With the soaring development of mobile networks, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and AI technologies, the integration of connectivity and computing capability is empowering various industries writes David Davies.
5G, featuring high bandwidth, low latency and massive connectivity, together with edge computing and AI capabilities, are driving a shift to a world where everything is connected in a smart way. Moreover, home networks, reaching individual consumers, keep upgrading, from copper to fiber, from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6/Wi-Fi Mesh, and from 100 Mbps to Gigabit, thus enabling high-speed networks everywhere. Based on deep integration of AI technologies and IoT, smart homes once appeared in sci-fi movies have gradually become available for common users. Nowadays, the connection and operation experiences of family members have been greatly improved, affecting audiovisual entertainment, telecommuting, tele-education, and healthcare, and ultimately changing human lifestyles.
- Network upgrade lays a solid foundation for the connected home devices
In recent years, home networks have been upgraded in many aspects, from copper to fiber, from Fiber To The Home (FTTH) to Fibre To The Room (FTTR), from 100 Mbps to Gigabit access bandwidth, significantly improving the user experience. At present, three major operators in China offer at least 100 Mbps access speeds to nearly 500 million broadband users, and at least 1 Gbps access speeds to over 25 million users. If combined with Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi Mesh, seamless whole-home coverage of high-speed wireless networks can be achieved. Users can use various mobile terminals with reliable access performance everywhere at home and enjoy a modern life with connected home devices.
The IoT communication protocols, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and NB-IoT, have also gained pace. They can be applied to different perception and control scenarios, allowing smart home devices to connect with each other directly or indirectly, transmit information, and control data when they are in use. The network-side connection problems are solved, laying a solid foundation for extensive access, centralized control and collaborative operation of home devices.
- AI technologies enable more user-friendly devices.
Backed up with whole-home network coverage, AI voice technology plays an important role in the control of smart home. Technologies like far-field voice, voiceprint recognition, echo cancellation, and multi-turn dialog interaction become increasingly mature, driving the evolution from the traditional keys, touch screen, to voice control, and making interaction more natural.
The upgrade to smart home lets people control connected home devices through voice commands, which will change people’s habits and create an amazing hands-free experience. The next step is to implement whole-home distributed voice networking, thus enabling voice control and interaction of all the connected devices in a home. For example, a user can remotely control smart home devices in the bedroom from another room, achieving natural voice interaction everywhere at home.
In addition, facial recognition, gesture recognition, environmental perception, and other deep intelligence can meet control needs for more personalized and specific scenarios. AI will become the core element of smart home. Powered by big data and cloud computing, the future home devices are expected to truly implement active learning and decision-making, and to become more alive.
- A smart home will have more smart devices, rather than only one acting as the control center.
The previous smart home usually takes one smart device as the control center. Only this device has the computing capability, capable of processing user commands and sending them to other terminals. For example, a smart phone can control various home terminals bound to it through apps. However, these home terminals need to adopt smart standards, connection protocols and management platforms in a unified manner. Otherwise, each device requires a different app, leading to a poor user experience.
As networks and computing capabilities develop, such single device-enabled smart home model is changing gradually. In addition to such traditional control centers as smart phones, televisions, smart speakers and control panels, white goods like refrigerators, air conditioners, or even range hoods are equipped with touch screens to offer computing capabilities. In a future smart home, there will be more and more smart devices with perception and processing capabilities. Interconnected to each other, these devices will be capable of active learning and decision-making, while functioning independently. Users will be able to interact with the smart home environment from visual, auditory, and tactile aspects, enjoying a more intuitive display of data and a better control and interactive experience. Home appliances will become smart home assistants which can adjust themselves according to the changing environment, and give personalized feedback based on user behaviors.
- The foreseeable future of smart homes
The future smart home will offer ultimate convenience, delivering a seamless, natural interactive and control experience. Imagine a morning in your AI-enabled smart home. Instead of the noisy alarm to wake you up, curtains slowly open and lights are on as music starts playing. A smart speaker informs you of the local weather and your schedule. A smart watch tracks your sleep quality and health data. A smart thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature and humidity to suite your preferences. A smart wardrobe gives you suggestions on what to wear today based on the weather. In your kitchen, a smart coffee maker starts to brew your favorite drink, and a smart fridge advises you with cooking methods depending on what kind of food is stored. When you leave home, your smart home system turns everything off, but starts cleaning with a robot vacuum cleaner. By allowing the entire home to be automated, a smart home provides ease and convenience to everyday activities in the home, thus making your life easier and better.
Smart home, although not a must-have yet, represents more of a quality lifestyle than just a technology. As the underlying technologies develop, industry standards keep improving, and consumer habits form gradually, I believe an era of real smart homes will come soon.With the soaring development of mobile networks, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and AI technologies, the integration of connectivity and computing capability is empowering various industries.