My digital lifestyle

In 1999, before the turn of the century, I was involved in a project called i-Talk, a voice command software developed by an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) graduate and Filipino Zeus Villanueva. Even in its early stage, i-Talk had envisioned a smart home where everything is connected digitally and can be controlled with the power of voice.

However, we faced technological challenges. Slow Internet speed, lack of smart devices, hardware issues including appropriate wireless headsets and electronic household appliances, and the software cannot distinguish between a “noise” and a “legitimate command.”

i-Talk translates everything it hears as command and confuses the system.

Fast forward — 23 years later — smart homes are no longer an idea but a reality. In fact, the technology is available now if you can afford it. Thanks also to the rapid development in Internet speed and the Covid-19 pandemic, the adoption of the digital lifestyle accelerated with a majority of the population relying on smart devices to “get connected” to almost anything and everyone.

With the maturing supporting technologies, the connected or digital lifestyle continues to expand in the Philippines and consumers understand more the value of smart and connected devices.

The rollout of 5G technologies by telecom services providers vastly improved connectivity solutions and networks, easing the burden on mobile networks while paving the road for a smart home shift in consumer demands.

Smart homes are no longer a dream but a reality.

Smart homes

Singapore-based architecture and designs company Park + Associates defined smart homes as: “A smart home device connects to the Internet. Users can access the device, monitor its status, control its functions and/or receive alerts when necessary. These actions occur through an app on the user’s smartphone or through a tablet or computer. A smart home device is a single-point device with the intelligence embedded in the device or combined with intelligence provided by software in the cloud. It typically supports cloud-based data and analytics. Smart home devices operate independently of higher-level controllers. Some communicate with other smart home devices and some reside as a client of a smart home central controller or smart home subsystem. The intelligence can be housed in the device or use software from a cloud platform. Smart home devices can be purchased one at a time, or as a bundle, and may or may not be part of an integrated system.”

A critical component of a smart home is a digital assistant or a home hub. These voice-based platforms are dominated by Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and others.

A digital assistant connects all smart home devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, door locks, televisions, CCTV cameras, lights, sound systems and home appliances such as refrigerators.

More importantly, the central control or digital assistant has self-learning skills using artificial intelligence technologies and could learn the homeowner’s schedule, habits, spending and shopping patterns and make adjustments when needed.

It is not far-fetched for Alexa or Siri to do the shopping for you by buying online if your refrigerator runs out of eggs, milk or supplies and pay using your online bank account, which is also connected to the smart home system. This AI-powered voice technology has evolved so much it is now intuitive to the homeowners’ needs.

Smart watch. | Photograph Courtesy Unsplash/Simon Daoudi


Pros and cons

But while a smart home offers many advantages, particularly central home management and receiving notifications and updates on home issues through your portable device, in addition to efficient cost savings in appliance use, it also opens several disadvantages.

Setting up a smart home is very expensive. It would be best if you had a breakneck internet speed and had to update all your appliances, wearables, etc., into IoTs (Internet of Things) and make them compatible with your digital assistant and smart home system.

Of course, since everything is connected to the Internet, it is open to hacking attacks, with security risks and bugs on top of your many challenges.

Hackers could gain access to your Internet-enabled appliances or devices, including your bank account.

You can mitigate the risks by protecting your smart devices and appliances with a strong password, preferably an encrypted password and connecting your smart devices to a trusted network.

A smart home is a heavy price to pay with steep learning curves. To be clear, leveraging technology and innovation into your smart home will make your life easier. From a simple control of your phone or scheduling your shopping to performing specific tasks, smart homes will revolutionize our lifestyle and how we live, do things, interact with home products and consume energy.

A smart home will be the norm in the coming years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *