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Enhanced Compatibility and Energy Saving Prove Smart-Home Mantras

The recent Smart Home & Smart Hardware Exhibition showcased an industry that is addressing the widespread need for cross-compatibility across a variety of brands, while energy saving is emerging one of the sector's key selling points.

Photo: Getting in tune with the future: Smart-home sound systems.
Getting in tune with the future: Smart-home sound systems.
Photo: Getting in tune with the future: Smart-home sound systems.
Getting in tune with the future: Smart-home sound systems.

With 'Life-changing Smart Innovation' as its overall theme, the 2016 Smart Home & Smart Hardware Exhibition showcased a wide range of smart-home systems and products. Pre-eminent among these were burglar alarms, ambient-music systems and Premises Distribution Systems (PDS), as well as a wide range of intelligent control systems and a number of bespoke products designed specifically for use in hotels or residential blocks.

Overall, one trend was clearly apparent – the increasing importance of compatibility across the diverse range of smart-home products now available. There was also a new emphasis on the provision of practical and convenient smart-home items and intelligent systems capable of data analysis, while any innovations in terms of products that actually had capacity to 'learn' were also seen as more than welcome.

Compatibility and Integrated Management

Photo: Smart ventilation equipment.
Smart ventilation equipment.
Photo: Smart ventilation equipment.
Smart ventilation equipment.

One company looking to take a lead in the application of big-data management in the development of smart homes was Beijing All View Cloud Data Technology. According to the company's own forecasts, the global smart-home market will be worth some US$71 billion by 2018, with China accounting for 32% of the sector overall. With the market now beginning to take off, consumers are actively seeking out smart-home products. This, however, has seen one huge obstacle emerging, one that is deterring many would-be purchasers – the lack of a standard format that facilitates cross-compatibility among products sourced from different manufacturers.

Unsurprisingly then, many exhibitors were at pains to highlight the cross-compatibility of their own particular product ranges. Foremost among these was Shenzhen Vanhi IoT Technology, a specialist in the development of smart homes, smart hotels, smart offices and IoT products.

During the course of the show, the company was particularly keen to promote its smartphone-compatible IoT home control system. According to Wu Zhiquan, Vanhi's Deputy General Manager, the company's proprietary phone app allows the user to manage a number of different home appliances and fittings, including lights, plug sockets, fans and air conditioners.

Photo: Smartphone-controlled lighting.
Smartphone-controlled lighting.
Photo: Smartphone-controlled lighting.
Smartphone-controlled lighting.

The condition of each appliance can be checked remotely, while internal environmental conditions and lighting levels can be freely adjusted. The system also has a number of security applications, including access to interior web cams and a smoke detector monitoring facility. The app can also be configured to cover a number of different properties.

According to Wu, the system is compatible with many different appliance brands. Among the many companies that have signed up to the Vanhi standard are manufacturers of locks, switches, sockets, security cameras, lighting systems, air conditioners, water heaters, laundry airers, window openers, electric curtain rails, air purifiers and voice control systems. The company is also looking to continually upgrade the system, while maximising its compatibility.

As well as smart-home products per se, several companies, including Shenzhen Rect Technology, had on offer bespoke smart-building control systems. This particular company's system ensures the provision of intelligent control across a range of heating, cooling, air-conditioning, lighting, access control, elevator and fire safety requirements. Said to be compatible with products from a considerable number of pre-registered manufacturers, the system can be accessed and monitored from most properly enabled digital devices, including PCs, smartphones and tablets.

Energy Efficiency and Auto-Learning

Apart from compatibility, two other elements are having a considerable impact on the purchasing decisions of both consumers and professional specifiers – environmental responsibility and the capacity of any product to "learn" in response to external stimuli.

In line with the former concern, Vanhi IoT Technology launched its remote-control switch box at the expo. According to Wu Zhiquan, the company's Deputy General Manager, the switch box is ideally suited to the operation of indoor lighting systems, with its wireless connectivity doing away with the need for extensive interior cabling.

