Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Smart Homes Not That Smart

_DSC4043Singapore’s been talking about smart homes for some time. In the news earlier this week was about the first smart Housing Board homes, which will be launched this month. Just how smart are these smart homes? Not very. In fact, I’d say it’s nothing more than another failed attempt to look good, but barely even succeeding on paper.

I was sorely disappointed. I mean, you’d wonder, just how different is this smart home from our ordinary homes? Well, these new homes will have… don’t hold your breadth, additional power points and data points. Oh wow. That would make the home smart.

Alright, they did say, the housing units themselves are smart-enabled homes. A nice play on the word. The whole announcement was about “smart HDB homes”, but the housing unit itself that you will live in will merely be smart-enabled. That’s so not smart at all.

I mean, how difficult is it to install power points? Does it matter to have additional data points? So many things are wireless anyway. Your smart TV, for example, is getting connected wirelessly, not wired to a data point.

I have so many ideas about smart-enabling a home, that don’t involve power points and data points. I can appreciate that people may not want specific smart solutions pushed to them, like not prescribing a router or wireless system, or household appliance. Or proprietary framework or platform. No, there’s no need to provide a smart TV or smart washing machine. But, that’s not to say that the HDB cannot offer a package to home owners who wouldn’t know otherwise how to make their homes smarter, and thus wouldn’t mind to have some total solutions offered to them.

However, I’m personally more interested in real open smartness bring provided in the housing infrastructure. For example:

  • Remote network controlled switches in every power point and lighting point. There are reasonably established protocols like X10.
  • USB charging outlet in every power point, or at least in a reasonable number of them around the house.
  • True smart power meter supported by variable energy pricing so that we can adjust consumption patterns. You could, for example, have your washing machine run at times of the day when energy prices are lowest.
  • Have the facade covered with louvered solar panels on sliding rails, so we can cover over windows on sunny days, both providing shade and generating power. Hopefully the power can be used within the homes to lessen power usage from the grid.

There is another class of ideas I have, which basically involve both hardware that need to be installed, as well as the provision of an API that users can connect with to do really smart things. I want to stress that it is that provision of public API that makes things really exciting, because it means we can build our own system on top of that API. However, for people who don’t want or don’t know how to build their own system, they could simply buy a solution. So here are the hardware/API ideas:

  • You can call the elevator in advance, as you leave your house, so that you don’t end up waiting for the lift only when you arrive at the lift lobby.
  • Monitor your mailbox, so that you can remotely check if mail has been slotted into your mailbox without having to actually go check on it physically.
  • Build a more comprehensive physical security at the block level. Something smarter than the typical kind you find at private condominium blocks. I’m thinking about remote controlled doors/locks, and other features aimed at both improving privacy and security of the common areas.

The Internet of Things makes possible plenty of exciting solutions, but sometimes we need some support from the infrastructure to make services accessible. You couldn’t do any of those things on your own, because you need to interface with things outside your house. That’s where the HDB can come in to enable these smartness.

Will we get to see any on this in our HDB homes? If we want to talk about smart homes, then we should build real smartness. Power points and data points just sound so lame.

1 thought on “Smart Homes Not That Smart

  1. Agreed.Smarthome can means so many thing to different people.
    Wish HDB can offer real smarthome features to make life easy and convenient.

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