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- On January 22, 2017
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It is a year now since SH&BA reformed itself as SH&BA 2016 Limited but we are picking up members and running panel meetings that are adding to the understanding of the Smart Home and are adding new dimensions to the market.
As we indicate on the Home page a Smart Home is far more than the smart devices within it although these contribute greatly to the way people make their homes smart. SH&BA looks at Smart Homes from many perspectives and these include:
Reducing the energy the home uses and also the cost of that energy. This area of work includes projects which seek to look at groups of homes, buildings and businesses and to see how their aggregate energy can be bought as if by a “Large Energy User” and provided to all the end users at costs which are significantly less than when purchased directly from standard Energy Suppliers. (Of course it is in the energy suppliers interest to be involved in this since they have the opportunity to manage more effectively their trading and can grow their market). For this to be effective, these groupings have to be able to manage the overall load on the distribution system such that the system charges are minimised and energy costs through half hour purchase are constrained when energy is expensive. Our projects have looked at many potential groupings of end users and one of our potential solutions is to create community cooperatives that own, buy and provide energy for the group. There are many issues with this approach including the way energy is regulated. SH&BA will be discussing these issues in its Energy Panel.
Another area of this work is to lessen the amount of energy the Smart Home (and building) uses and SH&BA will be operating a Panel concerned with the built environment. This is an area where quite massive benefits can be realised. For instance, we know that Passiv Haus homes use virtually no energy and the technology to create homes such as this is well known. The question SH&BA and the UK and Europe (and the rest of the world) should be asking is “can the existing housing stock have its energy use lessened to around Passiv Haus levels?”. If we could do this today the amount the UK would spend on energy in the domestic sector would fall by around £30 Billion per annum (€600 Billion for Europe as a whole). Of course we cannot do this overnight, there are some 25 million homes in the UK and 20 times that in the EU, but we can look at the ways in which this can be achieved. SH&BA has looked at this in the past and came up with the 20 20 20 project which aimed to reduce the energy a house used to just 20% of its existing energy consumption, use off-site construction and robotic assisted systems for on site working 24/7 to do the work in (an average of) 20 days and do it for an average cost of £20k. The sums involved are massive, but for a 30 year period from 2020 the UK would be engaging in £18 Billions worth of construction, find work for potentially 500,000 people and increase GDP by upto £50 Billion per annum. The work would improve the homes of and employ people in every part of the UK. I will return to this in future blogs.
How people are cared for in our Smart Homes is also a major area of SH&BA’s work and we are involved with the CHIRON project which is looking at how we can introduce care assistance robots to reduce the pressure on carers, social services and the NHS. This is the subject of the next SH&BA Panel meeting. But we are also looking at what a home needs to be if it is to be a Caring Home and be a place where we are safe and well looked after as we age or if we have disabilities. Obviously Smart Systems and Smart Devices play their part and finding ways in which today’s elderly can use Smart devices and systems to help them live well is another area we will be looking at.
For instance, voice control is beginning to be used by many people at home now with Amazon Echo, Dot and Alexa but finding ways in which today’s elderly people can intuitively use them when the user may be in the onset of dementia is a major level of difficulty. However, such devices can begin to understand and converse with their subjects, they can deliver a level of conversation to deliver contact and intelligent presence and thus stimulation, motivation and reassurance for the isolated elderly are immense. Furthermore they can recover memories and feed these back to engage and stimulate people and potentially delay dementia. If a voice system can combat loneliness and provide contact with family and friends, one of the major problems of old age can be lessened.
There are two aspects of Security that SH&BA is interested in.
One is the physical security of the home and how safe the people living in it are. So a Smart Home must have windows and doors that are secured and have smart systems which ensure that doors and windows are locked and safe at night. Such systems often link to smart devices. SH&BA covers physical security under its Built Environment Panel.
The other is Cyber Security and this includes all the Smart systems in the Smart Home and the SH&BA Security panel addresses such questions as
- Who is responsible for security in the Smart Home?
- Who has the liability when failures of security cause loss of privacy, of money or injury.
The liabilities could be very expensive. Indeed for some companies, it could be existential.
Our belief is that every provider of any service or product for the Smart Home has some liability. If something goes wrong, they will need to be able to demonstrate that they have:
- taken every step to ensure their product or service is secure and can prove it.
- collaborated with other industry players to ensure their combined services are secure and can prove it.
- followed every guideline put forward by standards, their insurers and government agencies and have followed “best practice” and can prove it.
This is not straightforward. Therefore the SH&BA Security panel going forward will consist of a series of meetings whose aim is to understand the issues and identify potential risks and their mitigation.
SH&BA has in the past been highly involved in helping members understand the underlying technology of the Smart Home. We will continue to do this as the technology landscape becomes evermore complex. Interoperability is still not something that is a given in the Smart Home and understanding all the systems and the interactions between them will help all the players in the Smart Home understand the issues. The SH&BA Technology Panel may well be held again this year.
OBTAINING A SMART HOME AND SMART SYSTEMS
Ultimately, if the Smart Home is to become something everyone has, then the supply chain between the people using such systems and the manufacturers and retailers needs to understand one another. SH&BA is feeding understanding across sectors through its Manufacturers and Retailers Panel which involves a wide range of service providers, manufacturers and retailers in attendance.
The consumer’s perspective though is not covered by SH&BA and we think that this is an issue. Perhaps this Blog will provide greater clarity for the people who buy and use Smart Systems, Smart Devices and Smart Appliances in their Smart Homes as the blog covers the above issues in more detail and provides feedback from the panel meetings.
Stephen Pattenden is a Board Member of SH&BA.