11-05-2018 | | By Nnamdi Anyadike
If there is anyone in the developed world for whom the word ‘building’ still conjures up an image of a structure comprising just four walls, a roof, a couple of doors and a few windows then the latest ‘smart building’ developments are likely to come as quite a rude shock. We have all become used to television commercials for smart doorbell cameras in which a prying, furtive looking individual is scared away from a house by the booming voice of a homeowner telling him that he is being watched.
Security is of course a major issue for smart homes and buildings. Indeed, there are now numerous products on the market that work in tandem with smart-phones so that a homeowner – even one hundreds of miles away - can see who's knocking at the door or looking through the windows of his property. Other smart-door bell options can include two-way talk, infrared lighting and motion detection. And in addition to the increasingly ubiquitous smart-door bells, a number of other ground breaking new developments are now being rolled out that aim to address this issue.
Most of the latest DIY and top of the range home security systems now offer support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri. These allow for doors to be unlocked, thermostat settings to be changed, the garage to be opened, and the system to be armed or disarmed with a spoken command to a connected speaker device.
At a recent industry fair in Frankfurt, KNX Secure launched its first interoperable secure devices, based on security standard AES128 and KNX Secure Standard. KNX is a standardised, OSI-based network communications protocol for building automation. And it is the successor to, and convergence of, three previous standards: the European Home Systems Protocol (EHS), BatiBUS, and the European Installation Bus (EIB or Instabus). The standard is administered by the KNX Association.
AES128 is double encrypted and this feature is claimed by the association to have raised the security bar for smart homes and smart building. The association says, “KNX IP Secure protects the IP communication between the KNX installations and it extends the IP protocol in such a way that all transferred telegrams and data are completely encrypted.” User data - including data exchanged with the various terminals - is effectively protected against unauthorised access and manipulation by means of encryption and authentication. In its literature, the association claims, “KNX is the first and only smart home and smart building standard that meets the highest security requirements in cyber security worldwide.”
But offerings such as these are merely at the cusp of the sort of technological developments that are helping to transition towards smart buildings. The use of more intelligent, mobile devices in the home is accelerating fast and this is necessitating more sophisticated connections in buildings. Marcel Leonhard, Head of Product Management DataVoice Copper Solutions at Germany’s Telegärtner Karl Gärtner GmbH, the developer of modules and cable connectors, said, "The trend of ever higher transmission rates is constantly increasing, also because more and more intelligent, mobile devices are spreading."
The company recently presented its latest connection module and connector for home installations at an industry fair in Frankfurt. The components are the newly developed, field-terminable AMJ module and the field-assembled cable connectors. The connection module housing and shielding enables secure data transmission even in the event of external electrical interference. An important consideration in their development was to try and make the components as ‘future proof’ as possible. This is in anticipation of the future applications of 25GBase-T or 40GBase-T that is expected to replace the current 10GBASE-T Ethernet, whose 10 GB/s data rates are already insufficient in many cases.
Meanwhile, Atlantik Elektronik, the provider of innovative wireless solutions presented in Frankfurt a new multi-mode solution with integrated Bluetooth® 5, dual-band Wi-Fi and 802.15.4 technology from Qualcomm. The two Wi-Fi system-on-chips (SoCs) are low-power, host-less IoT platforms that provide multiple devices and are said to be particularly suitable for specific IoT solutions such as Home Automation, Smart Home, IoT Hub, Smart Cities and Home Entertainment. The solution includes features such as: ‘intelligent’ tri-mode connection with advanced smart technologies; dual-core processing; advanced hardware-based security; multiple protocols; and installed cloud services support.
Other recent developments unveiled include a new EGPRS module with global coverage from the Swiss module maker U-blox. The ultra-compact LTE Cat M1/NB1 and EGPRS modules feature low power consumption and longer battery life, together with extended range in buildings, basements, and with NB1, underground. Easy migration between u-blox 2G, 3G and 4G modules is also afforded. The multi-band RF front-end allows coverage of sixteen LTE bands from a single transceiver. This will “vastly simplify diverse deployments worldwide”, the company said.
The ‘future’ is arriving quicker than most people expected. Indeed, in some ways is already upon us. In the urban areas of the developed world lives are increasingly lived through the lens of technology. And ‘smart buildings’ are now just beginning to reflect that fact.