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Smart Home as a Digital Environment

Authors:

Abstract

The article presents a new concept of Smart Home. It is based on the approach toward the contemporary home as an environment in which people and autonomous devices coexist. The paradigm of conventional integration of systems and devices is replaced with content exchange within a semantic network environment. The control of home related devices is replaced with ad hoc communication. The Smart Home notion is presented as a part of the Internet of things space. Important common issues between development of Smart Home and Internet of Things are discussed.
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Smart Home as a Digital Environment
Lyubomir Blagoev, Kamen Spassov
Abstract: The article presents a new concept of Smart Home. It is based on the approach toward the contemporary
home as an environment in which people and autonomous devices coexist. The paradigm of conventional integration
of systems and devices is replaced with content exchange within a semantic network environment. The control of
home related devices is replaced with ad hoc communication. The Smart Home notion is presented as a part of the
Internet of things space. Important common issues between development of Smart Home and Internet of Things are
discussed.
Key words: Smart Home, Semantic Networks, Semantic Models, Internet of Things (IoT), Internet of Smart Things
(IoST).
Introduction
The sharp decrease of the cost of microprocessors in the 80s of the last century was a
precondition for the emergence of the idea of Smart Home. The low cost microprocessors enabled
the economic viability of the ideas of low cost automation in the industry. Smart Home notions
emerged as attempts to use microprocessors outside the industry but not as a vehicle to change
the way of living at home environment. This approach was not very successful according to Gann
at al. [1] although it is implied indirectly. The overview from the 90s does not present the Smart
Home idea as a mature one.
Almost 10 years later a similar overview [2] does not show a substantial improvement in this
direction. In essence the Smart Home concept is unchanged. There are many definitions of Smart
Home but it is hard to find a comprehensive definition accepted by a broad range of developers of
Smart Home devices. The different views of Smart Home have some similarities that could be
seen as important elements of a common Smart Home concept.
Almost all look at the Smart Home as a large and complicated system to control intelligent devices
in home environment. Inhabitants of this environment interact with it making decisions on
application of control actions and monitor the outcome. Obviously the more complex the future
Smart Home is evolving the more complicated becomes its control. Therefore the inhabitants will
need stronger engagement with the control. Ergo from served by an intelligent environment with a
high degree of automation Smart Home inhabitants could turn into servants of a system of smart
devices.
Smart Home control idea immediately leads to the interface that provides functionality to support
such control. With the increasing complexity of Smart Home it is possible to come to a state with
so complicated interface that is comparable with the control interface of a space ship.
The specifics of the dominant Smart Home vision are reflected in the current pilots that are not so
many. A good illustration is POBICS [3]. The authors propose a nice solution with a middleware
tools set that enables a desired configuration of a particular Smart Home control system. The
solution provides scalability, agility, etc. But the system still falls within the vision of a control
system that during the development could turn into a mega control system with all the related
usage problems.
The article proposes a new Smart Home concept and related specifics of putting it into practice.
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Smart Home as a community
People living in a home solve everyday problems communicating with each other. For example a
kid tells to a parent that it has spilled something on the floor and the parent begins cleaning. If the
parent working with the vacuum cleaner prevents the kid to get out of the cleaning zone, the kid
will ask him to stop for a while to pass though without a collision with the vacuum cleaner.
Similar scenario is quite possible in a Smart Home. For example the kid will ‘tell’ the vacuum
cleaner robot to clean the floor. Usually the vacuum cleaner robot starts its everyday program in
work days when all inhabitants are out of the home and the security system is switched on. Before
the start of cleaning the vacuum cleaner robot will ‘inform’ the security system that it will move
within the security perimeter. This way the home will be secured, but the security system will
‘know’ that this moving object is not intervening.
Currently all Smart Home devices have remote control capabilities using Internet connectivity.
Almost any advertisement emphasizes on the ability one going back home to use remote control
to switch on/off or to set parameters of certain devices to prepare desired conditions for a
comfortable arrival at home. Having a lot of Smart Home devices will require a long sequence of
accessing each device and setting it (getting data, analyzing it, setting a control). This way, Smart
Home inhabitants from served ones are turning into servants.
It makes sense in the Smart Home space to have something that takes the role of Home Digital
Steward(HDSw). HDSw, after getting a message “Darling, I am coming back home”, could control
all the Smart Home devices to prepare the home for the arrival of the home inhabitant. Moreover,
HDSw could prompt the person to do some errands sending a shopping list, etc. HDSw could
even make some orders, get the delivery from a drone, and place it appropriately, if the home
inhabitant acquired a pick & place robot.
