From sensors to wireless platforms, learn how far the IoT has crept into the modern smart home in this roundup.

Every home may not be a “smart home” yet, but with the proliferation of low-cost wireless networks and wireless network devices, every home can become a little safer. Devices throughout the home can connect and collaborate with each other, and are controllable by a proliferation of simple smartphone-resident devices.

As we’ll see, some manufacturers make devices to connect to the home-based IoT. Others make the sensors. And still others, like Notion and Nest, bring it all together with wireless interfaces for use with mobile devices.

 

Secure IoT Connectivity for the Home

These days, smart users take strong protections against our laptops and internet accounts being hacked. But we neglect to protect an even more critical and vulnerable asset—our homes.

With the rise of IoT-connected smart homes, this can be a tragic omission. Strong security features that protect against potential hacking and other threats are a must when it comes to wireless IoT devices that automate and control their environment.

Samsung’s Exynos I T100 is designed with security in mind. The device is equipped with a separate Security Sub-System (SSS) hardware block for data encryption and a Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) that creates a unique identity for each chipset.

The device supports BLE 5.0 and Zigbee 3.0, two of today’s major short-range communication protocols.

 

Detecting Dangerous Gases

The ZMOD4410 gas sensor module from IDT is designed for detecting total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) and monitoring indoor air quality (IAQ), all of which can be read via an I2C interface.

The module’s sense element consists of a heater element on a Si-based MEMS structure and a metal oxide (MOx) chemiresistor. The signal conditioner controls the sensor temperature and measures the MOx conductivity, which is a function of the gas concentration.

It is housed in a 12-pin LGA assembly (3.0 x 3.0 x 0.7 mm) that consists of a gas-sense element and a CMOS signal-conditioning IC.

 

Putting It All together in One Package

Collaboration is the key in the IoT. Notion is a provider of home monitoring systems and Silicon Labs is a player in Wireless and RF solutions. As of this month, the two companies are collaborating on a new, battery-powered IoT smart home sensor that detects water leaks, smoke, carbon monoxide, temperature changes and motion across households.

 

The Notion app. Image from Notion

 

Notion has been providing home monitoring solutions since 2017. Most importantly, several major insurance companies (including State Auto Insurance, Travelers, and Hippo) have been so convinced of the efficacy of Notion’s devices that their use has meant lowered premiums for policyholders.

The Notion sensor is built on the Silicon Labs Wireless Gecko platform. There are versions available for the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), Zigbee, the Thread network, as well as for Silicon Labs’ own proprietary systems. The SOC-based platform is exceptionally well supported, with many startup and development kits as well as aides for software development.

As one of the bidding philosophies of today’s electronics industries is “don’t reinvent the wheel,” a partnership between these two entities was a winning combination. Indeed, as Brett Jurgens, Notion’s CEO notes “Silicon Labs’ wireless technology enables our product developers to focus more of their time on design simplicity and ease of use for Notion customers.”

As described by Matt Saunders, Vice President of Marketing and Applications, IoT Products, at Silicon Labs. “Notion is a great example of how the Wireless Gecko platform eases design complexity for our customers, offering the benefits of low power consumption, robust connectivity, and best-in-class wireless range and performance in a single-chip solution.”

Powered by two AAA batteries, each Notion sensor can be placed anywhere within the house and connected to a Wi-Fi network. Then, with little effort on the part of consumers, they’ll be able to monitor each sensor through a simple smartphone app.

 

Samsung’s SmartThings, a Smart Homes Network

It starts with the network, established with a SmartThings Hub, with connectivity is achieved via ZigBee, Z-Wave, Cloud-to-Cloud, LAN, ZigBee3. Alternatively, Samsungs SmartThings Wifi can be utilized. Depending on the configuration, smart home devices connected to the network can be controlled by the SmartThings app for iPhone and Android, or via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

SmartThings Wi-Fi provides you a mesh Wi-Fi network with extended range. In my previous article on new mesh networking products in connected devices, I explore the range-extending properties of this powerful type of network.

If you're curious about the hardware, check out our teardown of the SmartThings water leak sensor.

 

Part of the SmartThings Hub's innards. Image by Nick Davis

 

There is a large universe of devices from SmartThings that can be attached to this network, a sampling of which is listed here.

 

Nest Thermostats

Nest devices connect via Wi-Fi or through BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), and each device thereby become a node on the homeowners own IoT. The thermostat can then be controlled via a free Android or Apple app. The app also warns the homeowner if there is any problem on the system.

 

Image from Nest

 

There are versions that remember previous consumer choices and, if not countermanded, will repeat actions without an explicit command from then on. As an example, if you turn the heat up at 8 am and down at 10 pm for a few days running, that action will happen automatically from then on, unless countermanded by the user via the app.

 


 

Integrating IoT hazard sensors onto a smart home network presents the user with a variety of pathways. There are individual sensors, and there are also sensors with built-in connectivity. Added security is available, or the user can rely on existing protections. There are also dedicated networks devoted specifically to the smart home.

Of course, with 5G just around the corner, there are sure to be surprises in store for the evolution of IoT hazard sensors and the networks they rely on.

 

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