Smart homes have existed for decades, with Bill Gate's home built in 1997 being a notable example. The rapid developments in technology have made all electronics cheaper and made the Internet of Things possible. The Internet of Things has brought many new products and services to the market and revived the dream of a "smart home" for the average person.
There seem to be two main types of smart home systems. The first type of smart homes are built using proprietary, subscription-based services and “black box” hardware devices that work exclusively with these services (e.g. Nest and Sonos). This type takes less time to set up, but offers little ability to customize, adapt and control the system. This type also has limited possibilities of combining hardware and services from different vendors, while raising questions about data transparency and privacy.
The second type are smart home systems based on open source software (e.g. OpenHAB and Home Assistant), which are typically used by enthusiasts. This type requires a lot of time and specialized knowledge to set up and use, but gives the enthusiasts a lot of control, transparency and full ownership of the system and collected data.
While these days enthusiasts have access to a lot more products to build their smart home, they are rarely the sole inhabitants and their co-habitants are not likely to share the same level of enthusiasm for new technologies. Instead of a home making their lives easier, they encounter automated systems that are not tailored to their behavior and that don't react the way they would expect, causing confusion and exclusion.
Neither of the two types of smart home systems offer sufficient support for being used and adapted by multiple users with varying needs and skills (such as different family members or roommates). This project investigates how a smart home may combine the control and flexibility of an open source platform with the convenience of a proprietary service-based system, while inclusively catering to a diverse group of inhabitants.
Next chapter: Project relevance