This is the last part of the official report of the EnOcean Coalition entitled “The Connected Home; Smart Home with Batteryless Wireless Technology. In the final section, we will talk about the benefits of the smart home in assisted living and safe living, and finally we will conclude by examining the networking structures of this system. This article was prepared by the BACpress content production team.
You can also read the first part of this topic here and the second part here.
Ambient Assisted Living
An important application area of the smart home is the support of the elderly during everyday life, so-called Ambient Assisted Living (AAL). Specifically, technical helpers facilitate life at home. On the one hand, residents are offered a higher standard of living, as lights, room temperature or other applications are automated appropriately, and can be changed personally. The particular user interfaces are fitted precisely to the needs of senior citizens. On the other hand, smart home solutions can also monitor vital signs and send for help quickly in case of an emergency. Motion detectors or sensor mats can register a person lying on the floor and immediately call emergency services.
As of now, professional smart home craftsmen already generate 38% of their turnover with ambient assisted living systems. Technological progress and the increasing need due to our ageing society will see such applications rise steadily in the future. Until 2030, the share of people over 80 will increase to over 60%.
Here especially, wireless solutions play an important role. They can be installed quickly and easily in homes, without longer installation measures which strain the residents’ nerves. Furthermore, they offer total flexibility for the users. That is why 50% of already installed components work on a radio basis. Using batteryless wireless technology from EnOcean also negates the need for changing batteries, something older people often find very difficult.
At this point in time, security measures generate the largest turn-over in the smart home area. In an all-around system, motion detectors, cameras and the alarm system are networked together and connected with a security service. Moreover, the owner can access the cameras on the go comfortably. The monitoring system can be configured and expanded according to customer requirements. For many clients, buying a security package for their house is the first step to an intelligent home.
Guarantee of Flexibility and Interoperability
The term “Smart Home” does not stand for the obligatory networking of all eligible components. Moreover, it is a constantly expandable system, which the user can change according to individual needs and technical advancement. If at first a security system is installed, later on the system can be extended to include comfort functions, for example. Basic modules such as the control unit, but also single components, can be used continuously. Presence detectors from a security system can be also usedwith luminaries. Generally, all controls of a building technology, from the blinds to the heating control, are included. The prerequisite here is that all system components fall back on a standardized communication process.
The international EnOcean wireless standard and the EnOcean Alliance’s uniform application profiles make sure that all components from different integration manufacturers are compatible with each other and stay compatible in the future. Gateways guarantee the reliable exchange of information to other systems such as KNX, LON, ZigBee, GSM or WiFi. This especially is a fundamental feature for the use of batteryless wireless technology in the smart home. Due to different requirements concerning data rates and energy consumption, many communication systems are used there.
If sensors communicated via WiFi for example, they would have to be supplied externally with electricity. On the other hand, the transfer of a video from a smartphone to a TV via the EnOcean radio protocol would take days. The core function of the batteryless wireless technology in a smart home is the connection of sensors and actuators until the very last meter. Other systems are responsible for the optimum transfer of information via other channels, such as from a gateway to a smartphone.
A far-reaching networking of devices also brings the highest benefits of use. That’s why all trades gravitate this way in their development. First of all, all components in one area are networked together. In the second step, a supervisory connection between the applications is created, for example between central control and smartphone. The following figure shows the step-by-step construction of this networking structure.
Fig. 3: Change in the network structure
As you can see from the image, single components are networked differently, depending on which technology is best suited. But because a smart home binds all devices, different Bus-systems must also be connected with each other. If a user sits on his couch in the living room, he wants to be able to control the temperature via his smartphone, in addition to playing music on the HiFi and all that with one simple and comfortable application. Current products available on the market show that this technical problem can be realized without much effort. A good example would be the Vitocomfort 200 packet manufactured by TELEFUNKEN Smart Building and distributed by Viessmann. With it, the user can control devices from afar or read conditions such as the room temperature. The two standards, WiFi and EnOcean-wireless are connected via gateway.
Possible Positions for the Control Intelligence
The control intelligence can be positioned at different places during the networking structure. Different architecture can be realized, with different characteristics.
Until now, smart home solutions found on the market, such as the batteryless system from Eltako or the smart home solution from RWE, are based on a local approach. Information is sent from sensors and detectors to a central control station, processed there, and corresponding commands sent to actuators (see Fig. 4).
Fig. 4: Approach 1, data processing by a local control
A different approach is the processing of information in the Internet, in mainframes situated outside of the home. Only data used for control is meant here, though. Media content such as pictures or data can be used independently from these approaches via cloud services.
The information must be sent via router into the Internet. After processing, the appropriate com-mands are sent back over the router to the gateway, which then transmits the information to the respective actuator. If the user changes the set temperature at the local user interface in the living room, this figure, together with the measured value (the room temperature), is sent via the gateway and the router to a mainframe. There, the relative control parameter of the heating valve cap is cal- culated. Via the router and the gateway, the information ultimately arrives back at the actuator (see Fig. 5).
The crucial advantage lies in the shift of computing power. Instead of the central control unit in the house, only a gateway is needed, which is considerably cheaper. Due to the relatively small computing time, the processing on mainframes generates next to no costs. Encryption and authentication procedures provide for a secure data transfer outside of the home.
(Fig. 5: Approach 2, data processing via mainframes (Internet-connected
System with very high Reliability
If one component fails, the system stays functional. The system technology can be configured, so that in the event of failure, commands can be sent directly from the switch to the actuators. This applies to both control variants ,the local one in the home, or the one in the cloud. Thus, room temperature can even be regulated if the router or the gateway fails.
