Smart Solutions: Smart Technology, Smart Homes & Smart Energy
Smart solutions and smart technology are becoming a way of life and are increasingly vital in our day-to-day battle to get everything done. We’re all strapped for time, which is why smart solutions can free you up for more important and exciting tasks. Find out here how the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to revolutionise the way you live, work and play.
Smart solutions for smart homes
It’s not always clear what makes a home “smart” in today’s digital and interconnected world. Discover how the Internet of Things can make your home smart, how you’ll benefit and a small device that will get you started.
What are smart homes?
A smart home uses devices that are interconnected, sending messages and data between them to enhance the homeowner’s comfort or energy-efficiency. The devices are connected to the internet and can each be monitored remotely, usually by a smartphone application or another remote control device.
Often referred to as domotics or home automation, smart solutions create smart homes. This is due to the Internet of Things (IoT) that allows home systems and devices to operate together based on instructions and commands given by the controller.
What is the IoT?The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interconnected computing devices. Each of these devices has the ability to transfer data over a sophisticated network without needing any human intervention.
You want the central heating system to automatically turn on when the temperature inside your house falls below 20 degrees? Want the lights to switch on when you enter the room and to turn off when you leave? These are just some of the very basic smart solutions already implemented in millions of homes around the world.
The potential for smart homes goes a lot further. For example, your refrigerator could catalogue its contents and order replacements from the supermarket as food is used up. It could even suggest recipe ideas using the food products you already have in your fridge, along with tips on how to make your meal healthier.
Which smart solutions are used in domotic technologies? Home automation technologies used in smart homes include:
- UPB - Universal Powerline Bus uses the home’s built-in wiring to communicate home automation control signals.
- INSTEON - This smart technology enables home devices to communicate over both power lines and via wireless applications.
- Wi-Fi - Although this is the most commonly used smart solution, it’s not the most effective, as bandwidth decreases the more devices that are connected to it.
- Bluetooth - Ideal for relatively short-distance communications, Bluetooth is commonly used for smart door locks and light bulbs.
- Thread - One of the latest smart solutions in domotics, Thread uses radio chips to form a secure low-power network.
Smart home devices
Smart meters are perhaps one of the most common smart solutions installed in households like yours in Britain. A quarter of UK homes have one installed, and the Government has set a target for each home to have a smart meter by 2020. While this target is likely to be pushed forward to 2024, it’s nevertheless an essential step in kick-starting smart homes nationwide.
In essence, a smart meter works by transmitting data automatically from the device’s in-home display to the homeowner’s energy supplier. Its main benefits include not having to manually submit meter readings and the peace of mind you’ll get knowing that you’ll be billed accurately, based on actual rather than estimated consumption. Smart meters for business are also in high demand, which explains why thousands of companies across the UK have them installed.
Smart energy is a broad umbrella term used to refer to systems that transmit, supply or procure gas or electricity. Let’s have a look at the principal microsystems that all form part of the smart energy network.
A smart city is one that utilises Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to share data with its citizens. The objective of a smart city is to improve the well-being of its inhabitants, as well as to improve the government services responsible for supporting them.
For example, ICT is a critical smart energy feature that can facilitate smart solutions across an entire metropolis. Such smart solutions are capable of enhancing the quality and performance of urban services such as energy infrastructure. An example in practice is the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, set to be replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme from 1st January 2020. ICT would allow homeowners to export energy back to the National Grid and receive payment in return.
Five principal features of the smart solutions that determine a city's “smartness” are:
- A Technology-based foundation.
- Eco-friendly initiatives.
- A high functioning public transport network.
- A positive sense of urban planning.
- Local citizens using and benefitting from smart technologies.
Smart solutions in supply chains
A smart supply chain can be defined as an interconnected business system which ranges from single company applications to supply chain-wide implementation. This smart solution used in the digital sector, known as the digital supply chain, encompasses the process of delivering digital media.
The smart chain supply could include the transmission of music or video, from the content provider to the consumer. Examples of smart supply chains include streaming films on Netflix or receiving an eBook on your Kindle via Amazon’s online shop. A more sophisticated use of smart supply chains includes bitcoin mining.
Overall, the modern smart supply chain offers unparalleled possibilities for delivering cost reduction and enhancing performance improvement.
What is Blockchain? Blockchain is the technology that underpins digital currency such as Bitcoin. It’s part of a network of smart solutions that allow digital information to be distributed, but not duplicated. With Blockchain, each unique piece of data can only have one owner. It can be used to record transactions across multiple computers, avoiding the risk of any comprising record being changed without all the subsequent blocks in the chain being modified.
What’s the benefit? Doing business through Blockchain removes the need for an intermediary to ensure the transaction is secure and trustworthy. In essence, this translates into quicker transactions, lower costs, and a reduced risk of fraud.
What’s a smart Blockchain? Smart Blockchain is a modern and updated generation of Blockchain interfaces that allows one or more smart contracts to handle accurate and faultless data from the transactions of a decentralized chain. This can happen at the same moment the transaction takes place while storing and registering these bits of data simultaneously in new blocks.
