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SMARTER SMART HOMES: TECHNOLOGIES

,
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Abstract

This paper discusses various aspects of a smart home system especially using a combination of
Power Line carrier, Radio Frequency (RF) and Internet technology to access and control your home.
Current trends, key issues, standards and features of smart home systems are discussed in detail.
MIMOS Smart Home System (BestariHome) design, development and commercial implementation
for 230 units of terrace houses in Johor will be described. Finally, based on our broad experience
from design to implementation some guidelines for smart home system designers and developers are
suggested.

Keywords:

Smart Home Systems, Internet, Standards and Specifications, Security, Home Automation,
Communication, BestariHome

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Today, you can easily control your home’s mechanical systems and appliances over your cellular
phone or Internet, and the lighting in your home can be set to save your money when you leave
the room.

The Internet provides even more incredible access to information and services. We believe that the
Internet will become the next essential utility in the home. Similar to the use of water, electricity
and gas, the Internet will become common and expected.

Smart Home Systems are also known as “Computer Homes”, “Electronic Houses”, “Intelligent
Homes”, “Interactive Homes”, “Home Informatics” and “Home Telematics”.

There have been several smart home projects undertaken by individuals over the last few years.
The most popular of these has been Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ residence on Mercer Island east
of Seattle. The home includes art frames that can display different “paintings” on demand and
customize the music played in a room based on the guest’s preference.

In general, smart homes provide users with security, convenience and energy management
features, as well as having added benefits for disabled individuals.

Figure 1: A Smart Home System with Security, Home Automation and Communication System

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First part of this paper will discuss the basic features of a typical smart home system, the second
part will describe the design and development and implementation of MIMOS Smart Home
Systems (also known as BestariHome). BestariHome was installed commercially for more than
230 units of single-storey terrace houses in Johor Bahru. Finally, we will share our
implementation experience and suggest some guidelines for smart home systems designers and
developers.

2.0 SMART HOME SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGIES

A smart home allows the entire home to be automated and therefore provide ease and convenience
to everyday activities in the home. Automated control, edutainment features, communication
features and smart appliances all contribute to the ease and convenience a smart home permits,
and remote access to these features through telephone or Internet makes it even more convenient.

Table 1 shows the current and future trends in Smart Home Systems. Some of the interesting
features in future Smart Home Systems are such as integrated solution using open architecture and
standards.

Current Future
Affordable by high-end homes Standard features in every home
Vendor dependent Open Standards and DIY Concept
Very expensive maintenance Zero maintenance
Proprietary and Standalone Integrated solution
Not flexible and adaptable to new lifestyle Modular and expandable

Table 1: Smart Homes, Current vs. Future

3.0 ENERGY MANAGEMENT

One of the major benefits of smart homes to consumers is their ability to incorporate energy
management features. One smart home system manufacturer claims to be able to reduce the
electricity bill by 30% depending on the home.

3.1 Lighting

The lights in a smart home can be turned on and off automatically and this will help you save on
your electricity bill. Lights can be turned on only when they are needed. This can be done based
on some sensor input or schedule.

In a typical smart home system whenever a person enters a room in the day time, the system will
open the drapes instead of turning on the lights, but at night it would make sure the lights came on
and they turned off when no one is in the room. This simple automation can prevent unnecessary
waste of electricity.

3.2 Heating and Air Conditioning

The water heating and air conditioning can be more efficiently controlled by a smart home system,
saving tremendously on the cost of maintaining a consistent temperature within a large house. One
smart home had an estimated heating bill of only one third of a normal house of the same size.

The smart home system saves money by simply being more efficient but added savings can be
made because the house can be set to turn off air conditioning when no one is in the house.

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3.3 Energy Usage Monitoring

Smart homes can even go further in energy management by keeping track of the energy usage of
each and every appliance in the house, from the coffee maker o the washing machine. Such
features allow you to know what is using too much electricity and adjust things accordingly. An
appliance that is using too much energy can be turned off when it is not needed and help lower the
costs.

4.0 SAFETY AND SECURITY

The smart home systems allow to incorporate for greater features than the traditional alarm
systems.

