Compatibility and energy consumption are the keys to new smart home solutions
From new wireless solutions to intelligent door intercoms for the existing telephone system and wine refrigerators that can be monitored using an app, innovative smart home products were one of the highlights at CeBIT 2015.
By offering a wide range of useful solutions which meet the actual demands of millions of users, manufacturers are confident that the latest developments will lead to a booming smart home market, as Ludger Voetz reports.
Many manufacturers of Smart Home products chose this year’s Cebit to showcase their latest innovations for the modern home. Most of the new solutions aim to make the life of the user easier and safer at the same time. Z-Wave Europe and Western Digital presented a USB stick which retrofits the NAS systems WD My Cloud and My Cloud Mirror with the Z-Wave wireless system. This way, the network storage turns into a control panel for the smart home. In combination with the plug-in Smart Home UI, the smart home can be set up via a PC, smartphone or tablet.
The ULE Alliance and its members have been busy too since the organisation launched its certification programme for ULE-based (Ultra Low Energy) products earlier this year. “The wireless ULE technology allows end users to connect a variety of products within one network, regardless of the manufacturer,” says René Kohlmann, chairman of the ULE Alliance.
“Thanks to the certification programme, consumers, retailers and operators can rest assured that labelled products such as smoke detectors, heating thermostats, security cameras and other ULE devices can be easily combined with each other. Many ULE products are already on the market, others will be launched within the next weeks and months,” adds Kohlmann.
According to Ohland Günther, chairman of the association Smart Home Initiative Germany, energy consumption and security factors are at least as important as the comfort levels smart homes provide. “Energy prices and utility costs will continue to rise,” said Ohland. “By intelligent control of heating and electrical devices, overall consumption can be reduced by up to 30%.”
A smart wine fridge and a multifunctional door intercom
Luxurious solutions that are likely to attract only small target groups were also presented at Cebit – such as a wine refrigerator from the company Haier which can be monitored via an app.
Designed for everyday use, and therefore more likely to make it into more homes, is the new door intercom DoorLine Pro exclusive Color from Telegärtner Elektronik. When a visitor or delivery driver pushes the doorbell, the system initiates a call to the house phone. The functions and features of the new DoorLine include a motion detector, a real-time clock for time-dependent functions, a door-opener function and access control. If the door closes shut accidentally, it can be opened without a key by entering a PIN code.
“The user interface, which is weather-proof and scratch-resistant, can be customised and allows easy operation even in direct sunlight or at night time,” Andreas Hopf, operations manager at Telegärtner Elektronik, points out.
To connect the DoorLine with the existing telephone system, all that is needed is an analogue port which most systems have. This way, users don’t face costs for additional hardware and installation. Call forwarding is also possible, including to mobile phones. In other words: Users can answer the door from basically any place and are always informed who’s ringing at their door – even when on vacation or at work.
According to a study by the industry association Bitkom, a third of home owners are put-off smart home technology by high costs and the set-up effort. As a result, only 14% of the study participants currently use network devices in their homes. However, with the new solutions that use the new ULE standard or existing hardware such as the telephone system, the proportion of home owners who benefit from smart home solutions is expected to rise soon.
The author is Ludger Voetz, a freelance journalist and consultant from Münster, Germany. He lives in London from where he writes about the latest developments in IT, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, home networks and consumer electronics.