Following a similar relationship pattern a robot could ‘tell’ to HDSw that its accumulators become
unstable and there is a need to plan a replacement with new ones. If the robot sends a message
directly to its owners, in many cases, they will delete the message because they would believe
they memorized it and ‘in a moment’ they will put a task to replace the accumulators in their task
list. It is probable that they will forget to do so, therefore, designers of the robot will program it to
send the message periodically which is annoying. Same for the vacuum cleaner, stove, fridge, etc.
HDSw could release the home inhabitant from the troubles collecting all the ‘complaints’ of the
Smart Home devices, prioritizing them, and sending message to the related person (could be
somebody else than the owner e.g. service technician) in appropriate moment.
A plenty of scenarios could be easily created in which Smart Home inhabitants or related persons
are collaborating with the Smart Home devices within the available embedded intelligence and
accepted autonomy. The most important is that such scenarios are not only useful but also
relatively easy and inexpensive to implement even now without using complicated artificial
intelligence tools.
The new Smart Home concept replaces the vision for Smart Home as a functional space of a
control system with the home space for collaboration of members - humans and devices with the
available embedded intelligence and granted autonomy. In this way the concept defines the
interacting humans and devices in a Smart Home as a Home Digital Community (HDC).
This digital community consists of:
Smart Home members presented in a unified manner, despite of the differences in their real
physical appearance.
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For example the semantic presentation of two functionally identical devices will be similar,
despite of the differences in their construction. Human Smart Home members will be
presented using the same unified approach. There is no need semantic presentation to
reflect their intellectual capacity. The unified semantic presentation will be limited to the
defined interactions within the HDC.
Presentation of the interactions between Smart Home members (individuals and devices)
as semantic relationships of their unified presentations within the HDC. The tools for this
presentation should be also unified with a semantic description, not related with the
physical appearance.
HDC is a unified environment with unified presented but semantically different members that have
different semantic relationships despite of the unified presentation of the relationships. In HDC will
‘live’ artificially created members like HDSw, why not ghosts, heroes from children tales and so on.
Smart Home Digital Infrastructure
The semantic presentation of Smart Home members is an expression of their physical nature. For
example the semantic of the temperature sensor will be the level of the temperature, the degree of
the temperature rising etc. It means, that the signal from this sensor has to be received and
processed in suitable manner to be achieved the defined HDC unification. For this purpose it is
necessary to support a variety of connectivity (WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, data transmission trough the
power supply network, etc.). There is also a need to support logically different data transmission
protocols.
To present human semantic in HDC it is necessary to receive information from different devices,
working like input/output terminals e.g. smartphones, tablets, computers, and so on. The
connectivity and transmission protocols of those devices might differentiate.
The set of resources which support the semantic presentation of the members of HDC defines
Home Digital Infrastructure HDI. HDI is a collection of independent hardware and software tools,
forming channels for two-way transmission of content from/to these devices. Specifics of the
implementation of these channels are dependent on each device.
The HDC space and HDI resources have to be perceived as a common Smart Home Digital
Environment - SHDE.
A unique identification of each SHDE member (or HDC members) is needed. The IoT principle
‘one device one IP address’ is not applicable in all types of connectivity e.g. Bluetooth, NFC etc.
HDC identification needs to be separated from the data channels implementation. This
identification is purely logical and it is enough to be supported only within HDC.
The new Smart Home concept replaces the data exchange between SHDE members with
semantic connectivity between them realized in the HDC space. Direct communication between
the connected devices within HDI is not foreseen. This way there is no need to develop hardware
and software tools to transform different protocols. The need to develop tools to process the
exchanged data during the transmission is also eliminated. HDI resources are greatly reduced to
the minimum possible, thus achieving the lowest possible cost of its implementation. This is one of
the most important prerequisites for the applicability of the proposed Smart Home concept.
HDI has another important advantage- it could be extended with totally different (still unknown)
communication channels without any impact on the already built ones. The explosive growth of
ICT will provide us with nice surprises in the years to come and will give us the opportunity to use
new types of flexible and low cost communication with any devices.
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Smart Home Digital Environment Architecture
The definitions of HDI and HDC define a very simple architecture as shown on fig.1.