4.1 Safety

Safety features can do much more in a smart home than traditional alarm systems. Since almost
every element in a smart home is networked together, an alarm can set into action any number of
things.

One such smart home would not only set off alarm when it detected a fire but would also turn on
lights to show occupants the safest route out. Furthermore, it will unlock the doors, open windows
to allow smoke to be ventilated, turn off all the appliances and dial (through autodialer) to the
nearest fire and rescue services.

A burst pipe results in the water being shut off and the occupants being alerted. All hazardous
appliances can also be shut off when the homeowners are away. All of these are possible because
of the home networking of the various elements within the home.

4.2 Security

Some of the features of the traditional burglar alarm system include turning on and off lights when
no one is at home and using video cameras to show the home owners who is coming up the
driveway. In a smart home, sensors and video cameras are used to detect outside movement.

If the security system senses an intruder, for example, the smart home system will trigger the
camera to take a picture, digitize it and send it to the homeowner and the police via e-mail.

Figure 2: A special sensor buried at the side of your driveway detects approaching vehicles,
notifies you inside the house and can automatically turn lights and other devices.

When a person or vehicle set off a sensor outside of the house, the smart home system would turn
on the lights, television and video cameras. The image shot by the video cameras would appear on
the television screen for the occupant inside to see what was going on. The turning on and off the
lights has the added benefit of suggesting the presence of people inside the house if no one
actually at home and potentially scaring away would-be intruders.

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When the homeowners goes for a vacation the smart home system can be programmed to on and
off certain lights and appliances randomly that would give an impression the presence of people
inside the house. In case of any intrusion or fire the smart home system will inform the
homeowner through the autodialer. On the other hand, the homeowner can also call the smart
home system through telephone or even PC to find out the status of his house.

5 MIMOS SMART HOME SYSTEMS – BESTARIHOME

5.1 Objectives

The main objectives of this project are as follow:
- To digitize every electronic device in a house.
- To connect and link homes to computers, phones and home appliances.
- To develop a base for learning, working etc.

5.2 Design Principles

The design of the MIMOS Smart Home Systems uses the 3-level generic specification. The 3-
level generic specification is shown in Figure 3. Level 1 is the basic infrastructure, Level 2 is the
Context Specific Requirements and finally Level 3 is meant for User Specific Functions.

Figure 3: The 3-Level Generic Specification

In addition, every level includes the following features:
- Functionality
- Ease of Installation
- Reliability and Maintainability
- Affordability
- Upgradability
- Interactivity
- Flexibility and Adaptability

The design of smart home systems should take into consideration of existing houses and new
houses. Installing smart home systems in new houses (under development) is very straightforward.
This means, any cabling works can be done during the construction stages. However, most of the
existing homeowners don’t like hacking, plastering and repainting of wall is in order to install
smart home systems.

We need to think ways to overcome this problem so that the existing homeowners will enjoy the
benefits of the smart home systems. One of the options is to use existing cables in every home.
We can use the powerline cable to transmit data to control electrical devices in a home. The other
option is using wireless technology. However, to use wireless technology for the entire house is
very expensive.
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Finally, we decided to use the powerline and wireless technology. We choose this option because
it’s more cost-effective, affordable and sustainable. Security portion of the smart home systems
will use the wireless technology while the home automation part will use the powerline
technology.

5.3 Technologies

Using a combination of Radio Frequency (RF) and Power Line carrier technology, BestariHome
allows homeowners to remotely control their home security devices and electrical appliances via
wireless, open standard and modular systems. The system also allows homeowners in any part of
the world to access their home via the Internet and telephone without additional infrastructure
such as fiber optics network and broadband connection.

MIMOS‘ smart home system uses open standard and it is compatible with existing RF and Power
Line standards. The systems are wireless in that some components work on RF while others
require no additional wiring (apart from those already available in a house). This means no
hacking and replastering of existing walls, no cables and wiring charges [1].

