With ever-increasing digital transformation, automation, increasing population and complex lifestyle the world is also facing huge energy crisis due to enhanced carbon emission, climate change (global warming & depletion of the ozone layer) and depletion of fossil fuels. So, the importance of renewable and sustainable energy resources is undeniable. Currently, a lot of research activities are happening in the field of renewable energy. One of the areas that clearly stand out is the IoT-enabled Smart Home automation by using renewable energy sources. We will also look at the Smart Home Market in India, and Top Companies & Startups in the space of IoT-based Smart Home Automation.
IoT-Enabled Smart Home Automation Using Renewable Energy Sources
Hot Career Opportunity for Core Engineering Students
Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things aka IoT is a platform or ecosystem in which devices are connected to each other via the internet. It’s basically the inter-networking of physically connected devices, vehicles, buildings and other smart objects (e.g. wearable, diagnostic device, kitchen appliances etc.) embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity to enable the “smart objects” collect and exchange data.
Related Post: Scopes of IoT in Banking & Financial Services
A smart home is a residence that uses IoT-enabled devices for remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating. The smart home technology is also called home automation. Smart home automation will allow a user (homeowner) to control (or automate) the comfort, security, convenience, and energy efficiency of the residence by controlling the smart devices – security cameras, smart locks, automated doors, electric appliances (refrigerator, AC, washing machine, cooking oven, microwave, dishwasher etc.) by a smart home app on a smartphone or other connected device (PC, Smart Car or Smart Watch). All these can be done remotely.
Suppose you just left your home to go for a movie. Assume the multiplex is a 40-minutes’ drive from your house. You are just about to park your car and you get a notification on your phone that the AC is still on, or, even worse – there is a gas leak. The movie is going to start in 10 minutes. No need to panic. You can take care of all those by the smart home app on your smartphone or tablet.
In a smart home, a TV, light or window blind can sense your presence or movement, and will work automatically. An AC (air conditioner) can adjust the temperature according to your presence, and weather forecast. If your mobile coverage gets deteriorates during a call, the signal booster in your home will get turned on automatically. Other features include proximity door unlocking and security surveillance.
If you prefer to listen to music for a longer time, the music can jump from your headphones to the stereo system once you take your headphones off (or after a longer period of using headphones, which is not good for ear and overall health) – how cool is that!
Here is a one more interesting example – the smart refrigerator in your kitchen (at home) can send you an alert (or notification) on your smartphone (while you are leaving office) when you’re out of milk. All these data points will be stored and analyzed. If you always buy a new bottle of milk on Wednesdays, you will get the alert (even if there is still some milk left for Thursday) because of your behaviour over a certain period of months – Magic of Big Data & Machine Learning.
Related Post: Beginners Guide to IoT, Big Data, Machine Learning & AI
The IoT and Smart Home technologies are also very useful in the field of healthcare – personalized medicine and health analytics. I will discuss that space in a separate post – stay tuned. Now let’s move on to renewable energy.
All those cool stuff involve dynamic programming-based algorithms and context-aware mechanisms. Additionally, they are primarily focussed towards increasing convenience. In the context of energy consumption, we will now discuss WSN technology and Smart-Grid.
WSN stands for Wireless Sensor Network. It’s a wireless network that consists of spatially distributed autonomous devices. The autonomous devices use sensors to monitor physical or environmental conditions. A WSN system incorporates a gateway that provides wireless connectivity back to the wired world and distributed nodes.
For utilities such as the electricity grid, streetlights, and water pumps, wireless sensors offer a lower-cost method for reducing energy usage and optimizing energy resources, along with collecting system data. With time and more data points, the energy usage of the household appliances and perform necessary actions such as supplying and blocking the electrical energy to a household appliance.
The communication can be achieved by Zigbee technology for transferring data of energy usage, power, voltage and current consumed by a particular household appliance to the cloud server. Most of the top-notch commercially available smart home services/kits require 24/7 high-speed and high data rate internet connection. But, relatively low data rate technologies such as WIFI, 3G, 4G LTE, LTE-A, etc. are also decent enough for other smart home providers.
