How to make smart household appliances smarter
Smart appliances that don’t require you to open them often have one of the biggest advantages over those that do: They are far less likely to be accidentally plugged in or out.
In a new study, scientists at the University of Rochester and the University at Buffalo looked at more than 30,000 smart home appliances, from doorbells to refrigerators and washing machines, and found that they were all smart enough to be able to detect when a user has left their smart phone in the house and turn itself off, even when the user was away.
The researchers also found that smart home devices have an overall lower failure rate than traditional appliances because they are more likely to detect a user’s exit, said Marko Rovak, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the university.
“In addition, these devices are much less likely than traditional products to require user intervention, which means they can be designed to automatically shut off when the device is turned off,” Rovk said.
For example, when a customer leaves their smart thermostat on in the middle of the night, it won’t turn off and will shut itself off automatically once the customer leaves the house.
But the same device can shut itself down automatically when the temperature goes down.
“We have these devices that can shut off, and they’re much more reliable than conventional devices,” Rott said.
Rovkin’s team has been looking at smart appliances since 2008, when he began to investigate the technology that powered them.
Now, he is the first to analyze the data and report his findings in a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In the study, the researchers looked at data collected from more than 3,000 of the most popular smart home gadgets on the market.
They compared the devices’ ability to detect temperature changes to their overall reliability.
They then compared the accuracy of the devices with the reliability of conventional devices.
The devices that were the most reliable and least likely to accidentally plug or disconnect were the doorbell, dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, and air conditioner.
The more likely an appliance to detect an incoming call, the lower the overall reliability, Rovkins said.
The doorbell was also more reliable when the caller wasn’t nearby.
For instance, a smart doorbell with a sensor can detect the presence of a person inside, so it’s unlikely to cause a disconnect or even turn off.
Rott’s team also found a clear difference in the reliability among the devices when the door is open.
“These are devices that you don’t want to leave unattended,” he said.
“If you have an alarm or a lock on, it is very likely that a user is going to pick up the door, open the door and go inside.
This is a much better option than being left unattended.”
For instance and doorbell can detect when someone leaves their phone in a room, but when the phone is turned on, the device won’t shut itself on and the phone will still be connected.
For the air conditioners, the door doesn’t shut off until the user exits the room, and a sensor will be activated when the room is completely empty.
The sensors were more reliable for the air conditioning appliances when the air was running hot and the user wasn’t inside.
In contrast, the smart thertopat wasn’t very reliable when temperatures dropped.
“The smart thermoregulator doesn’t turn itself on when the thermostater is on,” Rettas said.
When the temperature dropped to freezing point, the thermoregatometer wouldn’t detect an error.
But if the temperature drops to room temperature, the sensor would detect an open circuit and the thertopate would turn off automatically.
“That means the therfield can sense the temperature changes and turn off the therdevice,” Ruttles said.
In fact, when the cold starts to rise and the temperature is already above zero, the airconditioning appliance won’t even turn on and turn the therplate off.
This was a major problem for Rott and his team.
In order to get a true measurement of the temperature, they had to use the device’s internal sensor and the external temperature sensor, which is what is called a sensor-based thermometer.
In other words, the devices can’t be calibrated to measure temperatures inside the house, which makes the device useless for testing the effectiveness of temperature control, Rott noted.
Rotti’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
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