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Developing Smart Home Concept Information Technology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 4223 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Maslows hierarchy of needs theory published in 1943 stated that shelter is one of the basic human physiological needs for survival. Shelter not only provides protection but as well as a home to us. Home is an important place as it is a place where most people spent the majority of their time (especially older people) and it affects the quality of life. Therefore, it is certain that the constant upgrading of the living environment plays an important role in improving the quality of life. A step towards this goal is the smart home environment.

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Smart homes are equipped with sensors and technology that assist the user and help him in many conceivable situations. They are technologically more advance than ordinary homes which have a central command (either automation or by user) to all appliances of the house and allow the appliances to interact with each other. Thus, by setting an alarm for the wakeup call in the morning, the user can then ensure that the bedroom lights will be switched on, the water will be heated for shower and also a cup of fresh hot coffee will be prepared for breakfast right after the shower.

The benefits of smart home can be endless, starting from an easy gate access to effortless irrigation of the garden. Smart home not only make daily routine convenient but also helps in saving energy consumption. As security is the most widely deployed application in smart homes, the increase in security breach and theft is driving people to pay more for a secured home. According to MarketsandMarkets Research, the global smart home market is expected to grow at 15.6% from year 2010-2015. There will be an increasing demand of smart homes in the future as it improves the living standard.

Smart home is not a new concept and was first introduce in the late 90’s in the United Kingdom. However, this concept is still relatively ‘fresh’ in Malaysia. Most developers and buyers generally do not have a very clear idea of the concept thus it is still comparatively unpopular. Therefore, a study is conducted with the aim to promote the development of smart homes in Malaysia by creating public awareness towards the smart home concept. A better understanding of the concept will proportionally increase the demand of smart homes thus promoting the smart home development in Malaysia.

Problem Statement

As smart home concept is still relatively new in Malaysia, many people are still unclear about the concept of smart home. Most of them have limited knowledge and information about smart home and unsure how it works. They are unaware that smart home provide numerous benefits and improve living standards. It is a common believes that smart home system requires high maintenance and is much more complicated to operate than conventional type of house. However, this is not true because the system is very user-friendly and easy to use.

This old-fashioned mindset drives the potential buyers away from investing in smart home, causing the developers to focus more on conventional housing development rather than smart home development, which assure a more steady profit. Therefore, the increase of buyer’s knowledge in smart home is vital as it helps to boost up the smart home demand in Malaysia, further promoting more smart home development.

1.2 Aim

This project was conducted with the aim to study and identify the demand of smart home in Malaysia. This will allow the author to figure out the current trend and demand of smart home as well as the respondents’ knowledge in smart home concept. Although smart housing development have been highlighted by the Ministry of Housing Development but the concept is still new and more exposure should be made on this concept. This is because smart home not only create a higher living standard but also a form of ICT development that met our nation’s 2020 vision.

1.3 Objectives

There are two objectives in this project. The first objective is to understand the concept of smart home. A higher level of understanding the smart home concept will allows the readers or potential buyers to generate a better perception towards the concept thus promoting it. Therefore, they will be inclined to invest in smart home as they can foresee the benefits of smart home.

The second objective is to create awareness of smart home concept among the public. Although the public are beginning to show interest on the concept of smart home, however the number of such projects is still low. Only high-end houses are equipped with smart home systems whilst it is still not popular among the others. Thus the author hopes to increase the public interest towards the smart concept which will eventually raise the demand of smart home in the housing industries.

1.4 Scope & Limitation

This study will be conducted in Kuala Lumpur areas only due to transportation difficulties and financial constrain. Research will be conducted on respondents from various ages whom are working and have the capabilities to own a house or currently owning a house. Questionnaires will be distributed as it is the most cost effective and least time consuming in order to save time and money. However, the feedback will only be considered as valid from respondents with a salary range from RM2000 and above as they are considered to have the capabilities of owning a house.

