Jared Newman of FastCompany recently noted that buying into a smart home ecosystem is somewhat analogous to selecting a holy grail in the Temple of the Sun. Choose poorly, he says, and everything crumbles.
“Maybe it’s time to devise a better way, one that doesn’t involve a round-trip to the Internet just to turn on your connected light bulbs,” he opined.
“[Of course], cost is a major reason so many current smart home devices rely on the Internet for basic functions. Like a cheap laptop that runs web apps instead of locally stored programs, a smart thermostat or hub can keep costs down by shifting processor- and memory-intensive tasks to the cloud.”
According to Newman, constant connectivity to the Internet could become less critical as smart home products evolve and learn to talk to each other directly.
“Today, many smart home products rely on centralized hubs to connect smart home protocols like ZigBee and Bluetooth to Wi-Fi, so that users can control their devices from a phone or laptop,” he continued. “But in the future, these devices will likely abandon the hub and connect with each other, forming a giant mesh network that covers the whole house.”
Of all the challenges involved in making smart homes less Internet-dependent, says Newman, perhaps the biggest is finding an alternative to the ability of cloud servers to crunch immense amounts of data.
Paul Karazuba, a Director of Product Marketing at Rambus, concurs with Newman’s assessment.
“The presence of an Internet signal cannot dictate – or preclude – important functions in a house,” he said. “The lights must come on if the Internet is down. We must be able to turn on our heaters or air conditioners regardless of whether or not the Internet is functioning.”
According to Karazuba, there are certain items that can be pushed to the secure Cloud. These include analyzing occupancy patterns for optimized heating and cooling. However, he emphasizes, these functions must be non-essential and cannot directly impact occupant safety.
“Smart home end points will all likely have a Cloud-based aspect to them. However, many will require local processing of some sort to ensure functionality at all times,” he added. “Therefore, edge nodes such as smart sensors must have minimal processing and analytical capabilities at the local level. To be sure, even downtime of 30 seconds can cause severe issues and disrupt multiple applications.”