What’s the difference between Blockchain and Smart Blockchain? Smart Blockchain can classify transactions based on the subject matter. An example is the ability to trade several types of cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherum, Ripple, etc.) in a network comprised of independent Blockchains. This can be done by increasing the number of BPSCs (Block Producer Smart Contract) in the network. The important point to remember is that their subjects are not related to each other.
How is it used in practice? If you’re running a business and you want a smart contract to award £100 to a charity for every 100 Likes on your Facebook page, the “Likes” and “cryptocurrency transfer” are two separate transactions of one project that can be stored and registered by just one BPSC. integrated into one Smart Blockchain. Smart Blockchains have also been harnessed to develop smart energy, by allowing peer-to-peer electricity trading.
Smart solutions in healthcare are collectively known under the term “Smart Healthcare”. Smart Healthcare uses technology that generates better tools to diagnose illnesses and deliver enhanced treatment for patients. In essence, Smart Healthcare refers to a panoply of smart solutions that improve the quality of life for anyone affected.
Smart Healthcare technologies can record health information from increasingly advanced sensors. This data can then be stored and used to deliver personalised advice or to suggest automated actions, either to the doctor or the patient. As such, these smart solutions in the healthcare sector facilitate interaction and engagement with the data, for example, via Virtual or Augmented Reality. This would mean that a patient could slip on a VR headset and see his or her organs in intricate detail, visualising the blocked arteries or the tumour that is to be operated on.
Smart Technology is an umbrella term comprising every form of technology that includes the following:
- Physical sensors that can register data from surroundings.
- Computational capacity to stock and examine the data.
- Actionable advice that’s uniquely tailored to the doctor or patient as the end-user.
Two key smart solutions offered by Smart Health technologies include eHealth and mHealth:
- eHealth is the use of information and communication technology (ICT) for health. Examples in practice of how eHealth is used include research, healthcare training, tracking diseases and monitoring public health on a wide scale.
- mHealth is short for mobile health. It’s one of the smart solutions of eHealth. Essentially, mHealth is a medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices. These could be mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other patient-monitoring wireless devices.
Around 300,000 retail outlets trade in UK, making competition fierce. To get an edge over their competitors, retail stores are adopting smart retail practices for greater efficiency and turnover. Find out what smart retail is, the benefits and examples of smart stores you’ll find on your local highstreet.
What is smart retail?
Smart retail encompasses a set of smart technologies used together in a retail shop. These are designed to give the consumer smart solutions when shopping for a faster, easier and safer customer experience. Since almost everyone carries a smartphone, it can be connected to a store’s internal communication devices. Smart retail is based on connectivity, integration and analytics of big data.
What are the benefits of smart retail?
- Lower costs - The retailer no longer needs to employ expensive, skilled human resources since the implementation and operation of PCs, cash registers, advertising displays and electronic shelf labels can all be seamlessly integrated. This empowers retailers to compete in the retail market and focus on their core business.
- Understand consumer behaviour - Retailers can use smart retail data analytics to understand what their customers want. This empowers them to tailor their advertising and offerings based on key customer metrics, such as the number of people in the vicinity of the retail outlet, where potential customers are headed, in what numbers and what interests potential purchasers most.
Examples in UK retail stores
Retail shops across Britain are adopting virtual voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, to reduce energy consumption. This can be done by setting rules and triggers. For example, once business trading hours for the day has come to an end (e.g. at 18:00), the retailer could ask Amazon’s Alexa to turn the heater off.
Salons and hairdressers often use lots of energy-consuming appliances. The hairdresser can ask Amazon’s Alexa to keep certain appliances on while turning others off. The controller can also view data analytics metrics to see which appliances consume the most energy, making room for energy-efficient practices to reduce consumption and lower salon energy bills.
What is smart farming?
Smart farming is the combined application of modern ICT solutions (Information and Communication Technologies) in the sector of agriculture. These include:
- Sensors, actuators and other precision equipment.
- Geo-positioning systems.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones).
What are the benefits of smart farming?
Smart farming can deliver a more sustainable and productive agricultural yield, empowering farmers to make better and more informed decisions with the objective of enhancing operations.
Which smart solutions are used?
Smart farming uses the following smart technology to provide smart solutions for the benefit of agricultural workers and their farms:
- Sensors - used for scanning soil, water, light, humidity and temperature to enable better management decisions.
- Telecommunications technology - such as the Global Position System (GPS).
- Hardware and software - to facilitate the integration of smart solutions via the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and automation.
- Data analytics - used to make informed decisions and precise predictions on things such as weather changes or crop health. As data continues to grow and accumulate, the storage and computing of data analytics are crucial for this smart solution to work on a smart farm.
- Satellites and drones- used to gather information on a very large agricultural field. The data collected is then transmitted to IT systems and analysed to facilitate remote monitoring of crops, animals, climate changes and farm equipment.