Oren Kotlicki, Founder and CEO of Intellithings, argues that new technologies are needed to deliver the levels of personalisation customers crave.

With smart appliances that automatically brew coffee and smart pet feeders that automatically fill pets’ bowls, it may seem that automation has already swept into homes and streamlined daily routines. In reality, most smart home end-users find themselves living among a mass of finicky gadgets that sometimes demand more than they can provide in return.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been significant development of automated platforms. For one, the proliferation of smart speaker virtual assistants has put the convenience of hands-free control in the grasp of any user who wants it. These virtual assistants are, however, still not smart enough to pick up every voice command correctly, so users will have to be conscious of their word choice, enunciation, and volume. 

There are other ways to achieve levels of automation, just the tap of a screen on a smartphone or even a smartwatch can trigger lights, smart locks or any number of other smart devices. Users further have the option to go hands-free in with the advent of smart motion sensors that trigger activity from walking by or through a designated zone. It’s important to note, however, that these sensors are easily susceptible to error, as they can be triggered by any kind of motion, such as a wandering pet. Also, while smart motion sensors may excel in automation, they are unable to deliver when it comes to personalisation. 

While the smart home market has given users energy-efficient smart bulbs and intuitive smart thermostats, it is failing users in terms of personalisation. For instance, while professionally installed smart home systems, like Control4 or Crestron, empower homeowners to take advantage of advanced control capabilities, the execution still requires manual input from the user. 

Smart pet products might be fun and useful, but the real future of the smart home lays elsewhere
Smart pet products might be fun and useful, but the real future of the smart home lays elsewhere

While it’s certainly possible to program automations for specific users within a home, those actions still require a trigger whether it be a voice command or a touch of a keypad. Even the most advanced smart home systems cannot know which specific member of the household is in which specific room until users engage via voice, app, or other tangible touchpoint.

Consider this scenario: A smart home system is programmed to accommodate a family of four. When the kids come home from school, they can use their smartphones to turn on the smart lights and activate their favorite playlist. When a parent comes into the room, their smartphone or smartwatch has more authorised controls to give them access to activate smart door locks or adjust the smart thermostat. While the smart home system may be programmed to give different levels of control and access to different users, the system is not automatically adjusting itself based on the specific user without first receiving input from that user.  

Now, consider an alternative: The same smart home system is programmed to accommodate a family of four—with one difference. When the kids come home from school, the system automatically detects that Jim and Molly have entered the living room, and it turns on the smart lights and activates their favourite playlist. When they leave the room, the system recognises that they have left, and it powers down the lights and music. When a parent comes into the room, the smart home system automatically detects that mum has entered the living room: It turns on the smart light—but to her preferred brightness level of 70%; it automatically locks the front door; and it adjusts the thermostat to 70°. 

The system was able to detect each specific person’s location in the home and automatically trigger scenes based on their unique preferences- without requiring them to take any action. In this second scenario, the smart home system is enriched with a layer of presence-sensing technology.

Presence-sensing technology is leading a new trend of fully automated, personalised systems. This technology enables true occupancy automation by identifying an individual’s presence and triggering devices tuned to the individual’s personal preferences. 

Presence-sensing technology is deployed via a new breed of smart home sensors: true occupancy automation sensors. Unlike other home automation platforms that require some form of tangible input from users for identification, presence-sensing technology uses the unique Bluetooth signatures of individuals’ matched smartphones to sense who is there. By adding a layer of presence-sensing technology to already-installed home automation platforms, installers can empower end-users to take full advantage of the automation features their platforms offer without having to lift a finger or voice a command.  

Automation and personalisation are the hallmarks of what we as an industry envision as the truly intelligent smart home. Unfortunately, most smart home systems installed today are only capable of offering low levels of automation and rudimentary levels of personalisation. 

Furthermore, this technology is able to deliver complete automation without compromising their security. Other technologies that are attempting to achieve similar heights of automation and personalisation often rely on image, video, and audio processing in the cloud, which, although useful, have also opened the door for data security risks. Presence-sensing technology, on the other hand, is reliably safe, secure, and private. 

When installing presence-sensing technology solutions, savvy smart home professionals need to be on the look for solutions that do not rely on the cloud or internet connectivity nor use any biometrics to identify specific persons.

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