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How will both software and hardware components need to expand to meet the demands of IoT and smart home automation?

By John Weber, IoT Technical Solutions Manager, Avnet

That is a great question. Personally, even though I’ve been working on IoT at Avnet for a couple of years now, I am not an early adopter myself of smart home automation. Why? Because I want Nirvana, and I suspect most customers will as well.

What is Nirvana in home automation? To me, it is lights that all talk to your home automation hub (which might or might not be your smart thermostat), regardless of the vendor. It is having your door lock talk to your existing security system seamlessly. It is having your system control your motorized window shades and your lights, feed your cat, and talk to your watering system which uses weather data to optimize the irrigation for your garden and lawn. It also monitors your activity and tells your cleaning robot when to sweep up. All of this needs to be controlled locally (independent of Internet connectivity), but still configured and monitored remotely.

Where are we today? People like to use words like “fragmented” and “diverse” to describe it. Many companies are competing for the ‘hub’ of the system, and there are competing wireless standards as well such as WiFi, Bluetooth Mesh, Z-wave, Thread, and ZigBee to name a few. This amounts to a tangled web of standards, software, and vendors. To reach the Nirvana I described above, I would probably need three or four hubs to manage each major system, each of which would need to communicate with my router, and none of this implements a locally autonomous system as a whole.

Can we get to Nirvana? It will happen. On the software side, there is good news. We are already seeing many vendors integrate with the major automation cloud services like Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. However, we need to see coalescence of wireless standards. Once we have one, or at most two, accepted wireless standards, in addition to WiFi, then the major consumer router manufacturers will jump into the fray with products that can communicate and control most connected devices, driving the price down.

Finally, the home automation gateways (as I think routers will eventually become) will have to be intelligent in their own right. There needs to be local (in-house) processing to be able to handle video security tasks; enact automation rules, such as what to do if a user flicks a light switch; and so on. This will happen soon, and then my home automation will have reached Nirvana.