Beautiful Thinking.

Championing the Change Makers

Empowering homes with IoT solutions and sustainable innovation

As the cost of living crisis continues to impact families and households across the UK, the joy of Christmas can bring with it a host of concerns. Not only does the addition of festive lights put pressure on electricity bills, children home from school and university as well as hosting family and friends leads to heightened energy use.

In 2021, EDF Energy reported that the UK uses nearly £66 million of electricity – just on Christmas Day.

According to the provider, that is enough electricity to light the Eiffel Tower for 50 years. The remainder of December sees the average household spend approximately £50 on top of their typical energy bills.

Christmas therefore becomes a key opportunity to dive into the potential of smart home technology, and the ideas that were once of the future which are now becoming reality. A key example is the application of the Internet of Things (IoT), which presents the ability to introduce smart home technologies which unify appliances and applications under one roof – metaphor intended.

Hybrid devices and hubs which consolidate appliances not only allow for better control, it also ensures a more efficient use of energy 24/7.

Early characteristics of IoT was for proprietary technology which achieved just that. It is little surprise therefore that global spend on IoT products was anticipated to reach an approximate $1.1 trillion this year, according to the World Economic Forum in 2022.

Roughly one year ago, a new, global, open-source standard designed to simplify and streamline the smart home – Matter was launched in October 2022. Developed by non-profit organisation, the Connectivity Standards Alliance, it allowed household appliances which connect to the internet to communicate with one another easily and securely. This universal standard allowed companies which are typically in competition with one another, to come together with the shared goal of assisting consumers in making their homes more energy-efficient. Since its launch, more than 675 companies have joined as members.

Version 1.2 of Matter launched in October 2023, announcing the connectivity of nine new types of appliances with it. These include washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers (all preparing to go into hyperdrive during Christmas), as well as robot vacuums, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, air quality sensors and purifiers, air conditioners and fans.

This announcement offers two key developments in the progression of this tech; the addition of large appliances (stepping up from smaller applications like light bulbs), and in turn, the ability to control them through applications such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple Home.

Individually, most smart appliances will offer what Matter allows you to manage – however each exist in their own apps. Matter allows for command and control in one location, making automation across the home possible. The addition and potential of AI in the equation opens even more possibilities, including the ability for appliances to speak to one another.

President and CEO of the CSA, Tobin Richardson, shared that

“with more aggregate data and more information, we can see more interaction between devices…with an edge AI engine to take care of it, if an air quality sensor senses something, then your favourite voice assistant platform can kick off the robot vac, boost the air purifier, and maybe hold off on the laundry and the dishwasher to save energy while the other devices are working.”

Essentially, AI can do the sustainability-thinking for you.

Here, Samsung is a frontrunner. The company’s SmartThings IoT platform has launched energy AI mode, which helps consumers make tweaks to their home care regime, altering consumption to reduce usage between compatible devices. One such example is a 35% saving on washing machine cycles.

An important element when looking at the realities of bringing smart home technology to the masses, is how the technology can support an ageing population, as well as those managing disabilities in the home. The organisation AbilityNet welcomes volunteers who have specialties in IT, and who offer free assistance to disabled and older people seeking to better utilise technology in their home. This can be as simple as putting better connectivity in place, such as voice activated hubs like Google Nest and Hive, to using tablets in the right way.

Another such organisation is Home Instead Charities, which launched a new initiative this year to support older individuals gain a better understanding of a digital world. Their Companionship and Talk Tech Cafes help those who are new to technology to develop the skills and the confidence to better utilise technology whilst at home. They currently host in locations including Doncaster, Dudley, East Hertfordshire, Lewes, Swansea, Shrewsbury, Wakefield, Warrington, Wolverhampton, and York.

Whilst it may be some time before every UK household is able to implement such technology, the widespread adoption and collaboration between major companies is a very positive signal for a brighter energy future.
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