This post is the first of a series and will serve as an anchor point throughout the rest of the year as the project takes shape.
At the time of writing, energy prices have soared around the world which has resulted in a cost of living crisis for many households. Food and other products are rising in price too due to the knock-on effect of increased transport costs.
The prospect of creating a smart home at this time is either an answer to reducing energy usage and saving you money or a luxury that you just don’t need. This view is of course subjective. For some, if there is no financial gain (otherwise known as return on investment) within a short time frame then there is no point. Others will take into account other factors such as the ability to save time or make life easier.
As I said this is all subjective, your view will depend on your priorities and which things you value most.
Defining a Smart Home
There’s a good chance that this audience will be personally acquainted with a number of smart devices already. However, we should define what a Smart Home is–just in case you have been hiding under a rock for the last few years.
Here are a few definitions, you’ll notice some common themes, yet all of them are slightly different.
Google dictionary: a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by smartphone or computer.
“you can contact your smart home on the internet to make sure the dinner is cooked, the central heating is on, the curtains are drawn, and a gas fire is roaring in the grate when you get home”
Investopedia: A smart home is a home setup where internet-enabled appliances and devices can be automatically controlled remotely using a networked device.
Smart Home Energy: A smart home, or smart house, is a home that incorporates advanced automation systems to provide the inhabitants with sophisticated monitoring and control over the building’s functions. For example a smart home may control lighting, temperature, multi-media, security, window and door operations, as well as many other functions.
My definition of a smart home differs from those above–a truly smart home will have decision-making capabilities or at least run on a set of rules to make life easier. Full AI is not ready yet and I don’t think I want my house to lock me out because it heard one of my teenage children saying they hated me. Neither would I want a SkyNet T800 to do household chores.
How can you save money with smart devices?
We’ll cover a variety of topics in this series including the benefits of using smart devices. First of all, we will cover this from a personal perspective, however, there are also benefits to be had in the business environment.
In a lot of cases, smart devices are essential to the running of a lean and efficient business. For example, companies use temperature measuring devices to ensure that their cargo is unspoiled. Others use devices to estimate maintenance needs on equipment, etc.
We introduce a range of these use cases on our IoT Data Management solutions page but will cover more about the business side in future posts in this series too.
Why am I talking about Smart Homes on a Database Blog?
The smart home bug first bit me around six years ago. Since then I have been slowly adding things to my home, often to the annoyance of my wife and family. These have included smart locks, smart doorbells, various Amazon home assistant devices, sensors, plugs, sockets, switches, lights, and a crazy amount of hubs to control them all!
It was this last point that made me think that there has to be a better way to manage all of this. Right now, because the ecosystem of smart devices is so disparate, you need to have multiple hubs to communicate with devices by specific vendors. There are certain standards such as Zigbee which are supposed to simplify things, but even then, the frequencies used in Europe and the US are different.
A new certified system called Matter will be the latest attempt to unify devices. There are, however, still no guarantees that you will be able to use just one hub. After all, how can a business position its unique selling point if everyone else can offer those same features?
Recently, I have started using an ecosystem called Home Assistant. This allows a more open approach to integrating different devices together and managing routines across these devices. It’s not perfect, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Getting closer to understanding the why
Couchbase is a Data Platform with a difference. Its memory-first, cloud-agnostic, distributed architecture with offline-first mobile capabilities makes it an ideal candidate to work with Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With 11 SDKs to choose from, programming your requirements into your devices should not be an issue.
What’s more, the Couchbase Eventing Service allows you to create a custom rules engine to control the smart devices and to do your bidding when an event occurs.
Sounds good, right? Well, it’s better than that. Moving forward there will be support for ARM processors. This means that I could host a Couchbase cluster on a Raspberry Pi cluster, at home!
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
This is undoubtedly an ambitious project on my part. To make life slightly easier on myself, I have decided to set the scope of the project to my home office, which is at the back of my garden. This way, anything that I do in there will not affect the rest of the house.
The image below shows when it was nice and clean.
In the rest of this series, we shall be covering areas including:
- Creating a simulated device.
- Choosing a programming language.
- Designing a data model.
- Choosing a data transfer methodology.
- Creating some sample Eventing logic rules.
- Hosting Couchbase on a Raspberry Pi (pending availability of these devices which are currently scarce)
- Alternatively hosting using Couchbase Capella.
- Creating prototype devices (also pending availability of devices)
- Outlining what is possible in a business use case.
As you can see this whole process will require several posts. I hope you can join me on this journey and I look forward to ideas you have on how to improve the project.
In the meantime, here are some resources to get you started on Smart Home things: