In a world where technology is penetrating almost every aspect of life, it’s only natural that our homes are starting to be filled with increasingly smart devices.
From robot vacuum cleaners to automatic light bulbs, a wide variety of home products are now available that are designed purely to make our lives easier.
According to YouGov, more than two in five Brits now own some kind of smart home technology. Innovation specialists MPA Group examine the companies making these innovative products and how they are transforming homes across the country.
Smart locks are starting to render the traditional key a thing of the past. Connected to the internet, the locks allow people to access their homes using their smartphones, with different models offering their own combination of features.
ZKTeco is an industry leader in the research and development of biometric verification. Their workforce includes around 1,000 staff dedicated to R&D and this emphasis on innovation comes across in its products.
The company produces a range of smart locks, all of which draw upon their heritage in biometrics by incorporating fingerprint technology. The lock recognises pre-set familiar fingerprints and allows or denies access accordingly. There’s also a smart card reader and password keypad, providing multiple options for entry. All data from the lock is stored and can be downloaded, so users can monitor who has been visiting.
Another high-tech option in this field is Candy House’s Sesame Smart Lock. The startup was launched after a crowdfunding campaign and offers a more affordable alternative to the ZKTeco.
The Sesame works with various smart home platforms and as such can be unlocked, amusingly, by uttering the words ‘Ok Google, open Sesame’. The most unique feature, however, is its knock-to-unlock ability. If you’re in the vicinity of the lock and own an iOS device, you can knock three times on the phone to gain access to your home.
Food and drink
Modern kitchens are full of technology and it is getting more and more advanced every year. One simple, but incredibly useful, device comes from Smarter, whose Smarter Coffee - 2nd Generation product lets you make a hot drink from anywhere, at any time.
Using their smartphone app, users can schedule drinks, adjust the desired strength and type of coffee and see how much water is left in the kettle.
As an official Amazon Alexa partner, Smarter Coffee can be activated by voice, but impressively it can also be linked to smart locks, so that the kettle starts boiling as soon as you arrive home.
In the food department, TMIO’s multi-award winning refrigerated ovens truly stand out from the crowd. People can load chilled food into the device and it will keep it refrigerated for as long as required. Then, at a prescheduled time, it will switch on the heat and cook the meal like a standard oven.
Alternatively, if users are unsure what time they will return home, they can just use the company’s app to turn up the temperature whenever they are approaching.
It’s not just inside the home that technology is advancing, but in the garden too.
RainMachine produces a variety of intelligent irrigation systems that help to keep gardens healthy while conserving water. Its Forecast Sprinklers connect to the internet and use multiple weather sources to assess whether or not the plants need watering. This advanced system helps reduce the amount of unnecessary sprinkling.
People can monitor the devices using apps and can manually control and activate the watering by voice.
Safe as houses
As with any technology in the modern world, there are always going to be questions about whether smart home devices are really that secure. Any software connected to the internet is unavoidably at risk of some form of hacking and a recent Which? investigation found that home devices can be accessed remotely “in a matter of days”.
Nevertheless, the potential of and market for smart home devices is enormous and progress is showing no sign of stopping.
All of the aforementioned companies have taken existing products and developed them to the next level. Such development is a prime example of the sort of work that qualifies for the government’s Research & Development Tax Credits Scheme. Eligible companies can claim back a proportion of their Research & Deevlopment expenditure as tax credits, in an effort to encourage innovation and progress.
We are probably only at the beginning of realising the potential of smart technology in the home and such financial incentives will prompt further research in the area.