Issue 63, June 2015
bulletSmart Homes
bulletInnovation: tado° - Intelligent Solutions for Home Climate Control
bulletKaldewei Sound Wave - The Innovative Bathroom Audio System
bulletSensFloor® - The Smart Floor Underlay
bulletInterview with Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Andre on the Future of Smart Homes
bulletSmart Home Solutions for the Elderly
Smart Homes 

Within our lifetimes, self-cleaning tabletops, personal robot chefs, and beds that make themselves may become the norm. In the not-too-distant future, we can expect sophisticated ambient intelligent systems to grace our homes-from voice-controlled light sockets to smart air purifiers that clean our home's air and alert us when our allergies are likely to start acting up. 


The Internet of Things (IoT) is one key force driving this bourgeoning smart home market, which is projected to reach a value of $58.68 billion globally by 2020. Smart homes combine the functionality of multiple home appliances into a single, unified living environment that is designed to enhance the comfort, convenience, and security of their residents. Equipped with ICT devices that anticipate and respond to these inhabitants' needs, automated homes will offer solutions that not only increase efficiency and save costs, but also support independent living, especially for the elderly, sick, or disabled.

Some of the most innovative technologies in this sector are coming out of Germany. One example is BOSCH's Home Connect platform, which allows users to have their refrigerators outfitted with two small Internet Protocol (IP) cameras that take a snapshot of their fridge's interior every time they open its door. So the next time they arrive at the grocery store having forgotten their shopping list, users can simply take one quick look at their smartphone to view the contents of their fridge. This type of intelligent connectivity extends to other household appliances on the network as well, such as enabling owners to preheat their ovens before they leave the office.
 




With 2014 officially the hottest year on record, air conditioner use is at an all-time high and is rapidly growing. The U.S. uses more air conditioning than any other country, with almost 90% of American households running ACs. This costs Americans over $11 billion a year in energy and emits over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The Munich-based technology company tado° is revolutionizing the way energy is consumed in homes. Its Smart Thermostat for heating systems and new Smart AC Control help people reduce their energy consumption without sacrificing comfort. The new cooling control product can be used with any remote-controlled air conditioner. Earlier this month Christian Deilmann, CEO & founder of tado°, announced: "We aim to smarten up 100,000 of NYC's AC units by June 2016. With its high density of air conditioners, New York City is the perfect starting point for tado° to usher in a new era of cooling, both in the U.S. and globally."

tado° works by using your smartphone's location to automatically adapt your air conditioner to your behavior. The geo-aware app on your phone senses when you leave the house and turns off the air conditioner. As soon as you start approaching home, tado° begins pre-cooling so you always come back to a comfortable house without ever having to lift a finger. With its fully automatic climate control, tado° not only makes your home environment more pleasant, but it also helps you save up to 40% on energy costs.

"No more compromises," says Christian Deilmann. "Until now, you had to decide whether to enjoy the full comfort of a cool home by leaving your air conditioner running all day or to switch it off when you leave to save money and energy. At tado° we believe in state-of-the-art smart technology that automatically ensures that no energy is wasted. With the new tado° Smart AC Control, we've created a completely new way to cool our homes."

In 2014, tado° received the iF DESIGN AWARD for its Smart Thermostat. To learn more about the company's intelligent climate control solutions, visit www.tado.com or follow @tado and the hashtag #smartNYC on Twitter.

Source & Image: © tado°


 

Why just listen to music when you can immerse yourself in it? With Sound Wave, an innovative bath audio system, users can literally immerse themselves in their favorite tunes-not only hearing the music, but also gently feeling and experiencing the sounds through their bath water.


The Kaldewei Sound Wave bathtub, which turns into a giant speaker, can play audio files from any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone, tablet, MP3 player, or computer. It is composed of six acoustic panels, two transducers, and a Bluetooth receiver. Its sound wave components are concealed in the tub's sleek, stylish design. Perfect for families with different tastes in music, the tub can accommodate wireless connections for up to eight devices. The system switches to standby after disconnecting and automatically reconnects the next time a user takes a bath.

This tub exemplifies efforts by Ahlen-based German company Kaldewei to blend stylish design with high-quality materials to transform any bathroom into an oasis of relaxation. By enabling users to indulge their senses and wellness, Kaldewei aims to design innovative products that add another dimension to the bathing experience.

To watch a video about Sound Wave, click here.
 

Source & Image: © Franz Kaldewei GmbH & Co. KG.

