The rise of the Internet of Things promises a brave new world of connected devices, smart cities and homes, and ultimately better living. According to technology research firm TechNavio, the number of connected devices is expected to pass 17 billion in the next five years. The ability of devices to connect to each other and feed important information back to us should lay the path for a smarter, more holistic way of managing and interacting with our environments, where continual improvements and efficiencies can be gained.

For the consumer market, smart thermostats like Nest and Hive have already made waves in this regard and hit the headlines. Drayton by Schneider Electric is also set to launch its smart thermostat with an attractive mobile app. These products enable users to control temperature and boiler activity in their homes remotely, and promote better energy management and efficiency. They are among the first products to demonstrate true potential value of connected buildings and remote access to home infrastructure, giving us the knowledge and power to optimise our home environment to best suit our individual preferences, reduce energy bills, and even alter our behavior towards energy saving and sustainability of the planet as a society.

Intelligent building systems are not just available for offices and commercial buildings; decrease in the price of technology has made home automation a reality for consumers. This is also coupled with a dramatic change in customers’ expectations. People expect to be in control of their energy use, by managing the lighting, heating and all other electrical devices in their home from a single hand held device. This marks the new era of smart, connected homes.

An automated home brings together many control aspects including security, lighting, temperature, audio and video entertainment systems, blinds and curtains, sprinklers etc. You can enter your home and find the temperature perfectly set for your arrival, or have the lights go up as the sun goes down, or even unlock your front door with a smartphone; the possibilities are endless. There are different types of systems in the market capable of automating a single product like cameras or heating etc., but a fully integrated system can incorporate all of these disparate systems and combine them into one single point of control or an application. All of these connected elements work together to make the home more energy efficient, more convenient and safer for the homeowner.

However, these devices ultimately should be able to talk the same language for the connected home to run as smoothly as possible. In a similar way to commercial building management systems, smart devices can run on a variety of different protocols. Zigbee is a wireless communication system built by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It consumes a small amount of power and is built on a mesh network, to offer excellent range and communication interoperability between devices, with no need for a complicated web of wires. It saves both energy and raw materials, while dramatically cutting installation and maintenance costs.

In mesh networks, each wireless node communicates with the one adjacent to it. Should one node fail, information is automatically rerouted to allow devices to carry on their respective functions. This dynamic node link redundancy contributes to Zigbee’s low maintenance needs and high reliability. Thanks to this rerouting capability, nodes on a ZigBee can “walk through” walls and even communicate with each other through a building’s floors. Furthermore, even when they are not in line of sight, nodes are still able to form networks. Mesh networks like Zigbee and its nearest competitor, Z-Wave do not experience signal loss — partly because of their very low-bandwidth. This low-bandwidth makes these standards great for simple devices like window and door motion sensors, or smart lightbulbs that only need data connections to turn on, off or set a dimming level.

In a home, different systems like lighting, heating and cooling can be automated to improve conservation, convenience and safety. Households can benefit more if these home automation system are capable of providing the users with information on their usage trends. Consumers can then optimise their consumption of natural resources whilst being aware of the cost and scale of their use. Home automation systems such as Schneider Electric’s C-Bus Wiser Home Control System gives homeowners an insight on their energy usage thus allowing them to reduce or shift energy use during peak times, saving money in return and ultimately helping electricity providers reduce load on the grid and improve network reliability.

We are looking to drive the change in what homes can do for their owners. Together with architects, engineers, electricians and other partners, we are bringing connectivity to homes through solutions like the C-Bus and KNX home control systems. These technologies connect a wide variety of devices, allowing home owners to control everything from lighting and temperature to entertainment systems — to create a perfect environment for every moment.

By integrating energy management with other home control functions, the KNX and C-Bus home control systems go beyond automation. They turn homes into smarter living spaces. They let us monitor and manage our homes to maximise energy efficiency and lower energy bills, either locally or remotely. This also ensures the integration of any future comfort, security, and energy saving functions. Along with wireless KNX capabilities, the central control unit can communicate with other devices via a wired KNX connection. This combination of mobile devices and remotely operated technology has given us this freedom and it’s transforming how we live.

From an energy saving perspective, home automation has some key benefits, especially with programmable thermostats. Turning down a thermostat by just one degree can reduce heating bills by up to ten per cent, and most UK smart/programmable thermostats promise a reduction in heating bills of up to 20 per cent.

C-Bus Wiser lets you program, monitor and operate your home’s heating and air conditioning, lighting, appliances, electronics and security systems while home or away and adjust them according to what you want to pay each month. Without sacrificing convenience or comfort, you can make smart decisions and choices that can achieve savings of up to 30 per cent on your home’s annual energy costs.

There’s both a growing need and desire for people to be more energy efficient than ever before. Stories regarding global warming and rising energy costs are always in the headlines, and homeowners are increasingly worried about keeping their utility bills in check. However, people looking at installing a smart home system also want an element of style and flexibility, so a connected system that can be updated and added to over time is very much in line with people’s habits and needs. Energy efficiency is all about controlling your habits more readily and looking for ways to lower your carbon footprint, but there doesn’t have to be a compromise with style and aesthetics. There’s a very clear drive towards this when so much of our lives are already integrated with technology – and people are looking for this to be extended into their homes.