Photo: Cable-free illumination installation.
Cable-free illumination installation.
Photo: Cable-free illumination installation.
Cable-free illumination installation.

It is only necessary to pair the wireless switch with the control box next to the lights in order to be able to operate them remotely via Vanhi's proprietary smartphone app. While a typical 65-square-metre two-bedroom flat usually requires 152 metres of wiring, Vanhi's wireless switch box can cut this to just 43 metres. Even greater lengths of cabling can be saved if the switch box is installed in large-scale offices or at more substantial residential sites.

According to Wu, the switch box has a life span of 100,000 operations. This means, even if it is used 10 times a day, 365 days a year, it will still have a useful life of more than 20 years. The switch box can also be used to control power sockets, allowing the user to specify charging times for mobile phones or to remotely manage the operation of air conditioners and other utilities.

With regard to self-learning and auto-adjustment capabilities, these are seen as vital attributes for smart-home products and intelligent hardware, given their facility for helping users to reduce energy consumption and cut emissions.

Explaining the importance of such attributes, Chen Weidong, Rect's Project Manager, said: "Our intelligent control system can carry out self-adjustments in response to the surrounding environment. Air conditioning can make office buildings very cold and, while it may be hot outside, people inside still have to wear jumpers and jackets, something that clearly represents unnecessary power consumption. In order to counter this, our intelligent control system adjusts its settings according to changes in the environment, automatically regulating the relevant air-conditioning systems.

"Our systems can also monitor overall power consumption. They can collect data on-site and upload it to the server for analysis and aggregation. Comparisons can then be undertaken on a daily, monthly or quarterly basis, allowing any building's management team to identify problems and, subsequently, reduce overall energy wastage."

Photo: Intelligent control: Rect building-management.
Intelligent control: Rect building-management.
Photo: Intelligent control: Rect building-management.
Intelligent control: Rect building-management.
Photo: Courier convenience from Yespeed.
Courier convenience from Yespeed.
Photo: Courier convenience from Yespeed.
Courier convenience from Yespeed.

Smart, Efficient, Safe and Reliable

Apart from introducing large-scale systems, a number of companies also used the December event as an opportunity to launch products with more specific applications. This was most notable in the fields of home deliveries, security, entertainment and ventilation.

With online shopping becoming ever more popular across the mainland, arranging appropriate windows for home delivery has become an increasing problem. One company offering an innovative solution to this was Yespeed Computer Equipment, the Guangzhou-based company behind the Smart Box.

Photo: JDSmart’s fingerprint door lock.
JDSmart's fingerprint door lock.
Photo: JDSmart’s fingerprint door lock.
JDSmart's fingerprint door lock.

Measuring 50 x 40 x 28 cm, the Smart Box features a rectangular display window in its top right corner and a row of vertically arranged buttons to the right of the window. Once activated, its speaker function prompts the courier to scan its on-screen QR code using the WeChat app. The box's owner then receives a notification via their smartphone and has the option of triggering the box's release mechanism in order to receive the delivery in question.

According to Ye Guangjun, the Founder of Yespeed, the Smart Box also comes with a built-in sensor, which indicates whether the received parcel is of the expected weight. It can also send a message to the owner's WeChat account informing them of the parcel's reference number and the name of the delivery person.

On the ventilation front, Shenzhen-based Lioneer launched its smart window opener at the event. This allows household windows to be remotely opened and closed via a smartphone app, while an inbuilt sensor automatically closes the windows in the case of rain. One notable security innovation came courtesy of the Tianyan ("sky eye") fingerprint door lock from Hunan Jindian Smart Home Technology (JDSmart), which uses live scan fingerprinting technology to ensure the utmost in home safety. Meanwhile, on the more recreational front, the Amn invisible speaker system from Shenzhen's Amina Stereo Equipment is said to blend seamlessly with any household décor.

The Smart Home & Smart Hardware Exhibition took place at the Guangzhou Poly World Trade Center Expo from 21-23 December 2016. The event was hosted by Shanghai Huide Exhibition Service Co Ltd.

Xing Bin, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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