 

 


 

Imagine a carpet that can sense when you are walking towards a room, automatically turning on the lights or opening the window blinds as you approach, using predictive algorithms based on your past habits and behavior. While technology that anticipates your behavior before you enter a room has not yet fully come into fruition, other exciting advancements have already been made in the realm of smart floors.

SensFloor, a large area floor sensor system composed of a textile underlay only 3 mm thick, is embedded with sensors that measure capacitance, i.e. changes to the local electric field that occur when a person or any other conductive object touches it. Whenever a person walks across the floor, sensor signals are sent wirelessly to a control unit, which identifies what type of event is occurring. Not only can the sensor system differentiate between a person standing or lying on the floor, but it can also determine the direction and velocity of that individual's movements. The SensFloor transceiver monitors and analyzes these signals in real time and uses the results to control a home automation system.

In the field of health care, SensFloor can detect patients leaving their beds or rooms and transmit alarm signals to nurses through radio components or indoor call systems. It can also help monitor the elderly who live alone and run the risk of falling down. Furthermore, SensFloor can switch lights on and off, control automatic doors, and detect unauthorized intrusion, such as in the event of a home burglary. 

SensFloor can be installed underneath various types of flooring, including laminate, parquet, and even tiles. It was designed by Future-Shape GmbH, a German company located south of Munich that specializes in large area contactless sensor systems. This technology offers a variety of possible applications, especially in the fields of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL), security, and home automation (smart homes). The SensFloor project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). 

Source & Image: © Future-Shape GmbH   

 

The Human-Centered Multimedia lab at the University of Augsburg seeks to explore new paradigms for human-technology interaction, covering a wide-range of sensors and interaction devices, including eye-tracking systems, motion-capturing systems, bio-sensors, and touch-sensitive surfaces. Prof. Dr. Elisabeth André, whose research ranges from affective computing to interaction techniques for augmented realities, currently serves as the lab's Chair.

 

In her interview with GCRI, Prof. Dr. André describes the key characteristics of a "smart home" as well as her predictions for which areas of our lives she foresees them having the greatest impact. She also elaborates on how she expects humanoid robots to transform our living environments and how her research on exploring new frameworks for human-computer interaction could be applied to smart home concepts. To read the full interview, click here.

 

After receiving her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in computer science from Saarland University, Prof. Dr. André continued on in a variety of  research and teaching capacities-as a Scientific Researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKIand Alcatel-Lucent Foundation Fellow at the International Center for Culture and Technology Research (IZKT) to a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Augsburg. Career highlights abroad include guest researcher stays at SRI International, the University of Southern California, UC Santa Cruz, Université de Paris 8, and the University of Sheffield.

 

In 2010, Prof. Dr. André was elected as a member of three societies of scientific scholars: the venerable Leopoldina, Academia Europaea, and AcademiaNet. In 2013, she was recognized for her outstanding work in the field of AI and appointed Fellow of the European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI). Prof. Dr. André's current research focuses on design and evaluation of multimodal user interfaces, experimental learning environments with animated characters, multimodal analysis (physiological data, gaze, speech, gestures), and interactions with mobile devices in instrumented spaces.

 

Image: © University of Augsburg

 

Source: Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center 

 

As average life expectancy increases, the need for innovative, sustainable home care solutions for an aging population will continue to grow. The 'Health and Care' business unit of the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center in Duisburg, Germany, is developing new ways to help increase autonomy for aging and impaired adults by combining research on building automation, sensor technology, robotics, and information technology.


One objective of the unit is to enable the elderly, including those with early-stage dementia, to live longer in the comfort of their own homes. Remote-controlled household appliances and sensors monitoring daily activities, such as brushing one's teeth, shaving, or taking prescribed medications, are examples of features designed to assist older adults living alone. If personal hygiene tasks have been forgotten, memory aids like a smart bathroom mirror help remind people to complete such tasks.

 

The inHaus-Center's seven business units are represented in so-called "Living Labs", which display the latest innovations and solutions for performance-oriented rooms. These labs can be visited in the context of a scientific test, thus ensuring that innovative products are evaluated at an early stage by a professional audience.

 

The Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center is a unique Europe-wide innovation workshop that has been carrying out application-oriented, close-to-market research and development for intelligent room and building systems since 2001. It is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft which, founded in 1949, is the largest organization for applied research in Europe with over 66 institutes and 24,000 employees. Together with over 120 industrial partners and in collaboration with various universities and other Fraunhofer institutes, the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center is developing systems and offering services that aim to reduce energy consumption, enhance safety and security, and lower expenditures for facility management in commercial as well as residential properties.

 

For a virtual tour and more information on the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center, click here  

 

Image: © krischerfotografie   

 

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