Smart Home: startups hand the task of managing energy and residents' comfort over to the home
On Wednesday 19 April, a committee of experts carefully scrutinised 91 projects from startups intended to tackle issues surrounding smart homes.
Two of these experts share their vision with us – we take a look back at the latest smart home trends with David Menga, a researcher at EDF R&D, and Gaël Le Boulch, who manages the co-innovation platform EDF Pulse & You.
The goal of the experts, coaches and members of the EDF Pulse Awards team was to determine an initial shortlist of projects. The process required them to share and compare opinions and analyses and to defend their favourites.
From economic challenges to environmental responsibility, managing consumption remains a key priority for smart homes. The 91 Smart Home projects presented at the EDF Pulse Awards 2017 didn't fail to step up to the plate, with a range of ever more innovative solutions to optimise electricity, water and heating use and improve waste management in the home.
From information to automatic management
While there are already a number of smart thermostats and apps that analyse consumption and provide information to residents, there are now some startups going one step further, using artificial intelligence, algorithm-based calculations and new technology to offer increasingly integrated solutions that can alter consumption in real time. Smart homes are becoming more and more independent in how they manage their consumption. Raising residents' awareness is no less essential, however, in order to continue to change people's consumption habits and behaviours.
As a result, many startups are supplementing their solution with gaming-based awareness-raising programmes that have been proven to be both successful and effective.
The big trend will be energy self-sufficiency at the exactly right moment.
David Menga, EDF R&D
A future where everyone generates electricity?
Energy management also means integrating generation into the home. And to prove it, some of the applications featured new wind turbine and solar kit solutions, which are becoming smaller, simpler and cheaper. "The big trend will be energy self-sufficiency at the exactly right moment," predicts David Menga, a researcher at EDF R&D. "Especially with the French 2020 thermal building regulations that will require all new homes to be energy-positive." This means that electric-powered devices such as radiators will feature storage and will also be connected to a central automated energy management system.
Smart homes – creating a bubble of comfort and security
It's a sign of the times – homes are seen as a protective cocoon around a household rather than just a roof over their residents' heads. From this viewpoint, it's up to the house or flat to ensure its residents' comfort, peace of mind, health and relaxation.
The participating startups fully grasped this idea, and the projects submitted to the EDF Pulse Awards 2017 focused heavily on smart leisure and comfort, personal assistants, and solutions designed to improve senior citizens' independence.
Candidates also took a new approach to the key issue of security with, for example, several projects dedicated to entry videophones coupled with an electronic lock that can be controlled remotely using a smartphone. These systems are a response to new and fast-growing practices that are linked to sharing economy solutions (AirBnB, shared parking spaces, etc.).
People want peace of mind when they're at home – they don't want extra technological stress by making it a smart home.
Gaël Le Boulch, EDF Pulse & You
Moving towards ease of use
But as Gaël Le Boulch, who is responsible for open innovation for EDF's residential customers, reminds us, "people want peace of mind when they're at home – they don't want extra technological stress by making it a smart home." In other words, it's out of the question to pack homes full of sensors, clutter them with smart objects whose purposes are poorly defined, or offer incomprehensible interfaces under the pretext of improving comfort. A great deal of startups have already understood the importance of making their products easy to use. Their priority is making existing home electrical equipment smart rather than forcing consumers to purchase new smart devices.
Some are already offering what will probably be the next step in smart homes: software platforms that are capable of managing all of the systems in place within a home. In the same way as no-one wants three or four remote controls for their television, it's a sure bet that no-one will want to increase the number of systems needed to control their smart home. The future lies in connectivity, and above all, in simplicity.