Security devices like cameras and motion sensors have the biggest demand in the smart home market, according to many of the buyers, distributors and visitors who indicated interest in sourcing security related products at SMAhome Expo 2018.
Jerzy Zywicki, Director of Digital Home Systems, an Australia-based distributor with 140 smart products in its portfolio, said the local market is growing as fast as 50 percent annually, while smart lighting and security products are the most popular products.
Renk Consulting, a Guangzhou-based company that provides services to a German door manufacturer, is looking for ways to make traditional doors smart. “Our client is very interested,” said the company’s Ernst Renk.
Renk is looking for sensors and cameras that can be applied to help the elderly or the young, so that they don’t need to open doors on their own.
In a scenario where a little girl comes home from school, as she enters the front yard and approaches the door, the motion sensor at the door gets activated and sends a message to the gateway, which turns on the camera and sends video footage to the mother. She then pushes a button to unlock the door. When the girl is inside, the camera in the lobby will take over. When the mother sees that the girl is in the house she can lock the door remotely.
The same sequence of commands may apply if an elderly is one of the residents. The convenience is obvious as the elderly tend to have more difficulty in moving around, Renk said.
A more advanced camera may even distinguish different faces, and opens the door automatically for a resident whose face it recognizes. When applied at a letterbox, the camera may distinguish mailmen delivering important packages from sales people dropping advertisement. This can save homeowners the trouble of walking a distance to the letterbox to pick up something unimportant.
Smart security devices have multiple use cases. They can also count how many people have gone into a room, and how many have left, to make sure no one is left behind.
Monitoring in Stealth
Smart solution provider HSA Technologies that serves the Malaysia market concurred that security application has the biggest potential. “Some people want to monitor their home, their elderly parents, children or pets, when they are away on vacation,” said Er Kok Huang, HSA’s Chief Operating Officer.
Cameras may not be the ideal equipment for monitoring. Occupancy sensors, which HSA is looking for, might be the better choice. Elderly people who live alone at home don’t want to be monitored by cameras, so HSA provides motion sensors to detect movement. “If, for example, three to four hours have passed with no movement in the room or common areas, we’ll send notifications to family or friends, and they can call back to check on the elderly,” Huang said.
Also, to prevent criminal acts, camera and sensors should be hidden, behind the wall, in the ceiling or under the carpet. The alarm system can be triggered once an unusual event is detected. People should not get the impression that they are being watched, Renk said.
Pakistan to Build Smart City from Scratch
Although smart home is not yet considered a mature technology or a booming industry with great demand, some people in the industry believe it has great potential. One of them is Naseer Hashmi, operation manager of Unique Future Digital Systems, a smart home enabler serving the Pakistan and Dubai markets.
Hashmi is especially optimistic about Pakistan. There are many projects going on and despite the huge demand, not many smart home companies have established there. Projects are being built for the elite class, the middle class and the lower class. “It is a big country, a big market, and whoever offers smart services are going to get their shares,” Hashmi said.
The smart city project is just starting in Pakistan, especially for port city Gwadar, for which the governments of China and Pakistan have teamed up to make it into a smart city. All the new houses and buildings will be smart, per mandate of the two governments, according to Hashmi. “Everything is going to start from scratch.”
Unique Future Digital Systems, which considers itself as a smart service pioneer in Pakistan, deals with all kind of extra low voltage and smart services, is looking for partners, big or small, to collaborate with, Hashmi stressed.
Motsamai Mofokeng, Director of South Africa-based Emendo Inc., is also optimistic about smart home’s potential. “I think this application is for the worldwide, to say the least. In South Africa, the government has promoted fiber network to homes, meaning that there is huge opportunity and the demand for this concept.”
Automation for lighting, energy conservation and audio control will see the greatest demand. “We do have various types of needs and security demands. Also, South Africans travel a lot,” Mofokeng said. “More often you found out you are not home, and to go home to switch off light and the audio, all those things, it costs quite a lot. With smart concept, you can control from anywhere in the world.”
Simplicity Is Key
It appears that one of the challenges to even broader smart home adoption is to make the technology easy to use. While Z-Wave, Zigbee and gateway controller are common terms for people working in the industry, they may sound too technical for average consumers.
“Simplicity is still not realized in the smart home market. If you are technical and interested, then it’s solid. But there is not much that is plug and play, and that’s what we are trying to overcome. How we can make it more and more simple,” said Tobias Andersson, product manager of Proove AB, one of the largest smart home solution provider in Sweden.
The company is looking for dimmers, energy meters and in-wall modules, in addition to products that can simplify smart device control like push buttons and touch panels.
HSA Technologies is also trying to establish itself in the mass market. It has served the high-end home market for the past 3-4 years. The smart home market is growing, and the company is now sourcing products that can be applied in mid- and low-end markets. “We don’t want it to be too complicated. We want it to be simple so that everyone can use it,” Huang said.