CHAPTER 2 – Preliminary Literature Review

2.1 Introduction to smart home concept

Smart homes uses various electronic networking technology to integrate with most of the devices and appliances that can be found within the house, so that the entire home can be controlled centrally or remotely via one touch command by the user and as a single machine (Mark Pargnell et al. 2000). Way back in year 1999, when smart home were newly introduced, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Chartered Institute of Housing United Kingdom offers one of the best description of smart home concept:

“Cars have central locking, electric windows, remote controlled mirrors, CD auto changers – and the rest! And factories, offices and shops are often highly automated, giving staff control over their environments, and making buildings more efficient. But you don’t find that sort of thing in people’s homes much … or do you? We do have remote controls for our TVs, we do have smoke detectors and passive infra-red burglar alarms, and we do have timers on our central heating. But all these devices are separate entities. Each affects only one activity or aspect of the home. Smart Homes are about something much more exciting. They are about using the latest information and communications technology to link all the mechanical and digital devices available today – and so create a truly interactive house”

Since then, numerous definition of smart home has been developed for further understanding. Below are a few examples of definition of smart home:

A smart home is a term that used to describe any home system that has a computer controlled automated system. It is made up of one or more computers that control multiple functions inside the house, for instance ventilation and lighting system. The smart home also allows for a series of appliances that are interlinked with each other. These appliances in the house can be networked and operated in a way that can be accessible from anywhere else outside the network. (Joey Sichol et al, 1996)

The smart home concept is seen by some experts as an obvious progress of home healthcare technology, which enables the house to facilitate the necessary support for individuals to stay in their own home rather than being forced into a sheltered or institutional setting. (Bradley D. et al, 2001)

The smart home is an application of the Intelligent Building concept to the residential property. Example of intelligent buildings is one that can provide a comfortable and productive environment through the automated control systems such as HVAC, fire safety, security and energy/lighting management. A central device is needed to control the building services. (Keith C. and Kevin M., 2002)

According to Rao and Cook, smart home can be seen as an intelligent agent that perceives the environments through the use of sensors, and can act upon the environment through the use of actuators. Examples of sensors are motion sensors, magnetic sensors, vibration sensors, floor sensors, smoke sensors and others. Ultimately, smart home can reduce the cost of maintaining the home and maximizing the comfort of its inhabitants.

Furthermore, Intertek identified smart home must at least have three components to make it smart, which are internal network such as wire, cable or wireless; intelligent control, the gateway to manage the smart home systems; and the home automation, in which the products within the homes can links to services and systems outside the home. A home that only contain motion sensor to turn on or off the lights cannot be considered as a smart home. It must equipped with a wide scope of computing and information technology which comply with the needs of occupants, providing comfort, convenience, security as well as entertainment in many ways through the management of technology within the home and connection to the world beyond (Florian Kazmirezak).

There are several smart home projects undertaken by individuals over the last few years. Perhaps the most popular smart home has been the Microsoft Founder Bill Gates’ resident which was located at Mercer Island east of Seattle. The home includes electronic art frames that can change “paintings” on demand and music customization played in a room based on the user’s preference.

In general, smart homes provide security, comfort, convenience, energy management features, as well as smart care for the disabled individuals.

2.2 The technologized home – How it works

According to Briere and Hurley (1999), a smart home is a harmonious home, a conglomeration of devices and capabilities working according to the Zen of Home Networking. Smart home can be justified as a range of technologies that come under the heading of assistive or augmentative technologies. It can be split into two major categories which are active devices and passive devices. Examples of active devices are control panels, remotes and switches in which the user will directly interact and use. On the other hand, passive device are sensors and receivers, in which the user will not have any direct contact with it, and it will enhance and empower the living experience of the occupants.

However, problems arise in connecting different sensors and gadgets and how to ensure that they cooperate well. One of the technologies that most smart home used is the X-10 Power Line Carrier System (PLC) technology, which acts as the backbone behind the smart control and monitoring system. X-10 is a type of “language” that allows the X-10 transmitters and receivers or any other compatible products to communicate with each other via internal wiring in the building. The PLC system is made of two major units, the transmitter and the receiver. These transmitters and receivers are generally plugged into the standard electrical outlets while some can be inserted in-line with the electrical devices. Transmitters can induce “on”, “off” or “dim” commands to the receiver unit to be controlled along the existing power line. The receivers then picks up the signal and execute the command. A single controller is powerful enough to receive up to 256 combinations of signal and control up to 256 units of receivers. However, the transmission signal can travel out over the internal wiring in the building. Therefore, it is possible to control the receivers wirelessly via mobile phones, computers, and remote control where the receiver is set to a certain unit address and ignore the commands that are not addressed to them.

Below is a general arrangement layout for the system that shows how it works. The expansion of the system is possible by simply installing additional transmitter and receiver modules.

