Smart Home vs. Home Automation

Trendy Dots : Espresso
Aug 22 · 4 min read

The future of our living seams to be automated and driven by artificial intelligence, however, at the moment (August 2019) the situation is a bit different.

We are interested in optimising our living space.

We are more connected and we spend a significant time of our lives on the internet. The comfort of our homes offers us an escape from the connected world even though our smartphones are close to us in almost every aspect of our lives (indoor or outdoor).

The Internet of Things promises an optimised, efficient lifestyle. Products like robot vacuum cleaners, fridges that know what’s missing from them and can order groceries online, surveillance systems for indoor are some examples of new products that are on demand at the moment. In technology retail stores, these systems are included under the generic term of home automation. The term smart home started as an umbrella term for technology-driven innovation targeting the living space. “Smart home” does not cover only convenience technology, but also assistive technology. In the past, there was a clear distinction between “home automation” — the retail term which covers convenience technology and the “smart home” — an almost sci-fi concept term which defined the artificially intelligent home that helps people live better.

We want our homes more automated and more “smart”

Starting mid 2017, the two terms almost converge. This is the time when the Internet of things is penetrating the retail market. Remember the ‘smart’ light bulb that could guess your mood? Or the home assistants that can read out loud the ingredients and steps of a recipe, or save your dinner when things don’t work out.

“Ok Google /Hey Alexa … order a pizza”

In 2019 the two terms are almost indistinguishable in the perception of most people. Most of the searches on internet about things related to the smart home term also reflect under the home automation term. As opposed to 2004, we are no longer talking about a remote control garage door but connected doors that show pictures of the people knocking on it, on your smartphone, personalised physical training videos connected to your exercise equipment that measure and guide you through the optimum workout, or recipes that are easy to cook and are in line with your dietary needs.

Google search trends for “smart home” and “home automation” in the past 6 months, via Google Trends

Collecting information from the internet and statistically processing it into knowledge are key actions that our smart home devices make in order to help us in fulfilling the tasks we request from them. The trends above show that starting January 2019, there is an increased interest in smart homes that peaks when international technology shows display their latest innovation: Amazon Sales (early January, Global); INTERSEC (end of January, UAE); Hannover Messe (end of April, German); CEBIT Hannover (end of June, Germany); etc.

What could determine such a close correlation between the two concepts?

My primary assumption is that the two concepts were intermittently used by media when describing technologies that helped us in our home. Secondly, I assume that we assign the higher meaning to the word automation, which includes low-level decision making, or artificial intelligence (a cleaning robot should not get stuck in the furniture, a smart fridge should not order, or suggest expensive purchases that go over the usual budget, etc.)

This type of close correlation is manifested globally, which leads me to extend my assumptions to the theory that the hype of artificial intelligence present in our lives, as described very often in the media, has changed our perception off and demand from automation. Instead of looking for a coffee machine with a timer, more and more we are looking for a coffee machine with an app that knows us and can make our coffee just the way we like it, every morning.

Geographical distribution of Google search trends for “smart home” and “home automation” in the past 6 months
Geographical distribution of Google search trends for “smart home” and “home automation” in the past 6 months

Can you form other theories based on the presented data? Please comment below.

How it’s made

This article was written with the help of the trendy dots research platform (illustrated below). The data set comes from Google Trends and the additional research was done through internet searches. At this point, the trendy dots research platform interfaces open data sources and facilitates its user a fast start in answering questions with data. It allows the user to plan a data driven article about the chosen topic.

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