Smart Homes, when will we actually live in them? First, what is a “smart home”? It’s a home in which most products and services are inter-connected, and the underlying technology makes intelligent decisions to manage those services for the benefit of the consumer and service operator. The technologies and communication standards are now reasonably mature.
Opportunities in the Smart Homes
For Imagination, a designer of the building blocks for SoCs* in the smart home, we see many opportunities. The move towards integrating new wireless communication standards, along with advances in microcontrollers are two major opportunities. Many smart home devices, notably sensors, actuators, and controllers, will need to integrate microcontrollers with connectivity. These “always on” devices need low-cost and low-power SoCs to operate for many years, sometimes in harsh environments, and often on battery power alone. While some may harvest power from their environment (e.g. solar, kinetic), in all cases efficient, integrated SoCs are essential.
* A system-on-a-chip (SoC) is a microchip with all the necessary electronic circuits and parts for a given system, such as a smartphone or wearable computer, on a single integrated circuit (IC).
Security is Essential for Smart Homes
Another critical ingredient in accelerating development of the smart home is security. As more smart appliances are connected to the home network it becomes essential to secure those devices and ensure they cannot be hacked or compromised. Imagination has been working on this problem for several years, notably securing all elements within the SoC (not just the MIPS CPU, but also the network stacks and the PowerVR graphics processors), and helping customers avoid security issues that could set smart home programs back several years.
Artificial Intelligence for Smart Homes
There are also opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI). The smart home needs to deliver more than just an app to control a light bulb; it needs to improve beyond simply notifying the user about the status of a device and instead evolve into a system that makes intelligent decisions and manages the home autonomously. AI, whether in the device or in the cloud, becomes an essential part of the solution – that’s where the intelligence truly happens.