Sunday, 2 November 2014

Our homes will soon be like our cars - how to explain the Internet of Things to people like your 90 year old grandfather

I've been looking for a way to describe to my 90 year old grandfather the ‘Internet of Things’. I think I've found a way. I’ll just tell him the Internet of Things (or IoT) will make your home like a brand new car.

The Internet of what?

Recently I tried explaining IoT to my grandfather using the ‘sensors in the sink to stop flooding’ example. Perhaps you've heard it before? 

It goes a bit like this; you have wi-fi connected sensors in a sink, or pipes, and you go away on vacation and you get notified with a text message if there is a blockage and flooding begins, and this will make your life better, as you can call a plumber immediately to go over and fix the problem before it floods your entire house. Further the insurance company will give you lower premiums as these sensors notifying you before the flood event will save your insurance company tens of thousands of dollars in not having to replace carpets, and cupboards etc from the flooding event. Whoa! – sometimes this example can be difficult to explain.  

My grandfather is too old to go on vacations. And my grandfather has probably dealt with dozens of ‘difficult’ insurance claims in his lifetime, so he wasn't really convinced that my IoT example was going to make his life any better.

Recently I read a few good blogs discussing how our cars right now can provide a clear hint as to what a smarthome of the future might look like. Here are some statistics and examples;


  • Digital/electronic keys are found in less than 0.1 % of the residential market, yet digital/electronic keys are found in 70% of cars in the USA (it’s probably closer to 100% in countries like Japan that have a culture of buying new cars every few years, and writing off cars with no value when they hit 100,000 kilometres) – see HuffPost article here 
  • Central door locking is commonplace in cars (see statistic above) but it doesn't it exist in homes. Every time you leave the house, you have to worry if you locked the back door, and walk through the entire house to check the back door is locked. 
  • You cannot buy electronic windows for home that work like cars (there are plenty of products that have actuators to push windows out and in, or motors to rotate louvers in windows, or screens that go on the outside of windows that go up and down with the push of a button). But buying a window or a device that attaches to a window that makes the window slide up and down electronically like in a car, or slide left to right (or right to left), is currently left to hackers and start-ups.
  • The weakest point in a house door which makes it’s easy for criminals to break in (or doors easy to kick in) are in the striker plate and the short screws in the weak wood. It doesn’t make any sense to have door frames in our houses made of wood – they are insecure, and they usually collapse under a little bit of pressure. You generally can’t break down or kick in a door with a metal frame (securely fastened to the house of course). Therefore until we update our front door frames from wood to metal, or better still, adding a metal screen door and metal frame to our house, then a smartlock is not going to make your house more secure. However it will, make your life more convenient in being able to distribute time-sensitive digital keys to friends, family and contractors.


There are plenty of theories as to why our houses are so primitive as compared to our cars, and how this is going to change with Internet of things – e.g see some good explanations here

And here is a comparison table below of smartcars vs smarthomes and how our lives are going to be so much better with smarts.

How our lives are better with ‘smarts’
Car example
House example
What you need to do to smart up your house.
More secure/safer
Alarms can protect your asset, electronic locks make it harder to break into
Alarms can protect your asset, electronic locks make it harder to break into.
Add metal screen doors and frames to your house, replace metal key locks with smartlocks, add alarms.
More efficient
Engines can shut down when in traffic/at lights
Electricity supply can shut down when you are not there/using devices.
Add hubs, sensors and switches to your power supply.
More convenient
Easy to lock all doors and windows by pushing one button on a fob, don’t have to worry if locked or not.
Easy to lock all doors and windows by pushing one button on a fob, don’t have to worry if locked or not.
Put smartlocks into all your doors and windows, add electronic actuators to windows, connect them together.
More comfortable
Heating can be isolated to seats, and adjust itself based on your preferences, and easy to control from a dashboard. Easy to put window down for cool air.
Heating can be isolated to rooms, and adjust itself based on your preferences, and easy to control from a dashboard. Easy to put window down for cool air.
Put in smart thermo’s/hub. Put in actuators/ smartlocks/metal screens into windows.
Save us money
less insurance claims/less reliance on expensive fossil fuels
Less insurance claims/less reliance on expensive fossil fuels
Put in sensors, switches, hubs, smart devices, solar panels.

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