Home, smart home!

Automobiles will not only communicate with each other, but also with your own home. Manufacturers present intelligent systems which can link vehicles with buildings. These enhance convenience and security.

Commuting can be really convenient. Are all the doors and windows closed? Are the smoke detectors and the alarm system on? Is the heating turned down? The driver can use an app to check if everything is OK at home and make any changes that may be necessary while driving to the office. This is an example of the abstract term “Internet of Things” becoming reality.

In the future, private homes will become smart homes, and cars will become control centers. Mercedes and Google subsidiary Nest Labs have introduced one of the first systems for networking automobiles and houses that is ready for series production. It uses a special heater thermostat that is controlled by an app in the vehicle. The app has already been integrated into the on-board electronics of some Mercedes models in the U.S.

Bosch has taken a step further and added two more uses for smart home applications. In addition to heating/air conditioning, they can now be used for lighting and security, the latter including control of alarm systems and blinds. The supplier founded its own subsidiary to provide these systems. “Our goal is to create a complete smart home. When doing this, we keep the perspective of the user in mind,” says Dr. Peter Schnaebele, CEO of Bosch Smart Home GmbH. “We provide a special app that can also be used in the car and doesn’t distract the driver.”

Kitchen assistant checks the refrigerator

The apps are constantly being improved, and more and more companies are working on providing smart home technology. At CeBIT this year, BMW and Deutsche Telekom presented two more apps for the smart home system Qivicon, which is also directly integrated into the ConnectedDrive operating system used by the Munich-based automobile manufacturer, and can be operated using the dashboard display in the vehicle. VW has also recently revealed how it networks cars with the Qivicon home base using the mobile telecommunications network; location-based activation of available features is also possible in the VW Golf. For example, the home alarm system is activated when the owner’s car is more than 5 kilometers away from their house. On the other hand, the garage door is automatically opened when the owner’s car turns onto the driveway. Other automobile manufacturers also provide smart home solutions, but these can only be operated using a smartphone and are therefore inappropriate for use while driving.

“The fully networked and autonomous future of the automobile will offer many innovations that reduce the burden on the driver,” says mobility researcher Prof. Stephan Rammler from the Braunschweig University of Art. “When using the autonomous driving mode, drivers can make plans for the evening. For example, a kitchen assistant offers recipe suggestions and checks with the smart home to see if the necessary ingredients are in the fridge. These applications will make our lives easier.”

Many smart home business models are linked to energy efficiency. The consulting firm Prognos expects the global demand for energy to increase by 60% by 2030. Automobile manufacturers want to take advantage of this growth potential while building up their expertise in the field of electric mobility.

A vision of “vehicle-to-grid”

Daimler AG offers stationary batteries for use in private households through its subsidiary Accumotive. Solar power storage units with eight battery modules can be combined into a unit with a capacity of 20 kWh, enabling private households with solar power systems to store excess power. According to the manufacturer, the power storage unit can reach 4000 complete cycles and the total system efficiency will be higher than 97%.

Another option is to feed power stored in electric vehicles into the electrical grid. This means that vehicles not only draw electricity from the grid, but – as part of an intelligent energy system – they also feed it back into the grid during peak load times using special charging stations. The so-called vehicle-to-grid technology will help decarbonize the transportation sector and could be a source of revenue for energy providers and owners of electric cars.

Smart home applications will continue to be enhanced; there is practically no limit to what can be done with networking. It is conceivable that networking will enable the smart home to send messages to home owners while they are driving, informing them about the mailman ringing the doorbell. And when the smart navigation system in your car recognizes that the vehicle is heading back home, the temperature in the living room can be increased automatically using a smart home app. “This is not something that’s a long way off”, says Bosch Smart Home CEO Schnaebele. “We’re working on it, and it will be possible soon.”