Cars are much smarter than homes. Cars have sensors, computers, and visual displays that provide information about performance and status like speed and alarms such as that dreaded “check engine” light. The key point is that this information allows us to react and make small repairs before they become big repairs. The car dashboard is an excellent model to apply in designing the smart home dashboard. It would be good to be reminded that it is time to replace a filter, have leak detection sensors in the floor around the water heater for early warning about tank failures, and to be able to keep an eye on electricity, gas, and water consumption.
Smart Grid technologies can make this possible, but the smart home dashboard will evolve over the next decade. First, let us consider placement of a home dashboard. The car dashboard is positioned for maximum visibility and information availability to the driver. Where is the best place for a home dashboard? Should we consider the kitchen? First, it’s a room that all home occupants use. The dashboard would be readily available for everyone to see. Second, there are already visual displays for appliances there, so it won’t look out of place. What will be the most desirable form factor for this home dashboard? A tablet or iPad-type computer that wirelessly connects to the cloud-based home operations management and to your IP-enabled devices (appliances and electronics) as well as to your “sensored-up” monitoring points. It may be affixed to a wall or tilted on a kitchen counter, but its portability means you can also remotely monitor and maintain operations in your home (or switch to a smart phone application).
A review of existing Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) applications and home control solutions reveals an array of display options around electricity consumption. A homeowner can choose between relatively simple In Home Displays (IHDs) that colour code electricity usage in green/yellow/red lights to more elaborate web-based portals that provide running graphs of usage, and tablets that provide information in nicely designed user interfaces. Some solutions provide a snapshot of individual consumption, others will tell you how your electricity consumption compares to your peers. Most HEMS vendors address a combination of security monitoring, home entertainment, lighting controls, even home wellness. These are all useful applications, and maybe insurance companies could offer future discounts to customers who have systems installed for security and in-home sprinkler systems. Predictive and preventive home maintenance lacks the sexiness of automating home entertainment, but it makes sense and it’s a lot easier to cost justify for the majority of consumers!