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Smart Home

What is a Smart Home?

The terms smart homes, intelligent homes, home networking have been used for more than a decade to introduce the concept of networking devices and equipment in the house. According to the Smart Homes Association the best definition of smart home technology is: the integration of technology and services through home networking for a better quality of living.

Other terms that are related to smart homes are aware house, changeable home, attentive house and ambient intelligence. These terms are used to emphasise that the home environment should be able to respond and modify itself continuously according to its diverse residents and their changeable needs.

If you would like further information on smart homes please click on the following link: Smart home environment.

How can a Smart Home help disabled and elderly people?

A smart home can enable disabled and elderly people to lead safe and independent lives in their own homes.

A smart home can:

  • Provide an environment that is constantly monitored to ensure the householder is safe (activity monitoring)
  • Automate specific tasks that a householder is unable to perform (turning lights on or off)
  • Provide a safe and secure environment (alerting the householder of potentially dangerous activities)
  • Alert helpers or carers should the householder be in difficulties (through linking to a local community alarm scheme)
  • Enable and empower the user
  • Facilitate in the rehabilitation of householders (by giving prompts that be auditory and/or visual)

Application example:

An elderly householder, who has a high risk of falling and injury, needs to be able to get safely to the toilet during the night. The functionality that could be provided for this case could be as follows:

  • If a householder gets out of bed between the hours of 10pm and 8am then lights in the bedroom and hall come on at 50% of illumination increasing to 100% over one minute, the bathroom light is switched on at 100%
  • After leaving the bathroom, the bathroom light automatically switches off. After the person gets back into bed the bedroom light is dimmed from 100% to 50% over one minute and then switched off
  • If the householder does not leave the bathroom after a specified time, say 30 minutes, an alarm is activated
  • Between the hours of 8am and 10pm anyone stepping on the pressure pad (householder, visitor or cleaner) will not activate this functionality

The above scenario can be implemented by using only a pressure pad by the bed, passive infrared sensors in the hall and bathroom and an alarm system.

Problems encountered by disabled people and the ageing population within a Smart Home

Visually impaired

  • Visually impaired people will be unable to use a touch screen, receive graphical information and read text on a screen or read printed matter.
  • They will find it very difficult to locate and access equipment.
  • It will also be difficult for them to use switches and controls and to handle manuals.
  • Using numeric keypads will provide a limited problem.

Hearing impaired

  • Hearing impaired people will be unable to receive audio information, understand speech and use speech as an input method.
  • They will find it very difficult to locate equipment.

Physically impaired

  • Physically impaired people will find it very difficult to access equipment.
  • It will be difficult for them to use switches and controls and touch screens and to handle manuals.

Cognitively impaired

  • Cognitively impaired people with be unable to handle pointing devices and understand speech.
  • They will find it very difficult to locate and access equipment, use switches, numeric keypads and touch screens. Also, to handle manuals and read printed matter.
  • It will also be difficult for them to read text on a screen, use speech as an input method and receive graphical and audio information.

Ageing population

  • Elderly people will have limited problems using switches and controls, numeric keypads, touch screens and speech as an input method. They will also have limited problems with accessing equipment, reading text on a screen, receiving graphical information and handling manuals.

Checklist for Smart Home


Locating equipment

  • Environmental design of the area is structured and maintained.

Accessing equipment

  • Provide contactless smart cards that contain user-related data.

Using switches and controls

  • Provide hands free facilities whenever possible.

Using numeric keypads

  • Provide speech input whenever possible.

Handling remote controls

  • Provide good spacing and large sized keys.

Using touch screens

  • Provide alternatives for selecting screen objects ie. pointing device, speech input etc.

Reading text on a screen

  • Provide alternatives for selecting screen objects.

Receiving graphical information

  • Provide speech synthesiser output; provide options for individual screen setting (large letters, contrast, colour).

Receiving audio information

  • Provide text telephony output, provide second ear phone or acoustic coupler.

Understanding speech

  • Provide non-verbal information (graphics, signs, symbols, icons).

Usage of speech input

  • Provide standardised text telephony, use email or computer conferencing.

Handling manuals

  • Use intelligent data retrieval systems.

Reading printed matter

  • Provide alternative media, relay services; visual example for help systems.


  • CWA 50487 (2005) SmartHouse Code of Practice
  • ETSI TR 102 415 (August 2005):Telecare services; Issues and recommendations for user aspects
  • ISO 16201 (2006) Technical aids for disabled persons - Environmental control systems for daily living
  • JIS S 0024 (2004) Guidelines for older persons and persons with disabilities - Housing equipments

Further information


The information contained in this section was taken from the following sources:


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