2.3 Criteria of smart home

2.3.1 Automation

The idea of home automation is by employing different kinds of sensors and control systems to monitor a dwelling, and later adjusting the other devices that provide heat, ventilation, lighting and etc. The automated home is aim to provide a more safe, comfortable and economical environment which meet the occupants’ needs. For example, the electronic sensors of an automated home can determine whether the occupants have gone to bed therefore dim the lights and lower the fan speed of the air-conditioner. In year 2006, Ha et al. presents a new type of sensor-based indoor location-aware system which can indentify the resident’s location within the house. These sensors can also switch on or off the lights accordingly to the user’s movements which in-turn lowers the electrical usage.

2.3.2 Energy Management

With increasing awareness of environmental issues and global warming effects, the need of energy management in every home is a must. This can be achieved by interpolating the automation system into the smart home system to reduce the overall energy usage. Through effective energy management the waste of energy can be minimized and energy can be used efficiently. For instance, the irrigation system will only irrigate the garden during a hot and sunny day when the ambient temperature is high and the ground moisture level is low. It is to avoid wastage and only water the plants when necessary but not at specific time regardless the weather changes. On the other hand, the automation system will turn off the lighting and ventilation system when it does not receive any movements inside the house. In addition, the smart home system can also gather information about various home appliances monitor their energy usage and later determine the optimum level of energy usage for each appliance.

2.3.3 Remote Access

One of the main concepts in designing for a smart home environment is by using a “residential gateway”, which means that the user will be able to control and manage the home appliances, switches and motors by using a form of smart services. One example of theses smart services can be referred as remote access. Remote access allows the users to control the all the appliances just in one touch to the remote controller. In spite of ordinary build-in remote controller, users now can also control the appliances by using the technological devices. These devices include mobile phones, personal computers, tablets, and external remote controllers, which are commonly, interfaced with Bluetooth and GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) modules. With these control, the user will be able to tell the system to operate as desired while located at distance from home.

2.3.4 Security

Security is an important criterion as a result of increasing crime rate within the neighborhoods. Traditional security system has alarms and CCTV for monitoring the outside movement however they are normally not interlinked together. However, for smart security systems, the CCTV will capture the trespasser’s picture and sent it to the house owner’s personal computer or hand phone for verification purpose. Once the owner fails to identify that person a security alarm will be sent to the nearby police station. Another example of smart security system is that when the occupants are away for vacation or out-station, he can set the security system to turn on the lighting periodically to suggest the presence of people inside the house when actually there is no one in. This will reduce the risk of burglary and scare off the potential intruders.

2.3.5 Safety

Safety is an important criterion as a one of the function of home is to secure the occupants from danger. The safety features in smart home can function much more efficiently than the traditional home as all the appliances are interlinked together. Smart home will set off the alarm when the fire and smoke sensors detected a fire and show the occupants an emergency route to escape. In addition, it will also automatically shut the doors and windows to prevent the spread of fire and turn on the ventilation system to release the smoke. All electrical devices will be shut down and seek for rescue from the nearest fire department through the autodialer. In addition, all unnecessary appliances will be automatically turned off such as gas pipe for safety purpose when the owners are away from home.

2.3.6 Convenient

Smart home also provide numerous conveniences to the occupants in their daily routine. One simple example is that the smart home technology allow for several types of power output in a single output socket so that the user will not have to attach different adapters for different appliances. In addition, the kitchen appliances will automatically cook the food and switch off after done cooking. Thus the occupants can enjoy their meal after back from work without having to rush for preparation as they can prepare in advance. This will directly save a lot of time and effort of the occupants and allows them to have more time to rest and relax.

2.4 Future Improvements of smart homes

It is not only important that the smart home system to dim the light at certain times, but also relatively important for the system to understand what is the purpose of dimming the light. To understand the context of an action is not an easy task and many researchers have established method and solutions in handling these type of information.

2.4.1 Ambient Intelligence

Juan Carlos Augusto and Paul McCullagh (2007) have come out to a solution in connecting every part of a residence and the missing link to the world beyond by introducing the concept of Ambient Intelligence (AmI). The Ambient Intelligence should be able to gather different types of information from the environment and in order to handle it. These information can be further divided into 5 types: Who, Where, What, When and Why. With these information the concept of ambient intelligence should be able to save the different gathered information and later interpret the data and reacts in a way that serves the comfort of an inhabitant. Below is a chart that describes the flow of data within such system for better understanding of the concept.

