Why homes of the future should be IoT ready

From smart devices with hundreds of functionalities to intelligent kitchen appliances that cook delicious food automatically, technological advancements have brought home control to our fingertips.

In less than a century technology has taken us from patchy electricity supply to almost universally grid-connected Australian homes; from washing machines where you squeezed water from your clothes with a hand-turned mangle, to smart machines that automatically switch on when electricity prices are low and energy supply is plentiful. Indoor climate control has met climate change and the energy transition, and the result at the peak of summer is not always pretty. But once again, technology has been refined, to now optimise our use of labour-saving, comfort-promoting and security devices to reduce energy consumption.

We can have it all with new intelligent home-management systems such as ABB-free@home, which can be wired, wireless or in hybrid combination to both suit new builds and delight renovators.

Whatever the architecture of your home, you can wake up as electric blinds raise to let in light, with the smell of freshly, automatically brewed coffee and the dulcet tones of your favourite music, or not-so-dulcet but informative morning news.

Free@home geofencing which uses global positioning systems (GPS) to register when you’re on your way home, can turn on heating or cooling, illuminate your driveway with welcoming light and open your gate as you approach. It works the other way, too: recognising when you’ve left home, it can be programmed to automatically turn off lights and dial down your heating or cooling system to an optimum maintenance temperature that will again save you money when it needs to ramp up to comfortable levels for humans at home.

Return on investment

As luxurious as this all sounds, a smart home is no longer a luxury. The cost of installing fully integrated systems that can be controlled via smartphone, tablet or voice technology has fallen dramatically in recent years as sensors and software are more widely applied. The use of commonly understood, brand agnostic electronic systems and protocols by ABB, also means more third party applications, and a vast range of appliances can be easily incorporated by installers.

Saving energy is also not a privileged pursuit. Any home budget can benefit from technology that turns off lighting and appliances as you leave the house, and plugs the washing machine, pool filter and dishwasher into off-peak, cheaper energy. In addition, research has shown that the average household can save 6% on heating if the thermostat-controlled temperature is set just one degree lower.

In fact, your personal internet of things (IoT) can quickly pay for itself in savings and help reduce your household carbon footprint.

Carbon reductions

Last year the ABC reported that Australian households are responsible for around 20% of our country’s emissions. The average household generates between 15 and 20 tonnes of CO2 per annum — among the very highest in the world —   and Greenwire Consulting estimates that electrical appliances: air-conditioners, lighting, fridges,  ovens, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and so on are responsible for some 45% of that output — unless you run your home entirely on solar energy.

Although we can manually improve our energy efficiency at home — by turning devices off when they’re not in use, running the aircon a little warmer or cooler depending on the season, closing doors to unused areas when heating or cooling, programming some machines to do their work at midday — in this instance, a smart-home solution has become the ultimate labour-saving device.

ABB-free@home can orchestrate multiple functions and machines, including the soon to become ubiquitous electric vehicle charger and rooftop solar supply for optimal electricity use and savings.

Blueprint for a sustainable home

Free@home showed its strengths in South Australia’s first 10-star-rated energy efficient house (most Australian homes are 6-star rated), designed by the SUHO consultancy for maximum sustainability. The SUHO 10-star house uses ABB-free@home to automate many of its key features  — such as optimal temperature-controlling ventilation and the ABB TerraAC wallbox EV charger — that make it both comfortable and energy efficient, and also to provide feedback to the occupants on their energy consumption.

The building’s design is set to provide the blueprint for future energy efficient housing in Australia.

Safe and future ready

Security is an essential part of a comfortable life at home, and ABB-free@home can integrate the features of ABB-Welcome, a door communication system that enables full control of entrances (gates, doors, garage doors and lift access) from within the home and remotely. Boosting security and convenience, ABB-Welcome coordinates audio and camera technology, and the locking and opening of entrances via an indoor control panel, a tablet or a smartphone.

Both ABB-free@home and ABB-Welcome have been designed so that functions can be incorporated and used individually or in tandem with others. Opening an exterior gate, for example, can be linked to lighting the path to your door. Switching on a home-entertainment system can be accompanied by a dimming of lighting.

This year, ABB partnered with Samsung Electronics to bring more holistic technologies for energy saving and energy management to market. We’re developing a combined platform for innovation that combines smart technology, smart control and smart devices. ABB-free@home already enables control of 65 functions via control panel, smart device or voice-driven technologies such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistants, and we’re constantly expanding the range of third-party devices that integrate with the system.

Homeowners can start small in their connected personal internet of things, and add capabilities as their family grows, or as EVs and battery energy storage options become more affordable. A smart home system will allow you to balance the comforts and emerging brilliant technologies of modern life with energy economy.

Learn more about how ABB is helping electrify Australian homes.

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About the author

Sunil Abraham

As the Technical Promotion & Design Manager for Building & Infrastructure within ABB’s Electrification business, Sunil represents ABB’s Building Automation portfolio to enable our customers – from building owners and facility managers and engineering consultants to builders, electrical contractors and system integrators – to design and construct the smart, sustainable and digital buildings of the future. Sunil has more than 13 years of industrial experience managing and delivering complex projects in various industries including building, infrastructure and oil & gas segments. Sunil holds a Bachelor of Technology from the National Institute of Technology Calicut, India, and is a Member of Engineers Australia. He also holds memberships with the Institution of Engineers, India and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
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