SMART HOME SENSOR NETWORKS
Smart homes generally refer to residential structures with a high level of automation and interactivity between electronic and mechanical systems
What We Learned from the Dialogue
Smart homes generally refer to residential structures with a high level of automation and interactivity between electronic and mechanical systems, such as the following:
These devices are increasingly controlled remotely by voice or applications on smartphones and tablets. Smart offices is a similar concept applied to business venues.
Smart home technology can improve convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security of a home or just provide an increased quality of life. Smart homes are often adjacent to “Internet of Things” discussions and futurism, where every electronic device in a home can be controlled remotely, or communicate with other devices, via the Internet. One often-cited idea is a medicine cabinet automatically communicating with a pharmacy to have its contents restocked when they run low.
Other advances in smart home technology include monitoring children, displaying virtual art upon the walls, feeding pets, broadcasting alerts and maintenance reminders, measuring air quality, and detecting seismic activity, water levels and fires. Smart home sensor networks also have the ability to send and receive messages based on user-generated triggers.
Today’s smart homes systems can range from extremely simple to notoriously complex. The main limitation to bringing these flexible systems to scale is they are not yet interoperable. In addition, many of the current smart home solutions are perceived as luxury goods, and not fulfilling a high-demand need. For these reasons, smart home technology was only moderately attractive as resilience-strengthening solutions to community members and experts engaged in the global dialogue.
Community members were significantly more excited by the idea of a home or office building with sensors for fire, earthquake, gas leaks and even pollution, as opposed to the more convenience or entertainment-related use cases. They also preferred the use cases that involved disaster-resistant technologies, such as computer-controlled wind and water barriers that would protect a home’s interior from damage. They requested that these solutions be programmed to alert the building’s occupants and emergency responders when a risk presents. They also desired the smart homes to automatically take time-sensitive action, such as turning off the gas or bracing the roof for high winds. Some dialogue participants also saw the added safety benefits and would enjoy being able to assess disaster damage remotely and alert authorities in the case of an intruder.
But they also saw several downsides, including the potential for security breaches or hackers taking over control of their homes. And most participants questioned the utility of these high-tech features for resilience-strengthening. They worried that the automation would lead to over reliance on computers, which would not likely work in an emergency. Community members also showed concern that they could erode traditional coping skills and make people “lazy.” Finally, they noted that disasters commonly disrupt electricity and homeowners would need alternative ways to access and operate in their homes during those periods. To make smart home sensor networks most helpful for disaster-prone, urban communities, developers will need to address these and other barriers.