Network – not an obvious problem that hinders today’s smart home development
Spoiler: GSM networks will slowly replace Wi-Fi. I have personal experience of living in one of the most modern smart homes, says Ruslan Vinahradau, CEO of Zorachka Inc., or more accurately ‘smart apartment’, in which there are more than 60 devices for controlling lighting, heated floors, locks, air conditioning and more.
This is one of the most modern smart homes because all the devices are connected to the internet and are managed natively via Siri. I will say right away, it’s just awesome to live in such a home.
That said, those who have tried to introduce at least a dozen smart devices into their homes, have probably already noticed how often they fail. If you look at the short history of devices for a smart home, you’ll see that they have gone through several stages of evolution, from large server rooms inside the house to completely independent small devices that are seamlessly integrated into existing house walls. This gives rise to a problem that still doesn’t have a clear solution – how to provide all these devices with internet access.
Solutions like Z-wave and Zigbee seemed good at first, but in practice their signal is not strong enough even for an apartment, not to mention a multi-storey building. Yes, the mesh technology makes it possible for all the devices to unite into one network and act together but try installing several dozen devices in the same house from different manufacturers and you will get an almost unmanageable situation, which will manifest in delays in response and frequent signal losses from the devices.
What’s more, these technologies carry a number of inconveniences for the user. First of all, this is not the most trivial process to set up and it can be an even more incomprehensible process of positioning devices in the house, so that the network can reach throughout the home. Add to this the need to buy hubs and you have a serious barrier to spreading the smart home to the masses, because not everyone is equally familiar in dealing with technological subtleties.
Today, the trend is that manufacturers are beginning to integrate Wi-Fi networks into their devices, instead of special protocols for the smart home. But in practice this only partially solves the problem, since manufacturers of home Wi-Fi routers have already entered the price struggle and sacrificed quality.
There are new expensive Wi-Fi networks that work using mesh technology in your home, but as a user who has tried the best solutions on the market, I can safely say that when you connect 50+ devices (which isn’t a lot when you count all the light switches, thermostats, floor heating, sockets, TVs, locks, sensors etc) the same problems show up – network packets are often lost, causing delays in communication with smart devices, and sometimes complete loss of connection with them.
For an ordinary Wi-Fi router, even connecting 30 devices will most likely be a problem. Add to this the reality that Wi-Fi range is contaminated by modern residential buildings and your chances of getting a working system will decrease by an order of magnitude. The icing on the cake will be when you try additionally to connect 5-10 security cameras that record video in the cloud, which could completely overload your network.
Taking a closer look, you will see that Wi-Fi has become popular as a home network that works with a dozen devices within a 60 foot range from a personal router. However, Wi-Fi was never able to conquer the cities of the world as the main access system to the global network. Attempts by developed cities to introduce Wi-Fi as the main network did not lead to the popularisation of this idea. In my opinion, this was because the GSM network turned out to be well structured and grew at the expense of the mobile phone market.
Today, GSM LTE networks have a data transfer rate comparable to most Wi-Fi networks – 150mb/s. They don’t require the user to purchase and configure a home router and they work beyond your home. Personal experience tells us that using the internet on a mobile phone is always more convenient than on a computer, especially if you are constantly on the move. Consequently, slowly but surely, GSM will force Wi-Fi out of our devices.
GSM is able to solve the problem of internet access for hundreds of your smart devices in the home environment, the only question is price and, as a result, time. It is some pioneers of this idea in the market, for example Zorachka, which is working on the integration of GSM networks into devices of the future smart home.
As the saying goes, you need to aim where the ball will be, not where it is now.
The author is Ruslan Vinahradau, CEO of Zorachka Inc.