University research has already made remote management of home appliances and control of energy consumption a practical reality. This can now be combined with an alert system monitoring what is happening at the house and to care-dependent people in it.

Smart Home System: Electric Appliance Management Plus Surveillance and Alert Service

In 2012, German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute based in Munich and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mechanics in Kaiserslautern came up with a system of smart plugs designed to manage switching on and off of electrical appliances remotely. The system enables householders to optimise their electricity consumption via a PC or smartphone. Now Wattio, a Spanish startup company based in San Sebastian, has taken the concept further and developed a home management kit which offers a much wider range of functionality than just managing electric power. The SmartHome 360º system incorporates devices based on recent development in the e-health and home security fields so as to optimise surveillance of the home – both against unwanted intrusion and also monitoring of people living there who may need medical attention or other special care.

360º monitoring via smartphone

The e-health aspect of the Wattio model focuses on keeping abreast of the condition of older people at the house or those who require constant attention. The grandparent or care-patient needs to wear wi-fi connected sensors which can detect a fall, or erratic movement, such as if a person leaves the home unexpectedly. The SmartHome 360º system is designed to collect real-time information from the sensors and provide an alarm/alert if necessary, warning the homeowner remotely of any problem. As with the model created by the Fraunhofer researchers, managing the home system and its connectors can be done in real time via a smartphone app, tablet device or Internet-connected PC. Wattio’s battery of sensors capture real time home surveillance data: detectors for smoke, gas or movement allow the householder to keep up with what is going on at the home at all times.

How smart can it get?

These advances are in fact just the tip of the iceberg in terms of research into the potential of smart building technology. A recent L'Atelier report on the research being done in Sweden revealed how buildings are now capable of managing their own energy consumption in automated and autonomous fashion, and how an in-building networked system can even take into account in real time the needs and/or wishes of a building’s occupants or visitors regarding temperature and other comfort factors. Wattio’s SmartHome 360º kit, which is designed for managing and controlling individual homes, seems to make great strides towards turning a very complex reality into something quite simple. It will however be interesting to see the results, especially with regard to the limitations of the e-health monitoring aspects.

By Guillaume Parodi