Figure 1. Smart Home Digital Environment
Development, extension, and maintenance of SHDE-configurations with such architecture are
much easier and cheaper. To connect a device to the SHDE a Connector is needed. To create a
connector one needs a good knowledge of:
the interfaces of the devices
HDC-standards for creation of models of HDC objects
In most of the cases the first requirement will be more specific and will have a bigger weight when
developing a Connector for a new device. It is economically viable companies that produce
devices for Smart Homes or companies specialized in maintenance and support of protocols for
such devices to develop Connectors.
If combine development of an HDI object with the development of the respective Connector the
need for definition and maintenance of an open interface to link the connector and the HDC space
will be eliminated. Instead of this it is enough to open the HDC space by publishing their internal
standards. Opening the standards will allow other companies and developers who are not involved
in the development of a some concrete HDC platform to take part in the further development and
extension of the Smart Home concept, for example developers of Connectors. Third party
companies will be able to develop and implement HDC models of new semantic relationships
within the HDC space. This will add value to the existing HDI and HDC resources and will provide
with new functionalities the Smart Home realizations and additional revenue for their authors.
It is clear that the proposed SHDE Architecture leads to a natural decentralization of the activities
to implement, develop, and maintain SHDE configurations. Small and medium companies, even
Home Digital Community
Home Digital Infrastructure
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Connector 1
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Connector N
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freelance developers will be able to participate. Moreover the development of SHDE resources
could follow the pattern of development of mobile applications. This will attract a lot of talent and
will accelerate the development of Smart Home realizations.
SHDE and Semantic Interoperability
The HDC idea is strongly related to the Semantic interoperability. In order to communicate with
each other in HDC, SHDE members need to understand each other like family members living
together and speaking the same language.
The variety of concepts, data and processes in SHDE that have to be semantically interoperable is
commensurate with the diversity of people's lives, because Smart Home is part of real life. It is
clear that such a range of interoperability cannot be achieved as goal in itself, especially in terms
of decentralization, which is a prerequisite for the realization of Smart Home ideas.
The achievement of such interoperability is feasible and economically viable, if carried out as an
extension of the scope of some basic semantic interoperability. The e-Governance semantic
interoperability is appropriate for extension. It is possible and economically to apply models and
tools described by Blagoev [4]. This approach gives the opportunity to combine objects and their
models, representing tools for the establishment and maintenance of semantic interoperability in a
general semantic network of administration, i.e. e-Governance, as discussed in other publication
of the authors [5]. It is possible to unite the HDC semantic network with the e-Governance
semantic network. This will allow sharing registries to support definitions of concepts, data and
processes both for the purposes of e-Governance and in creation of SHDE resources.
SHDE and Internet of Things
Currently it is hard to find a clear and comprehensive definition and Internet of Things (IoT). Since
the Smart Home has "things" it can be considered that the Smart Home forms part of the IoT-
space. The ideas of SHDE enable to define a possible interface for integration of SHDE in IoT
space. The foundation of this interface will be the semantic of the data maintained in HDC.
The proposed SHDE Architecture is founded on autonomous behavior of SHDE members, by
introducing unified semantic representations of SHDE members and unified interactions between
them.
There are not restrictions toward HDC. I.e. a SHDE member of a SHDE configuration could
interact semantically with other SHDE members form another SHDE configurations in the same
manner as it interacts with SHDE member within the SHDE configuration it belongs to. The
restrictions could be only semantical. For example a chef-robot could get a recipe of a certain dish
from a SHDE member of its own SHDE configuration. It can also get a recipe from other chef-
robot who could be a SHDE member of other SHDE configuration, but also it could be a stand-
alone device available in the IoT space. The semantic restrictions, for example, may concern
vegetarian recipes only.
A number of security problems arise establishing and maintaining links with autonomous devices
outside the ‘family’ SHDE configuration, problems with differences in protocols, etc. The variety of
all these problems is hard to cover and obviously they will be resolved case by case, with a strong
drive to achieve maximum standardization.
The identification of the participants in such interactions is a general problem. For example, as
mentioned above, the inhabitants of a Smart Home will be identified at their Smart Home as
SHDE-members. As such, they may interact with devices and systems outside of their home
SHDE-configuration, if an opportunity to be identified through it is provided. But an individual
outside a SHDE-configuration is subject to civil identification, according to the laws and the means
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to that are used in the particular country. Therefore identification portability Home to State (H2S)
and State to Home (S2H) should be established. IoT-interaction does not recognize borders and
identification must also be portable from one country to another - State to State (S2S). Similarly
problems with purely technical identification by IP address arise.