Further protection and comfort is offered by the centre from myHomeControl from BootUp. The system regularly saves the configuration on a web server. In the unlikely case that the centre needs to be reset or exchanged, the settings are automatically reconstructed in the cloud.
Smart Home – Innovation of Single Disciplines
Hereafter, technical innovations in single disciplines are presented more precisely, also considering the respective expansion stage of each system. As mentioned before, users needn’t invest in a complete solution all at once. By choosing the right components from the start, they can be expanded continuously.
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
HVAC plays a central role in a smart home. This is due in large part to the remarkable energy savings potential, but also due to the added comfort the user is offered via new operating options.
To meet the demands of an appropriate and cost-saving heating system, each room needs to be controlled separately. De-pending on the depth of automation and networking, different regulation modules are conceivable. In the easiest case, the cap on a heating valve regulates the room temperature. The cap itself measures the values needed. As an optional extension, a room temperature sensor would gather more precise measurements. Networking would proceed via wire-less here. Compared to classical valve caps, day- and week-specific profiles can be created with this one. For example, the bathroom will only be heated in the morning and in the evening, during the main usage periods.
Needs-oriented adjustment of flow temperature provides additional savings
Indirect influence on the room temperature, for example by sunlight or people and equipment, the flow temperature can be reduced accordingly.
This results in lower heat losses of the boiler and piping systems leading to energy and cost savings.
A considerably more optimized system is offered by the next expansion stage. Here, single valve caps are networked with a central control unit. The regulation does not happen decentralized, instead, one control unit monitors each individual room’s arrangements. Temperature sensors transfer the values to the central control unit. In turn, appropriate commands are sent to the actuators, i.e. the valve caps. The user can adjust the desired temperature in various ways, via an app connected with the central control system, or via a stationary operation unit in the building. Furthermore, the classical way via valve cap is also available (see Fig. 6).
Fig. 6: System architecture of a single room control. Left: Control via several heating valves. Right: Control via a central unit
Big advantages are offered by the batteryless products from the EnOcean partners. Due to batteryless operation, any maintenance work is no longer necessary, as not only the sensors, but also the actuators obtain the energy needed from the surroundings. Also, installation is very simple. Such a batteryless valve cap is offered by Kieback&Peter for example with the intelligent single room control en:key. The necessary energy is generated through a Seebeck-generator, which uses the temperature differences between the heating valve and the surroundings. Temperature sensors or -regulators however obtain their energy via solar cells.
The wireless technology from EnOcean is especially suited for controlling luminaries. Pressing down on the light switch generates enough energy to send wireless telegrams. The many integration manu-facturers ensure a broad product range of switches, which satisfy all tastes and have different func-tions, such as dimming, too.
Figure 7 shows the schematic expandability of the system. All wall switches and switch actuators of the main circuit remain unchanged. If the client decides against a central control during renovation or construction, he or she can retrofit at any time later on.
Fig. 7: The devices’ interoperability allows a flexible expansion
Products of the lighting technology, which are based on the EnOcean wireless technology, also offer further advantages:
- Full flexibility in the positioning of the wall switches in the room, as the devices are only glued to the wall. Planners and architects are given completely new possibilities.
- Maintenance work is not necessary due to the self-sufficient operation.
- Empty switches are a part of the past, as they are easily removed.
- In comparison to cabled solutions with central control characteristics, installation costs during construction and retrofitting are 15% and 70% cheaper respectively.
During new constructions especially, more and more owners are opting for electric shading. Not only does this make things more comfortable when the blinds go up and down by pushing a button, it also increases energy savings. Through the automated control, the additional insulation can be used optimally. The operation and control of the actuators is increasingly done by wireless technology. Now already, the market share is at approximately 25% in the area of shading technology. For many, the blind technology is the entry way to the Smart Home. The market share of prefabricated houses is a perfect example for this. About 50% of all sold Weber prefabs are equipped with a blind control, which can later be expanded on to other applications.
Multimedia Devices and Household Appliances – the Trend to Networking
Private and professional data is being increasingly consumed on both stationary and mobile devices. Innovative hard- and software solutions ensure easy and automated data matching. More and more devices, such as cameras for example, are now fitted with a WiFi interface. New apps take care of the uncomplicated data transfer between different components. Cloud services take a different approach, as data from different devices is deposited in the Internet and then accessed flexibly. The Internet is thus turned into a mobile data carrier.
The latest products of large electronic manufacturers show that the networking trend encompasses more and more components in the private living space. Why not easily surf the web from your living room via the large TV instead of using the small smartphone screen? All communication takes place via WiFi, which offers a large data rate. Content can nearly always be exchanged bidirectionally. Films saved on your PC or smartphone can be played on your TV with just a few clicks. The user can also directly control his TV via smartphone. Also, TV recordings can be played on mobile carriers.
Trade fairs show: many more household appliances will be integrated in future. Next to mobile carriers, washing machines or dishwashers are also shown increasingly. Through networking, these devices would be controlled via the electricity costs. During the night, when electricity is extremely cheap, the dish washer would turn itself on.
Next to the level of networking, networking methods are also improving. Open interfaces, different standards and technologies can be brought together in one optimal system. The user can compile his own smart home solution flexibly – manufacturer independent. Organizations such as HGI, the OSGi Alliance or the EnOcean Alliance emphatically support bringing different standards together. In the long term, this will create sustainable smart home business models with high user acceptance. At the same time, this will create prerequisite for the so-called Internet of Things, in which single sensors, actuators and domestic appliances each have their own IP-address. The user will be able to directly contact each component – and for example turn off the accidentally left on iron, no matter to which power outlet it is connected to.