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Plasma Technology

19 Sep 2018   Author: Frazer Anderson

 "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" —T.S. Eliot.

Part 2

Networking technologies such as superfast broadband and Wi-Fi mean that more of the devices we use are connected to the internet than ever before. As well as allowing us to communicate with friends and family, many of the devices communicate with each other to create what’s been dubbed the ‘connected home’ or ‘smart home’.

Spend any time watching TV (or at least the adverts between programs) and you will realise the increasing number of these products that companies are trying to sell us. The value proposition is often based around offering the individual the capability to know what is happening remotely in the home, make a decision based on this information, and then make something happen as a result.

Why exactly I might want to change the temperature remotely is something I have struggled with ever since this became a possibility – isn’t that what the timer on the central heating is for, plus a bit of forward planning? However, Smart alarms have recently come onto the market. The scenario played out on the small screen is of several agents of evil (always late 20’s, white and male – just saying) approaching the empty house. The external light goes on (motion sensor) but the baddies ignore this. “It’s only a light” they say. Little do they know that the house owner, usually in a social setting with alcohol involved, is looking at a streamed CCTV image of them and can both speak to them and turn on the alarm (broadband connection and various devices). Much hilarity ensues when both occur. This I start to see the value in, possibly more an indication of my advancing years mind you.

Around the home more and more “devices” have a Smart or connected version available to buy. These are a relatively new trend, so not every device can be connected, and they are also more expensive than non-connected devices. For instance, the iKettle is around £100 while a standard kettle costs less than £6. So you really want to know what the benefit is going to be!

While the Smart home can potentially, bring huge benefits, it can also have enormous potential to generate and transmit both personal and anonymised data back to retailers which can be of wider use. How much milk do you drink in a week? Is your consumption going up or down? Who is your milk supplied by and so on? This is great news for supermarkets but might be more information than you are comfortable with them having.

Not only is there a data protection issue with smart homes but there is also a wider security concern and the prospect of someone hacking into your home, whether as a joke to wake you all up by turning on the lights at 3am, or to bypass your security system, is a real prospect.

Keep in mind that making the home Smart should not be a goal but a means to an end. The entire point is to allow you to be more in control and improve your quality of life.

Across the Oxford Instruments Group, we are active in seeking ways in which to both support the development of key “smart” technologies, and to integrate the benefits of these technologies into our products. 

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