5.4 Features

Small and slim wireless sensors are used for home security. These sensors are attached to doors
and windows to detect any break-ins. The sensors communicate with a security console through
RF signals. The security console will trigger the auto dialer to call up to four telephone numbers
(including handphones) to notify any break-ins.

d
c

e

Figure 4: Smart Home Console (c) and Switches (d & e, prototype version) Model

We use powerline technology for home automation which sends signals through the existing
220V/50 Hz AC wiring in the house. Any electrical appliance in the house such as light, fan and
water heater can be controlled with the help of two components; transmitters (eg. console or
remote control) and receivers (eg. switches or plug-in modules). Figure 4 shows the Smart Home
Console and switch prototype. Figure 5 shows the communication architecture of BestariHome.

Figure 5: Communication Architecture of MIMOS Smart Home Systems

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The home owner can remotely control devices in his home by clicking on a couple of menus on
the PC. The PC will send commands to electrical devices via power lines. The home owner can
arm or disarm the alarm system, turn lights on or off lights or any electrical appliances and even
control the sprinkler system to water his garden from any part of the world.

While there are other smart home systems in the market, MIMOS is believed to be the first local
company to come out with a smart home system that can be remotely accessed via the Internet
using dial-up lines. This means the home is connected to the outside world 24 hours a day, 365
days in a year.

5.5 Implementation

The installation of smart home systems in 230 houses was awarded to MIMOS based on tender
bidding process. We were chosen based on our technology advantage.

Since the technology is new and this is the first implementation in Johor, the developer (UDA
Holdings) proposed to install the systems in four show houses as a pilot project. Each of the show
houses comes in different design.

Diagram 1 shows the process that took place during the implementation of smart home systems in
these four show houses.

Wiring and Infrastructure
Works

Installation of Sensors,
Switches & Console

Unit Testing
(Security & Automation)

System Testing, Integration
& Programming

Verification & Approval by
Consultant

Handover to UDA
Holdings

Diagram 1: Smart Home Implementation Process Flow

The system diagram of smart home systems in Bandar UDA Utama, Johor Bahru is shown in
Diagram 2. The location of the sensors, console and other components of smart home systems are
based on the Tender Specification. However, slight changes need to be done based on the system
performance at show houses.

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Diagram 2: System Diagram of Smart Home Systems in Bandar UDA Utama [2]

Once the project consultant approved the installation of smart home systems in the four show
houses, we started to replicate the approved system in the rest of the houses. In the process of
doing infrastructure work (eg. laying cables), we need to work closely with other sub-contractors.

6 HELPING DISABLED AND ELDERLY

Smart Homes for people with disabilities and older people can provide empowerment,
independence and most importantly, choice. Smart home can be offered as an alternative to
residential care, allowing the person to choose to stay at home which for some individuals is
essential for their happiness and well being.

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6.1 Independence

Smart homes allow people with disabilities maintain an active life because most of the everyday
activities in a home are automated. Simple activities such as turning on a light switch or changing
a television channel can be difficult for someone with arthritis or some other inhibiting disability.
Some smart home comes with a built-in speech recognition system which allows lights and
appliances to be turned on or off without the user having to do it manually.

A smart home can be remind people with short-term memory problems to turn off the stove or
even turn the stove off by itself.

6.2 Communication

Smart homes can also help the elderly and disabled by making communication with friends and
doctors easier. The telecommunication features in a smart home systems allow the home owner
notify family and friends in case of emergency [3].

7 KEY ISSUES

Smart Home Systems can both reduce costs and increase productivity and comfort. At the
moment there is no standard guidelines for buyers or developers on the minimum features for a
Smart Home Systems. The relevant authorities should make this guideline available so that the
buyers know what are the basic features available in a Smart Home System.

There are too many proprietary Smart Home Systems in the market. As a result system integration
is one of the major issue when different systems are used in a home. A disciplined approach to
standards and protocols is needed to ensure system interoperability [4].

There is a shortage of trained, knowledgeable and certified professionals in the design,
development, installation and integration of Smart Home Systems. Education and training must
be provided and promoted at all levels (eg. architects, engineers and developers) in all segments of
the industry.

There is a need to have more indigenous Smart Home Systems to fulfill the local needs. The
relevant authorities should encourage more research and development (R&D) activities to
stimulate more indigenous products.

8 STANDARDS AND INFRASTRUCTURES

In general, there are 2 types of standards used for smart home systems; proprietary and open
standard. These standards are becoming more important as the smart home systems expand to
encompass computer and communication networks.