At the same time it must be considered that IoT devices step by step will acquire some level of
autonomy this might be also a risk factor. There are problems with the consequences of the risks
that materialize who takes the responsibility for those consequences, how to identify the
responsibility holder, etc. The same goes for the devices that are SHDE-members. They also are
getting smarter with increasing level of autonomy which is beneficial to the Smart Home
inhabitants, but at the same time they are also risk sources.
Talking about Smart Home as a part of the general IoT space we need to reconsider the vision of
it and to define it as to Internet of Smart Things (IoST).
Conclusions
The creation of a Smart Home has to be carried out with a vision for a long term goal of these
efforts. A general characteristic of this long term goal is the high level of autonomous behavior of
various devices in the future digital world. These intelligent devices will interact with people and
with each other and will have an influence comparable with the influence of people on components
of this future world, and on it as a whole. Problems that will evolve from such coexistence will be
resolved by even stronger symbiosis between technology and law than the current one.
Autonomous intelligent devices interacting with each other and with people might become subjects
of current or future laws. Therefore the creation of these devices should be governed by a vision
that they will be treated as individuals managed by rules. In certain conditions these rules could be
similar to those that govern human behavior.
As it was mentioned beforehand Smart Home can be understood as a part of the general IoST
space. Therefore the discussed problems of coexistence of people and intelligent devices will be a
part of the general IoST space.
So arises the question: is the Smart Home a small IoST configuration, or IoST is a huge SHDE-
configuration?
Abbreviations
HDC Home Digital Community: A set of unified representations of humans, devices, and virtual
objects operating in a Smart Home Environment.
HDI Home Digital Infrastructure: The set of technical solutions which allow to represent devices as
unified virtual objects
SHDE Smart Home Digital Environment: The HDI and HDC together define common environment
ensuring the data processing in the Smart Home.
SHDE components: Every component of Smart Home equipment independently of its appurtenance to
HDI or HDC.
SHDE Architecture: The set of SHDE components and connections/relationships between them,
ensuring the Smart Home functionality, based on proposed HDI and HDC functionality.
SHDE configurations: A particular set of SHDE components and connections between them.
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SHDE members: Participant in SHDE, or SHDE components which can be represented with their own
behavior no matter humans or devices.
SHDE resource: SHDE component which has its own Smart Home functionality, or supports some
functionalities working together with other components.
HDC platform: A particular realization of HDC. HDC can be realized on different operation systems, with
different technologies etc.
CObj Community Object: HDC object, a virtual representation/entity of a set of functions which are not
directly related to some kind of physical device or human.
IObj Infrastructure Object: HDC object, which is directly connected to some kind of physical device.
HDSw Home Digital Steward: A Smart Home virtual member with behavior similar to the behavior of a
human home servant.
References
[1.] D. Gann, J. Barlow and T. Venables, Digital Futures: Making Homes Smarter, Chartered
Institute of Housing/JRF, 1999, p. ix
[2.] Sinclair Alex, Vision of Smart Home The Role of Mobile in the Home of the Future, GSMA
[3.] Palacka V., Taumberger M., Anagnostopoulos K., Koyš J., Prekop J., Chabada J.,
Domaszewicz J., Paczesny T., Lalis S., Proxy-based Approach to Expose KNX Devices
through Pervasive Computing Middleware, KNX Scientific Conference 2010
[4.] Blagoev L., Automatics & Informatics, 3/2011, National Data and Processes Model in
Administrations
[5.] Blagoev L., Spassov K., NMDPA -Part of the Semantic Network of the Administration,
International Conference InfoTech-2013
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Digital Futures: Making Homes Smarter, Chartered Institute of Housing
  • D Gann
  • J Barlow
  • T Venables
] D. Gann, J. Barlow and T. Venables, Digital Futures: Making Homes Smarter, Chartered Institute of Housing/JRF, 1999, p. ix [
Vision of Smart Home The Role of Mobile in the Home of the Future, GSMA
  • Alex Sinclair
Sinclair Alex, Vision of Smart Home The Role of Mobile in the Home of the Future, GSMA
  • L Blagoev
Blagoev L., Automatics & Informatics, 3/2011, National Data and Processes Model in Administrations
Automatics & Informatics, 3/2011, National Data and Processes Model in Administrations
  • L Blagoev
Blagoev L., Automatics & Informatics, 3/2011, National Data and Processes Model in Administrations