Introduction

Technology is changing the way we live, with home devices now available to control our heating and lighting, to water our gardens, remotely watch our children and quickly carry out tasks such as booking a taxi with a voice command:
http://www.postscapes.com/internet-of-things-award/connected-home-products/

Some of these devices are about automating processes or doing something remotely. Does that actually constitute “smart”? What benefits are there to a smart home? http://www.explainthatstuff.com/smart-home-automation.html

Task

Your company has been commissioned to come up with a novel “smart” home technology that will benefit an identified group of people (examples include: the elderly, disabled, children, teenagers, or perhaps everyone). You will need to think about how you connect your devices, power use (for instance “energy scavenging”), safety and security, unintended consequences, market and costs. An alarming potential safety issue was reported here: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/602646/baby-monitor-internet-hack-security-Phillips-research-Rapid7-alert . Recent films of a dystopian future have identified unintended consequences of using robots: “iRobot” where protection of humans by robots ends up in enslavement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH-G8c3TUac) and “Wall-E” where laziness becomes the norm as robots remove the need to move ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1BQPV-iCkU).

Competing companies may be working on similar “smart” home technologies, and you will need to explain to your client how your design delivers its intended benefit and how it is will become a necessity. You should show other potential designs you have considered and why you believe your final proposal will not only be the most feasible, but also the most attractive to potential investors.

Considerations

Your foremost consideration should be which identified group of people you are targeting. Design choices should be influenced by the extent to which a “smarter” home will benefit them. Remember that automating something or doing something remotely, is not making it “smart”. What exactly does smart mean and what are you going to do to make your home smart?
Your system may require a network of sensors, outputs central processing etc. and you will need to outline clearly how this is to be delivered. Your target audience in the presentations may not be as technically minded as you are, so you will need to think how best to communicate your proposal.

Your client will be looking for genuine, meaningful innovation. Products already on the market may already deliver your solution, or may provide a technological alternative to a menial task. Using technology for technology’s sake won’t be attractive to investors in this case, the best solution will be one that properly utilises technology to aid its targeted audience.
Your chosen “smart” solution will presumably need a source of power. How will you power all devices and will it be a simple conversion to install into homes? Money may not allow full refurbishment of cabling in a house that gets a “smart” upgrade. Some solutions might go for energy saving technologies – is it possible to recycle wasted heat in the home to power your “smart” technology?

How sustainable is your solution? Can you provide a full life cycle analysis of your technologies? Can you use recycled materials and are your materials recyclable?
Have you considered the security requirements of using “smart” technology? What can the consequences of someone being able to access or control “smart” home technology be? As an example, will a technology that turns an oven on remotely be safe if a child is in the house unsupervised?

Can your solution learn what optimal settings or requirements are? Over time, it might be able to figure out if there are any patterns to its use and figure out what to do before you tell it. Is too much of this undesirable?