Decision Making

Discovery & Learning


AI reasoning

Knowledge Repository

Middleware (Internal Computer)


Environment – Interactors (Human)

The flow chart above shows that the interactors, for instance human, will interacts with the sensor and the data will be sent to the middleware. The middleware, such as internal computer will process the data and the data or information gathered will be stored in the Knowledge Repository system for future use. This concept is based on the principle in understanding the intentions and behavior of the inhabitants which requires a strong middleware to interpret the data which is relatively difficult.

2.4.2 Context based reasoning

Tinghuai Ma and et al from China had designed a context based database to store various situations and emphasized in how they can distinguish these situations. The divided a context into 3 major categories such as environment, user’s activity and user’s physiological state, which later the major categories will further subdivided into subcategories.

A context based reasoning system is a system that will compare an occurring situation with the saved ones now. It will attempt to act like before or create a new rule and orders for new situations. The system itself will mainly base on “similar problems with similar solutions” and the users are able to adjust the case for different circumstances and the system again will store it as a new case.

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CHAPTER 3 – Research Methodology

3.0 Introduction

There are two types of data source in this project namely primary data and secondary data. Primary data are data that are collected from first-hand sources such as interviews, questionnaires and observations. It was not published and changed or altered by others. Secondary data are data that has already been published in books, magazines, journals, newspapers and articles. It is important as majority of the literature review is based on secondary data.

3.1 Primary Data

For this project, the questionnaire survey approach has been adopted to understand the current demand of smart home in Malaysia. Questionnaire is a list of research or survey question designed to extract specific information. It has three main purposes: to collect data, to make data comparable for analysis and to minimize bias by distributing to wide range of respondents.

Therefore a survey of interest of potential buyers towards smart home was conducted to determine level of understanding the smart home concept and the current demand of smart home in Malaysia. The survey was chosen because it can cover for large (n>30) samples. As stated in the rule of thumb, a sample size of 30 will be sufficient to obtain an accurate statistical result. The data collection method was from questionnaire, which was pretested before distributed to the public. This is to ensure that the questionnaire is error free and to avoid any misunderstanding.

3.1.1 Preparation of Questionnaire

The questionnaire was divided into three parts. The first part of the questionnaire contained demographic questions, such as gender, age, sex, monthly income and etc. The second part of the questionnaire contained structural questions relating to the knowledge of respondents towards smart home concept and the local demand of smart home. The majority of these questions required the respondents to answer yes or no while others required them to rate on a 5-point Likert scale. The last part of the questionnaire included some open-ended questions which allow respondents to voice out their opinion.

3.1.2 Research Location and population

According to Sambasivan and Soon (2007), the heterogeneity of the respondent is important as they represent the ‘true’ data of research. Therefore, the heterogeneity was maintained in the survey by approaching the public which are from various ages and background which representing the others buyers across the housing market. Note that only respondent which are working and have a salary income of above RM2000 per month are considered as potential buyers and feedback from them are valid. However, due to time and financial constrain, the questionnaires were only distributed to respondents living around Kuala Lumpur areas only in order to save time and money. 150 sets of questionnaires were distributed to the respondents by hand and emails and was assumed that only 50 feedbacks are valid.

3.1.3 Data Analysis

A statistical test was carried to identify the relationship between the level of understanding of smart home concept and its demand. Hypotheses were formed as below:

Null Hypothesis, H0 : Level of understanding in smart home concept

will not affect the demand of smart home

Experimental Hypothesis, H1 : Level of understanding in smart home concept

will affect the demand of smart home

After forming the hypothesis Pearson’s correlation test was done to measure the relationship of both factors. The below formula was used for calculation:

The level of statistical significant was 5% (0.05), which means that the null hypothesis is rejected (and the experimental hypothesis is accepted) if the probability that the results were due to chance alone is 5% or less. (Coolican, H. 1994). Therefore, if the critical value from person’s correlation table of significant is less than the calculated value, the null hypothesis will be rejected while the experimental hypothesis will be retained.

3.2 Secondary data

Secondary data is useful for understanding the concept of smart home. Sources of secondary data are from published book, journals, newspaper and etc. Secondary data was relatively important as it contributed more than ninety percent of the content of literature review. By using secondary data from various sources the author were able to present a more comprehensive and intensified outcome thus achieving the goal of this project.



















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