The energy of various renewable energy sources (wind turbine, solar panels etc.) is computed and incorporated into existing energy sources, for operating various home appliances to cut electricity costs. The home appliances could be anything. Typically, the most energy-demanding ones are washing machine, refrigerator, air conditioner etc.
A refrigerator works continuously throughout the day, and the power loads fluctuate a lot due to the variable activities of the compressor system and cooling process. AC is also a compressor based cooling system. The compressor works continuously until the temperature is equal or below the set level. The energy consumption of lights is less compared to other appliances, but not negligible. Moreover, unnecessary usage of lights leads to energy wastage.
The scheduling of all the appliances can be controlled based on resident behaviour, weather conditions, discomfort index, etc. Scheduling can be static or run-time.
In static scheduling, the profiles of the smart grids, energy sources, and home appliances are defined on the basis of the weather forecast and user’s activities. Static scheduling relies on prior data to create the electrical usage schedule and for minimizing energy usage. Schedules are made on the basis of local power generation capacity, received power supply from the smart grid, and energy demand of household appliances.
If weather forecast and user activities differ, the smart grid comes into play to reschedule shiftable appliances (e.g. dishwasher, washing machine) to meet power demands by using minimum energy. This is run-time scheduling.
“The grid,” is a network of transmission lines, substations, and transformers that deliver electricity from the power plant to your home or business. It’s what you plug into when you flip on your light switch or power up your computer. The Smart Grid consists of controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and equipment working together. It allows two-way communication between the utility and its customers, and the sensing along the transmission lines.
Cost of electricity varies throughout a day. For example, if you use dishwasher or washing machine during the peak hours, you will have to play more towards your electricity bill. Smart system (smart meters and smart thermostats) will give you an indication of the best times to use the dishwasher or washing machine so that you can minimize your utility bills. Additionally, smart surveillance features also allow the safety of children and elderly people to be monitored remotely via smartphone apps.
In foreign countries, smart metering also allows consumers to produce energy. If you have a rooftop solar panel (photovoltaic unit), you can measure your electricity production and put the excess back into the grid, which the power utility agency pays a fee for.
Watch the following video to get an idea on Smart Grids in India by TU Delft!
Though smart homes are getting popular, truly connected things or 100% smart home is still a little bit far. However, it’s not a science-fiction anymore. Several companies and startups are working in this space. Besides, there is a genuine need for stuff like this in India (as you can see from the above video). So, it would be a nice career field for students and professionals from the Electrical, Electronics, Civil/Structural IT, and related fields. Besides jobs, you can also start your own venture after gathering some experience. India needs many Mohan Bhargav in the real life.
Smart Home Market in India
Smart homes are getting popular in India; especially in the metro cities. Every year, the adoption of smart homes is increasing by between 15 -18% in tier 1 cities and by between 5 – 10% in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. India is already a hotbed for the solar energy revolution. Due to deeper Internet penetration and the rising concerns about home security amid the ever-escalating crime rates in India, the market for smart homes has been growing steadily. Of course, smart home costs more than homes without smart features. But, with the increase in earning power and an increase in the number of working couples with dual incomes in metro cities, smart homes will generate more interest with time. Home automation is very much practical in India.
Home automation market in India was estimated at around INR 8800 Cr in 2017 and is expected to cross INR 30,000 by 2022. With the adoption of smart homes, there will be smart cities in the future. Know more about the Smart Home Market in India.
Where to Look for Career Opportunities
Here is the list of few key players in the space. Not all of them might be leveraging renewable energy at the moment. But, almost all of them are working around IoT and Smart Homes.
Top Global Companies:
Top Indian companies working in the Smart Home Space:
Top 20 Key Players in the Indian IoT Smart Home Startup Ecosystem:
- Cubical Labs
- Silvan Innovation Labs
- Home Brain
- Thasmai Automation
- Metagan Technologies
- FluxGen Sustainable Technologies
- Altiux Innovations
Read Post: Top Global Smart Energy Startups
Internships and Summer Training in India
Best Online Courses on Renewable Energy
Developer’s Guide to IoT – IBM