| Monica Pusnani is a typical mother who wants to be there for her child even when she is not at home. With an autistic son, Pusnani cannot take her child's safety for granted, especially when she's not around. So, she has wired up her home with IP cameras, through which she monitors her son on her mobile phone and laptop. All she needs to do is to log on to the IP address of her Net camera and a live video of her son streams into her phone. "I can see him from anywhere. I am a less worried mother now," she admits. |
Welcome to the age of smart homes, where fantasy meets reality. You don't need to be Bill Gates to have a home where all your devices talk to each other. You don't even need $113 million to create a home where you can switch on the air-conditioning in your bedroom just before you reach home from office. All you need to do is, feed in the instructions and the comfort is all yours.
Thanks to a host of new, low-cost home automation systems available in India, technology companies are targeting the average home-owner with broadband connections that will allow them to control appliances and devices from their cell phones or palmtops. In small bits and pieces, automation has been around in the past, but with the cost of Internet routers and chipsets falling drastically, two-way communication between devices has become a reality, at affordable costs. The interesting thing about home automation is that it is completely scalable and different equipment are available to consumers depending on their own set of requirements. However, the first and most critical component of building a smart, connected home is wireless broadband connectivity i.e. making your home a wi-fi zone. Thereafter, a consumer will need to choose from the three broad components of entertainment, security and automation. Connected home is not just about sharing an Internet connection and files, it's about controlling appliances from remote places and sharing multimedia anytime, anywhere at home. In India, currently Microsoft and Zeos Infotech are offering integrated home automation solutions. The concept of a smart home begins with home security. In order to protect their house from unknown elements, consumers can install biometric systems that recognise family members. Cameras capture images of all the visitors and messages are sent to the residents, everytime a stranger approaches the house.
A wireless touch screen controls all the electrical devices in the house. There are set programmes that determine the lighting and music in the house. So if you like to listen to Mohammad Rafi when you return from work, the programme will automatically start playing your favourite music minutes before you enter. Interestingly, this doesn't need doing away with conventional wiring of the house. "We integrate this home automation technology with the existing systems in the house," says Veetrag Bafna, managing director, Zeos Infotech.
Partnering with Zeos is Microsoft, which is about to formally launch its E-homes suite in India. So if your fridge runs out of milk, just command it to send you a text message on your mobile phone.
|INTEGRATED ENTERTAINMENT: You can digitilise your entertainment experience by enabling e-sharing of music and movies across your house. |
|SECURITY: With the help of Internet cameras and motion sensors, you can view your home from anywhere in the world on your mobile phone and laptop. |
|AUTOMATION: Complete automation of gadgets allows you to control your devices through your mobile phone and the Internet. Home owners can feed in their customised needs into the touch screen that has the entire 3D layout of the house and the devices. The commands to control all the devices can be given through the Internet. |
Take for instance, Heena and her husband Nilesh Vora, whose central digital box stores all their favourite music and movies in it. Says Heena: "Now we don't have to bother with CDs or DVDs as our preferred music and movies are stored at one place."
There are several companies today which offer a suite of products that can help you automate your home. Specialising in this category of products is a subsidiary of Cisco called Linksys. The company has several products that allow consumers to do different things. Linksys has a device called Music Bridge, which lets users wirelessly stream Internet music services and other music stored on their PCs to their home entertainment centre. The Music Bridge gives you an edge to use both, the computer speakers and the stereo surround sound system to play music. Says Sanjeev Gupta, regional sales director, Asia Pacific: "While the ultimate vision is to connect different products, consumers can choose segments that interest them."
The solution overall is cost effective too. A wireless apartment features its own in-built communication server. A hi-speed wireless Internet can cost between Rs 4,000 and Rs 6,000, while an IP camera will cost about Rs 20,000 and Music Bridge can be had for as less as Rs 6,000. However, an integrated solution with all aspects of security, entertainment and automation can cost up to Rs 4 lakh.
The features of home automation have become so compelling that builders like Omaxe and Design Arch are offering smart homes as a value added service in new apartment complexes. Design Arch Infrastructure, a Delhi-based developer, is offering all the aspects of a smart home in his new complex Gardenia in Vaishali,
Ghaziabad. "E-savvy housing makes it possible to switch on the ac on the way to your home, while E-letter boxes intimate residents instantly of the new mails." In addition, the apartments will have digitally integrated fire-fighting panels, automated fire detection sensors and sprinklers on every floor. So, now no more worries about someone breaking into your homes.