Smarter Homes for the Intelligent Age

October 9, 2018: During the 2018 Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week in Chengdu, a family robot receives warm welcome from kids. IC

Although the concept of a smart home has long existed in Europe and the United States, most Chinese people knew nothing about the idea until the early 21st century. In general, a smart home is a system that connects various devices in a house through Internet of Things (IoT) technology to achieve efficient management of both residential facilities and household maintenance.

After nearly two decades of development, the current Chinese industrial chain for smart homes has matured. As big data continues producing more and more benefits and new technologies emerge one after another, China’s smart home industry is moving toward the IoT era based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Looking to 2019, the development of smart homes in China is expected to exhibit the following features:

AI will become the new backbone of smart homes. Many in the industry expect 2019 to be the year of AI technology. Research and development of increasing numbers of products will harness AI technology. Supported by technologies including big data and cloud computing, products will become smarter and serve people more intelligently. Smart household appliances are just the start: A mopping robot can collect information on the indoor environment and air quality to formulate and update cleaning plans. Smart refrigerators can monitor the shelf life of foods in them and automatically generate menus. Intelligent air-conditioners can connect to smart watches and adjust their output according to users’ health conditions. These products, which sound as if they came from sci-fi movies, are becoming realities in labs, on production lines, and on online and offline sales platforms in China and around the world.

“Full smart homes” are expected to enjoy explosive development in China in 2019. A “full smart home” refers to a package of smart solutions for the whole house, which will be realized through the application of AI technology. A “full smart home” should be the digital equivalent of a housekeeper. Through the connectivity of various smart products, it “learns” the habits of the people living in the house and gets to “know” their daily routines in order to better serve. For example, it automatically turns on and off appliances based on the residents’ schedules without remote control or fixed-point control by humans. When a security problem occurs, a “full smart home” will alert the home owners, identify the intruder, turn off the lights, lock the door, and call the police automatically.

The consumer market will embrace an impressive growth in 2019. The future of smart homes depends on the consumer market, not the originally-targeted corporate customers. This trend will gain more steam in 2019. In recent years, smart products such as intelligent locks and smart sound boxes have witnessed rising usage among Chinese customers, which has increased confidence throughout the industry. The true reason behind the rise of smart products in the consumer market is the surge of consumer demand as China welcomes a major consumption upgrade.

The author is executive editor-in-chief of the journal Smart Home, which focuses on market research of the industry.  

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