Smart Homes - The Future is Here

September 20, 2018 at 10:00 AM

 

Long ago, the idea of a home having the technology to be interactive was only a possibility in a Hollywood production or sci-fi novel. But those days are gone, the future is here and smart homes have moved from the realm of fantasy to an endless world of possibility. With the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the world in general is becoming smarter and safer, and that includes our homes. Here, we’ll take a look at the technology behind the innovation bringing technological magic to your home.

 

First, what is a smart home? A smart home is automated, much in the way your coffee pot or your air conditioner are automated to turn on at a certain time or temperature. But a smart home takes that one step further by connecting all of those automated devices in your home through a wireless network, they are then able to be monitoring and programmed from one device. It is that communication with the devices that makes it smart. The devices in a smart home all rely on connectors and sensors to transmit and relay signals. Most wireless home automation uses low-power equipment so that power supply is not an issue.

 

To connect all of these devices, a combination of long and short-range wireless communication protocols is used, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT and ZigBee. With this technology, along with smartphones and tablets, we are now able to connect a multitude of devices within the home, this includes TVs, heating and cooling systems, lighting, appliances, security systems and cameras, or anything else that can be connected to the network. Plus, the communication to these devices is not distance limited, meaning you can control or change your thermostat while you’re at work or traveling using WAN connectivity via a router. Many new homes are being constructed with this technology built-in, older homes can be retrofitted with smart technologies and there are devices from companies like Google and Amazon that will connect to many electronics within your home.

 

Why would someone want a smart home? For one, it can make life a lot easier. Being able to control the devices within your home from your smartphone is super convenient. There is also an additional level of safety added when you’re able to monitor your home through a connected security network. Video cameras can provide surveillance in and around the home, with smart locks you can allow repairmen into your home and you are able to monitor when children get home from school. For people with disabilities or limited movement, smart homes that allow them to manage the home environment from a single, mobile device can make life much easier. In addition to safety, smart homes can be very energy efficient, which is good for the environment. Being able to control the thermostat remotely and turn lights and appliances on or off can be a great way to save energy.

 

With the growth of the IoT and more things becoming connected, it is no wonder that this would apply to our homes as well. Not only do smart homes provide convenience, they can also be good for the environment and give assistance to the disabled. Lucky for us, we no longer have to wait for the home of the future, the future is now. 

 

411 on Near-Field Communications (NFC)

September 6, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

In this wild world of wireless technology, more and more short range communications standards are being introduced to support all of those wireless devices. As the name suggests, short range communication standards transmit over shorter distances than long range technologies, but they are still quite capable and are ideal for specialized applications. One standard in this short range category is near-field communications (NFC), used for communication between devices and secure payment applications like Apple Pay. In this post we’ll explore all you need to know about NFC and how it might replace your wallet.

 

NFC It is an ultra-short-range technology created for contactless communication between devices. It can be used with phones, tablets and laptops to share data with other NFC-enabled devices. It allows two-way communication without the use of Wi-Fi, 3G, LTE or any other wireless connection. Developed from radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, NFC is similar in that it uses radio waves, but is limited to approximately 4 inches of communication distance, which is largely viewed as a security benefit and is helping to boost the popularity of NFC. One of the most popular uses is for secure payment applications, like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, which transmit mobile payments that are dynamically encrypted.

 

NFC operates on the 13.56 MHz ISM frequency and unlike other short range communications like Bluetooth, NFC doesn’t require any device discovery or pairing to begin transferring data. With NFC, a connection is immediately established when another NFC-enabled device is within the 4-inch operating range. Once a contactless transaction is initiated, the NFC reader and device pass encrypted information back and forth to complete the process in mere seconds – making it not only easy, but much faster than conventional payment and data transfer options.

 

In addition to secure payment applications, there are other uses for the technology too. NFC can be used to transfer lots of other data between NFC-equipped devices. This includes sending a phone number, picture or document, sharing directions, launching an app on someone else’s phone and connecting with NFC tags (small, physical tags that contain NFC chips).

 

With the ease of use and convenience of NFC, soon we might need cash, cards or a wallet much less than we do now, if at all. Even more convenient is the fact that NFC is already installed in many smart phones. For a complete list of NFC-equipped devices, check out this list from NFC world.

