOT & Smart Devices

The arrival of IOT (Internet of things) led to a renewal in the world of Domotica. A number of “new” manufacturers hit the market with devices focusing on a specific task or functionality and designed these devices to be extremely accessible using mobile applications and PC software. Often these tools focus on controlling and managing your personal device remotely through cloud services. Levering machine learning, such Smart Devices, are capable of recognizing patterns and using these patterns to adjust operations to the needs of the user.

 

It is our opinion that many interpretations of Domotica are in fact part of a larger view on Smart Homes.

 

Think for example about NEST, supplying the market with an ever popular and connected thermostat. NEST focusses specifically on creating intelligent devices that are simple and even enjoyable to use. Their thermostats are used to manage your temperature and in doing so will analyze your frequent and recurrent actions and turn them into logical patterns. In addition, these devices take into account external factors such as direct sunlight and adapt temperature regulation accordingly. Such efforts in machine learning are often marketed as a way to more efficiently regulate your device and thus cut down on energy usage. Think “Green”, right?

Products such as NEST, Philips Hue and many more, have actively taken part in making what was known as Domotica more accessible to the general public. Using Smart Devices, users can quickly and efficiently get digital access to manage their thermostat, lighting, security, access, etc. Each of these devices comes with a well-developed and easy to use app that allows you to efficiently control and monitor them using your smart phone. Almost as if you install a Domotica system for your lights, and another one for climate control, and yet another one for your security system. This illustrates a practical aspect that contributes in defining the difference between Smart Devices and Smart Homes.

Smart Homes VS Smart Devices

Granted, each of these Smart Device serve a specific purpose and many of them do a great job in doing so in an intuitive way. At A-Knowledge, however, we believe that it is not the different interfaces to each of those Smart Devices, but in fact integrating them to operate as one what makes an actual Smart Home.

Some very interesting products aim for such integration and provide an easy way to control at least some of these Smart Devices together as one solution. For example, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa (both focusing on voice control), provide a (dare I say?) out of the box solution to control some of the most popular brands and their products. They achieve such connectivity by building partnerships and allowing other manufacturers to build (in case of Alexa) “Skills” that users can install to connect with their Smart Devices. Alternatively, application such as IFTTT, Stringify and Microsoft’s Flow provide a platform where you can bring together certain elements of Smart Devices and online services. Such platforms allow you to manually configure a series of actions to be triggered on one device or service, based on an event or state of another device or service.

At A-Knowledge, however, we believe that it is not the different interfaces to each of those Smart Devices, but in fact integrating them to operate as one what makes an actual Smart Home.

 

In our opinion however, it takes a more mature and flexible environment and product range to properly integrate a wide variety of devices and allow users to control them through a series of different interfaces. We want our customers to control all of their devices from one central application and we want them to trigger scenes that set the lights, control the curtains and start their preferred music. We want to arm and disarm their security system based on time of day and user interaction. We want to give them the opportunity to control their Smart Home, not only through a smart phone or tablet application, but also using their PC, in wall keypads or touch panels and high end remote controls. We want to centralize all of their video devices and switch them to the appropriate room by the press of a button and then give them control over those devices. We want their displays to automatically turn on when they are getting ready for movie night, but also then dim the lights for a more cozy experience. We want all of such features available for our customers through voice commands and also give them a way to control and check up on their solution when they are not home. Although providing them with external (internet) access, we want their system to be secure and protected from people with bad intentions. We want these Smart Homes to not only use devices, but also internet services like weather information and news bulletins to add to a total user experience.

World leader in home automation Crestron provides a full range of products to achieve such functionality and easily integrate with an enormous amount of third party devices through the use of existing modules. On top of that Crestron represents a development environment that allows us to create extra modules to integrate with devices in any way possible. Giving us the possibility to not only integrate our customers’ new and trendy Smart Devices, but for example also their existing TV, audio and video equipment. As such, for example, Alexa becomes yet another Smart Device that adds the possibility of voice control in a broader home automation solution.

Developing such a solution to a customer’s needs, however, has often been approached as a completely custom and therefore lengthy process. Leading to a more costly and thus less accessible route for customers to tap into the possibilities of a Smart Home.

At A-Knowledge we aim to bring solutions to the market to improve that process. Our Pack platform has been developed over the years to rapidly and easily provide a wide variety of Smart Home solutions on a Crestron system. Using Pack, we can leverage the power and flexibility of a high end Crestron system and work together with our clients to build a Smart Home in an accessible and cost efficient way, as customers grew to expect from individual Smart Devices.

For more information on Pack and our Smart Home solutions, please visit our website at https://www.a-knowledge.eu/smart-home/

For more information on Crestron, please visit their website at https://www.crestron.com/en-US/Products/Market-Solutions/Residential-Solutions

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