When the washing machine talks to the power handlers

Smart Home – what use is it for the consumer?

The smart home idea has been dumping around the country for years now in combination with other smart gizmos, and none of the concepts presented so far has managed even a rudimentary breakthrough. In the past, this was certainly also – but not only – due to the Babylonian language confusion in the protocols used.

At 1. At the 15th plugfest of the EEBus initiative at the VDE Institute in Offenbach, 15 suppliers of hardware and software for what they understand by the term smart home were able to prove that they understand each other technically at their best. The EEBus initiative has not developed a new language, but rather a translation system that simultaneously interprets between the individual protocols.

When the washing machine talks to the power handlers

At the event on 25. and 26. Marz, which was reminiscent of a LAN party of yesteryear, the BMWi demand project "Certification program Smart Home + Building" technology-neutral testing system developed by the VDE for automated testing of interoperability between products and components from different manufacturers. This is intended to provide a further basis for the ramp-up of the smart home market. The test system is intended to give suppliers and customers the certainty that the exchange of information between the individual products also functions in everyday use.

In the sheer joy that the technology works without problems and that it can be offered beyond national borders in the future through international cooperation, no joint marketing approach has been taken so far. This failure may also be due to the fact that the EEBus initiative is required by the government and the results must therefore not be too close to the market.

And so, at the press event for Plugfest, none of the representatives of the participating providers who were present were able to convey what concrete benefit a consumer should derive from a smart home. The only rejuvenation on the subject of marketing was the intention not to leave the market to proprietary systems from Google or Apple and to position oneself against the US providers with an open system. The mere demarcation of companies with considerable marketing power, as is available to the corporations on the other side of the Atlantic, is far from the required "Killer application", which triggers the decisive buying impulse.

Being informed every 15 minutes by a text message about how much electricity the refrigerator is currently using quickly becomes as boring as the app that makes it possible to start the coffee machine from bed in the morning or the refrigerator that has to be fed with the barcodes and then automatically reorders them. At the latest after the third Hawaiian pizza, the savings factor disappears here as well.

In general, the influence of IT technologies on electricity consumption has not been accepted by customers, and even in model tests with selected consumers, a maximum of 8 % of electricity consumption could be shifted in time through tariff arrangements. If you consider the bare figures, this is not surprising: the average electricity consumption for a load of laundry is in the rough order of 50 cents. Compared to the value of the wash, this is negligible and the savings potential is so small that the customer understandably does not take it into account.

Even the report that the refrigerator is not closed and thus increases electricity consumption is certainly not reason enough to invest in so-called home automation. One could, however, determine from the power consumption whether the polystyrene dam of the cow’s locker has since degraded and lost its effectiveness. However, a corresponding module that detects that the dam of the cow cupboard has degraded to such an extent that the cow cupboard should be sent to the recycling center did not make it onto the market because this would have raised the price of the appliance too much.

In the case of cow barriers, the price prere is now so high that the durable vacuum dam presented by Panasonic years ago has disappeared from the market in Europe, even though it was significantly more durable than the usual dam materials. Modules that have been in the pipeline for years, for example, modules that can detect that a washing machine’s heating element is calcified based on the change in power consumption, have obviously fallen victim to the fierce price competition for white goods.

However, the ball iron, which in the past has been repeatedly cited as a useful example of the safety aspect of smart home technology, has in the meantime become so intelligent that even without a smart home it can detect whether it is being operated properly or has been forgotten when switched on, and switches itself off before it melts away on the ball board.

Many smart home systems, for example, are limited to the comfort track and offer lighting controls that provide pre-programmed lighting moods, or roller shutter or blind controls. Blind controls. But these components are so far a rather meager selling point. And there is considerable reluctance to invest even in clever systems that do not require costly additional wiring.

When E.f Germany now wants to offer its customers a box that allows them to compare their electricity consumption with that of their neighbors, they have probably overlooked the fact that while such games are easy to establish in Denmark, they immediately raise fears of espionage among Germans. The electricity supplier could, after all, see what the consumer washes or, even worse, which TV program he watches. The myth that television consumption can be tracked on the basis of electricity consumption dates back to the TV era of Braun’s tubes and is no longer technically possible today.

In addition, consumers in Germany can easily compare their own power consumption with the average consumption of modern devices using a tool from the NRW Energy Agency. A serious problem that has received little attention to date is the security of digital access controls and key systems. The hardware used in the process is becoming faster and faster and at the same time cheaper and cheaper. If today’s computing power is sufficient for the rapid processing of a digital key, in a few years’ time all the relevant algorithms will be able to be calculated in the same amount of time – and the right key will be there, too. To be on the safe side, it was necessary to regularly replace the sealing with an improved one. An effort that the average user is sure to shy away from.

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