Viewpoint Partner Brief Part I

PART I
How Sensor Technology is Making Homes “Smarter”

In Part One of this Partner Brief, Mutual Boiler Re explores how sensor technology is making homes “smarter”, and why sensor-driven devices are becoming a mass market phenomenon.

Smart sensor technology is benefitting today’s homeowner in ways never before imagined. Rapidly advancing smart technology for the home is transforming the places where we live with heightened levels of safety, security, efficiency and convenience. Spurred by the sensor, the famous movie line “There’s no place like home” has never been more relevant than today.

Sensors are translating the physical world into the digital world, with unprecedented adoption rates by homeowners. Once the province of the wealthy, the average consumer is buying smart home devices at a record-breaking pace, and installing them with the limited do-it-yourself skills required. Another major enabler of home sensor technology is the proliferation of mobile devices, which give homeowners remote fingertip access and control – from virtually anywhere in the world. 

Sensors are devices that detect and respond to input from the physical environment (light, heat, motion, moisture, and pressure). The output is generally a signal that is converted to a human-readable display or transmitted electronically over a network for reading or processing. Over time, sensors have become lower in cost, miniaturized and more reliable.

Devices controlled by sensors have evolved into a mass market phenomenon with a nearly limitless array of choices to benefit today’s homeowner. 

Creative uses in and around the rapidly evolving “smart home” include:

  • Security
  • Temperature control 
  • Energy conservation
  • Plumbing and water conservation
  • Kitchen and food management
  • Housecleaning
  • Landscape management
  • Senior assisted living

Many wireless systems available today can be installed by the homeowner and monitored via a mobile device, avoiding the expense of a security installation company or a monthly monitoring fee.  

Although wireless systems have simplified the process, enabling more consumers to install these systems by themselves, consumers who purchase or own a home with an existing wired security system face a more complicated challenge. 

If the cables of an existing wired system are still in good condition, it may be possible to add new components or customize the system with additional cameras, motion detectors, smoke detectors, glass break detectors and alarms. However, adding on to an existing system is not always possible. Homeowners should contact the manufacturer to get a better understanding of the system and to discuss options for adding wireless components. 

Sensors Watch While You’re Away

Today’s technology can help provide greater peace of mind, particularly for people who own second homes, travel on business, or just want to get away for the weekend. Preventing or mitigating loss from fire, theft, freezing pipes, water leaks, power outage, or a rise in humidity, is possible thanks to the marriage of sensors and mobile devices. 

Imagine...

  • A smart smoke detector senses something is amiss and transmits an alert to your phone while you are at work, providing the opportunity to call the fire department or ask a neighbor to check on your house to see if everything is OK.
  • A homeowner, away on vacation, receives a text alert about a power outage and takes the necessary steps to prevent pipes from freezing, which can occur in as little as 24 hours under frigid conditions.
  • Smart security systems armed with motion detectors, cameras and sensors connected to doors and windows can detect threats to your property, sound an alarm and send alerts directly to your phone or smart device to help prevent loss from burglary. 
  • Sensors placed near appliances and pipes detect a leak, sound an audible alarm, simultaneously signal a ball valve to shut off the main water supply to the house and notify the homeowner’s smart device–all in about five seconds. 

As home sensor technology continues to evolve, the next horizon is to meet the challenge of connecting individual devices bought by consumers, but operating separately. The future, say the smart home experts, is to figure out how to orchestrate everything–thermostats, room sensors, switches, security devices, lights and more–with a single user interface that creates an inter-connected system that works together smoothly.

Read Part Two

 

About the Author

Bruce Tagg is a senior engineering exposure analyst for Mutual Boiler Re, a member of the FM Global Group and provider of equipment breakdown reinsurance for more than 240 treaty partners. Bruce has more than 30 years of engineering and loss control experience in the insurance industry and is responsible for internal and external support, including training and on-site risk assessment.