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NEWS ANALYSIS
16-Mar-2012
The Smarts Inside the Home
 
 
Connected devices are invading the homefront. From smart appliances to home health systems, and more, some of the latest and greatest innovations from connected-device makers are making the home life easier. But in order to bring such great solutions to market, these devices makers will need some pretty powerful technology packed inside their devices.

Connected devices are invading the homefront. From smart appliances to home health systems, and more, some of the latest and greatest innovations from connected-device makers are making the home life easier. But in order to bring such great solutions to market, these devices makers will need some pretty powerful technology packed inside their devices.

Earlier this week with the announcement of the ARM Cortex –MO+ processor, ARM, www.arm.com, debuts a powerful piece for enabling intelligent sensors and smart control systems in a whole host of different applications. The company lists things like medical-monitoring solutions and home appliances as ideal applications for this processor, and the timing perhaps couldn’t be better.

Home appliances, for example, seem to be a hot topic in the market with all the major manufacturers trying to make their play into the space. Earlier this year, ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, put forth a prediction saying shipments of smart appliances could exceed 24 million units by 2017.
 
This projected growth, says ABI, is closely aligned with the growing rollouts of smart meters across the country as homeowners will look to ways in which they can save money and reduce energy consumption with their meters. The smart appliance segment is one such area, as having a connected washer, dryer, or refrigerator, for example, connected to a home energy management system, which is subsequently tied to the smart meter, can help homeowners control operation during peak hours.

Standing in the way of the growth in this market, however, is the hefty price tag that some of these appliances carry with them. At this point, as noted by ABI, the number of products available is still relatively small. Today many are simply concentrated in small pilots and have yet to hit the retail market en masse.

The market for medical monitoring, on the other hand, seems to be one with endless possibilities. Playing off the ARM processor announcement, such remote-monitoring applications for things like home health rely on the ability for low-cost, always-on, and energy efficient technology. These are some of the primary features that ARM is touting for this processor.

The market for at-home monitoring, for example, continues to take off. Systems that leverage sensors placed around the home to “learn” a senior’s behavior patterns will automatically provide an alert when a problem arises. While these systems are most commonly being deployed in assisted living or long-term care facilities, evidence shows there is opportunity for such devices in the consumer market.

One example highlighted in the Jan/Feb issue of Connected World magazine, is eNeighbor by Healthsense, www.healthsense.com, a remote-monitoring system uses small sensors installed in a home to monitor the daily routine of residents. The system keeps track of basic activities, such as movement in the living room or bedroom or the opening and closing of the refrigerator or front door, and it can then develop normal ranges of activity for the resident.

Another product highlighted in the issue was GrandCare Systems, www.grandcare.com, which also uses sensors throughout a residence to monitor an older adult. But beyond remote monitoring, the GrandCare Website also allows loved ones to send communications, making it a multi-function device.

Only time will tell whether or not such a processor will lead to more medical-monitoring devices hitting the market, or helping smart appliances become more affordable and available. But it at least looks encouraging that the companies which make the intelligence that goes inside such devices are upping their efforts to create better, more low-cost, energy-efficient products.

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