Home automation is about bringing convenience to end users. And this can begin from the entry point of a home – door lock, which may be connected to devices indoors. In such way, when a person unlocks the door, curtains are drawn automatically, while lights and air conditioning are turned on, and the audio system plays soothing music to welcome the homeowner.
China-based Locstar Technology makes such smart locks. The company is a member of the Z-Wave Alliance, and its product can be connected with other Z-Wave devices inside the house to enable automation. The most common end-user demand is to switch on or off lights when the door is opened or closed, according to the company’s sales department.
Taiwan-based Klacci also makes locks that can be connected to other smart devices. When its lock is not in use, the room will be switched to the “energy conservation mode” under which the lights and air conditioning will be turned off.
While Klacci specializes in making smart locks that can be opened via a mobile app, the company is in discussion with clients that are considering the possibility to integrate smart home functionalities. More specifically, to integrate smart home control functions besides door access in one app, said Klacci’s marketing director Michelle Shen, who added that the company will make its API available to its clients.
The door lock connection may be applied in the office setting too, according to James Yih, general manager of automation total solution provider Full Enterprise. When entry of an employee is granted at the door, the light at his or her seat will be turned on automatically. “Also, when the last person to leave the office closes the door, all the lights in the office will be turned off, the power will be cut and the alarm system will be turned on.”
Besides the door, garage may be another point of entry. Once access is granted at the gate, the elevator will come down while other devices at home are switched on.
Intercom Enables Home Automation
Intercom is another important access control device that can enable home automation. Its basic functions include door opening, intercom conversation, camera image viewing and home appliance control.
“Intercom is the dialog interface between users and their homes. It is a natural choice to be integrated with security, door access and monitoring capabilities” said Joel Liu, vice president of HomeScenario, a company that specializes in making intercom systems.
The intercom may be connected to the elevator to enable automation to a degree. Once a homeowner opens the door for a visitor, the visitor can walk to the elevator that will automatically bring the visitor to the homeowner’s floor. The homeowner may even use the surveillance camera in the elevator to check if the visitor has got in.
The intercom can also control lighting, air conditioning, curtains and video/audio system. Also, scenes may be set up to turn on or off multiple devices simultaneously. Different scenes may be set up for different areas like living room, kitchen, etc.
People usually set up “entry” and “exit” scenes, which automatically turn on and off devices, respectively, when homeowners enter and leave homes, according to HomeScenario’s Liu.
Appliances not connected to the Internet may also be controlled from the intercom. Yuan-Hsun Electric offers an intercom system that can control infrared devices. It has a control box that is able to learn infrared signals of various devices. The intercom can then control traditional infrared appliances.
Sensors to Detect Environment Changes
The intercom may be connected to sensors to monitor the indoor environment, to detect the level of PM 2.5, formaldehyde or poisonous gas. Air conditioning may be turned on automatically based on the numbers, said Lin Fang-Zhi, sales manager at Ghouse, which helps to market ALCATEL SIP video intercom solution in Taiwan.
Motion sensors may be installed to detect intrusion. And homeowners can set it up in such a way that lights will be turned on when door/window sensor detects motion.
“Customers will first seek the basic intercom function and clear image because you use it every day, followed by convenient capabilities like light control, and then light or air conditioning control based on sensor detection. It’s like a gradual step-by-step process,” Lin said.
Intercom may also come with SOS button, and if there are any unusual events happening at home, push notifications may be sent to users’ smartphone immediately. When there is a security breach, alerts will be sent to the smartphone as well.
Connecting to the Management Office
Intercom is often connected to the property management office. With Yuan-Hsun’s intercom system, residents can enter numbers from gas meters in a form and send it to the management office. This will facilitate the gas usage recording and utility payment processing, said Lin Guo-Xiang, product engineer at Yuan Hsun.
The management office may also provide logistics services with the intercom. Smart lock manufacturer Waferlock offers an intercom system that allows the management office to send text messages to residents if they have delivered packages.
Control Everything from Smartphone
It is worth noting that many of the intercom functions can be accessed from the smartphone. It means that users can open the door, control home appliances, or arm the security system from their smartphone. The ALCATEL SIP video intercom solution does just that.
“Because smartphone is now part of people’s everyday life, and they want to have all these control capabilities on their phone, so the company tries to integrate most of the smart home functionalities on the phone,” Lin said.
Brinno offers a peephole camera that can alert homeowners via smartphone notifications if there are movements at the door. The camera is mounted on the door, and a screen on the inside of the door lets people see who is knocking and take a snapshot with the press of a button. “This device is suitable for children or the elderly, the latter may not see clearly from the door’s peephole,” said Benson Liu, Director of Sales in Asia.
The most advanced Brinno model also has a PIR sensor, so when motion is detected, pictures will be taken automatically. Users who are not home will be notified if there are pictures taken. Brinno’s companion app also allows homeowners to view real-time image at the door.
Usually thieves or buglers will knock on the door, to check if anyone is home. Brinno’s product provides “the first line of defense,” Liu said.