  

Short Range Communications: A to Z

July 12, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

These days, there is more wireless technology in use than ever before. From phones to toys to industrial automation, wireless devices are being used in all sectors, and for good reason. Wireless technology is portable, easy to install, flexible and eliminates the cost of expensive wiring. With the boom of wireless devices, there has also been a surge of wireless protocols and standards to support all of that technology. These include several short range wireless communication technologies that transmit shorter distances than other long range technologies but still pack a punch, which makes them great for certain applications. Here, we’ll take a look at the long list of short range communication standards and technologies to see how they stack up.

 

ANT+

 

ANT and ANT+ are sensor network technologies used for collecting and transferring sensor data and are maintained by the ANT+ Alliance Special Interest Group. This protocol is a type of personal-area network (PAN) that features remarkably low power consumption and long battery life. It divides the 2.4 GHz band into 1 MHz channels and accommodates multiple sensors. ANT+ is primarily used for short-range, low-data-rate sensor applications such as sports monitors, wearables, wellness products, home health monitoring, vehicle tire pressure sensing and in household items that can be controlled remotely such as TVs, lights and appliances.

 


Bluetooth

 

This popular technology is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and is covered by the IEEE 802.15.1 standard. Originally created as an alternative to cabled RS-232, Bluetooth is now used to send data from PANs and fixed and mobile devices. This plug-and-play technology utilizes the 2.4 -2.485 GHz band and has a standard range of 10 meters, but it can extend to 100 meters at maximum power with a clear path. Bluetooth Low Energy has a simpler design and is a direct competitor of ANT+, focusing on health and medical applications.

 

 

 EnOcean

 

This system is self-powered and able to wirelessly transmit data by using ultra-low power consumption and energy collecting technology. Instead of a power supply, EnOcean’s wireless sensor technology collects energy from the air.  Energy from the environment, such as light, pressure, kinetic motion and temperature differences, is harvested and used to transmit a signal up to 30 meters indoors using a very small amount of energy. In the US, EnOcean runs on the 315 MHz and 902 MHz bands. In Europe, it uses the 868 MHz frequency band and in Japan, it operates on the 315 MHz and 928 MHz frequency bands.

 

 

  FirstNet

 

The FirstNet organization is an independent government authority dedicated to providing specialized communication services for first responders. The FirstNet network is the first high-speed, nationwide, wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. With this network, all emergency workers are able to use one interoperable LTE network devoted solely to keeping them connected. FirstNet uses the 700 MHz spectrum available nationwide and aims to solve interoperability challenges and ensure uninterrupted communication to enhance the safety of communities and first responders.

 

NFC


Near-Field Communications (NFC) is an ultra-short-range technology created for contactless communication between devices. It is often used for secure payment applications, fast passes and similar applications. Operating on the 13.56 MHz ISM frequency, NFC has a maximum range of around 20 cm, which provides a more secure connection that is usually encrypted. Many smart phones already include an NFC tag.

 

 

RFID


Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses small, flat, cheap tags that can be attached to anything and used for identification, location, tracking and inventory management. When a reader unit is nearby, it transmits a high-power RF signal to the tags and reads the data stored in their memory. Low frequency RFID uses the 125-134 kHz band, high frequency RFID uses the 13.56 MHz ISM band and Ultra-high frequency RFID uses the 125-134 kHz band. With multiple ISO/IEC standards available for RFID, this technology has replaced bar codes in some industries.

 

 

ZigBee


ZigBee is the standard of the ZigBee Alliance. The path of a message in this network zig-zags like a bee, hence the name. It is a software protocol that uses the 802.15.4 transceiver as a base and is meant to be cheaper and simpler than other wireless personal area networks (WPANs), like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. ZigBee is able to build large mesh networks for sensor monitoring, handling up to 65,000 nodes, and it can also support multiple types of radio networks such as point-to-point and point-to-multi-point. It has a data rate of 250 kB/s and can transfer wireless data over a distance of up to 100m. ZigBee can be used for a range of applications including remote patient monitoring, wireless lighting and electrical meters, traffic management systems, consumer TV and factory automation, to name a few.

 

 

Where short range communication lacks in distance, it more than makes up for in versatility and capability, and as we can see there are plenty of options available to support all of your short range application requirements.

 

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