Figure 6: Smart Home Standards adopted around the world [5]

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Table 2 shows some of the standards currently adopted by many smart home systems.

Standard Media Description
The CEBus Standard (EIA-600) is a protocol
CEBus (Consumer All specification developed by the Electronic Industries
Electronic Bus) Association (EIA) to support the interconnection and
interoperation of consumer products in a home.

EHS (European All A European industry and government collaboration
Home System) on home automation.

HES is a standard under development by a formal
HES (Home All Working Group sanctioned by the ISO and the IEC
Electronic System) (International Electrotechnical Commission).
The Home API Working Group is dedicated to
HomeAPI All broadening the market for home automation by
establishing an open industry specification.

HomePlug Alliance Power Line Created to set a technology specification for home
powerline networking.
The Home Phoneline Networking Alliance
HomePNA Phone Line (HomePNA) is an association of industry-leading
companies working together to ensure adoption of a
single, unified phoneline networking standard.
Power line and radio frequency technologies enable
No New Wires Power Line, high-speed communication and extend the reach of
RF the Internet to individual products without adding
new wires.

LonWorks All Home and commercial control network.

The father of Powerline home automation protocols.
X-10 Power Line Facilitates control of electrical devices over
powerline.

Table 2: Smart Home System Standards and Specifications [4]

9 GUIDELINES FOR DESIGNERS AND DEVELOPERS

9.1 User-centered design involves users in the early stage of design, take consideration their
lifestyle [6].

9.2 Work closely with architects, engineers and all the sub-contractors.

9.3 The design of the smart home systems should be user-friendly, modular, adaptable and
affordable. This allows the users to add more features when necessary.

9.4 Smart home systems should be thought of as an essential part of the design process and not an
after-thought.

9.5 Seeing technology as enabling and empowering is essential to the design process, whilst it is
important to recognise that inappropriate design is disabling and unempowering.

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9.6 Assessments and judgements should consider how the person is to interact with the technology
from a psychological, emotional, physical and social perspective [7].

9.7 Technology requires regular maintenance and it is essential that the system is regularly
checked to ensure it still meets the needs it was designed to meet and the costs for this are put
into any designs.

9.8 Training is essential for assessors and for installers and maintenance personnel. Everyone who
encounters the smart home systems should understand what it is supposed to be doing and be
able to assess if it is not performing appropriately.

10 CONCLUSIONS

The degree of confidence in Smart Home technologies is inadequate largely because lack of
awareness and understanding of its value. An integrated communications infrastructure is the
essential foundation in the efficient use of Smart Home Systems.

The housing developers should incorporate affordable smart home features in their developments.
The housing developers, smart home system designers and manufacturers, homeowners and other
related parties should play a prominent role in realizing smart homes in Malaysia [4].

Smart home system designers and manufacturers need to design system, which are cost effective,
reliable, flexible and adaptable using sustainable technologies, open architecture and standards.

MIMOS is putting the wheels in motion for an intelligent, adaptive, scalable and locally
developed smart home system that will allow homeowners manage their homes at the touch of a
button.

REFERENCES

[1] MIMOS, Wireless and Web-enabled Smart Home Systems, IEM Jurutera, January 2001.

[2] BestariHome User Manual, Version 1.0, MIMOS Berhad, 2005.

[3] Anijo Mathew, Smart Homes for the Rural Population : New Challenges and Opportunities,
ACADIA05 Smart Architecture Conference, Georgia, USA, October 2005.

[4] Mohamed Rawidean, Trends and Issues in Smart Home Systems, IEEE RENTAS 2000
Conference, Kuala Lumpur, October 2000.

[5] Kenneth Wacks, Home Automation and Utility Consumer Services, Cutter Info. Corp., MA,
1997.

[6] Ibrahim Mat and Mohamed Rawidean, The Design of Intelligent Traffic Management System
With User Centered Approach, Proceeding TENCON 2000 Kuala Lumpur, September 2000.

[7] Dewsburry G and Edge M, Open House International: Designing the Home to Meet the Needs
of Tomorrow... Today: Smart Technology, health and well-being, Summer 2001.

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