The Smart Future Fall 2015

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Smart Cars (Driverless Vehicles)

The driverless vehicle is a car that has functionalities that allow it to drive unmanned. With use of different technologies, it is able to navigate the environment from one destination to another. It is one of the most anticipated upcoming technologies of the decade. The self-driving car opens up new opportunities for users to do other things while commuting to their destination. This allows the user to drastically increase their level of efficiency during daily commuting. Additionally, one of the largest anticipated benefits consumers are looking forward to with the introduction of autonomous vehicles is the reduction of road traffic accidents. Deaths from collisions may soon be a thing of the past.

The History of Driverless Vehicles

Human beings have been dreaming about autonomous technology for a long time. In 1939, the concept of autonomous vehicles was presented at Futurama – an exhibit that showcased the possible model of the world 20 years into the future.[1] 40 years after the exhibition, a small number of organizations tried to turn the concept of autonomous vehicles into reality. Carnegie Mellon University (referred to as “CMU”) – one of the best-known research universities in the United States - was one of them.

In 1984, CMU started a project called NAVLAB. The NAVLAB project focused on developing a series of semi-autonomous vehicles and fully-autonomous vehicles. The first vehicle built in this project was a semi-autonomous vehicle, which required five racks of computer hardware in order to help it navigate on streets. Due to software limitations, the first NAVLAB vehicle was only able to reach the top speed of 32 km/h.[2] During the same period of time, Ernst Dickmanns, a professor from Bundeswehr University Munich, built a vision-guided Mercedes-Benz robotic van, which achieved a top speed of 63 km/h on streets without traffic.[3]

In 1998, automated technologies were adopted by Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, and Toyota into their vehicle designs. These companies implemented an adaptive cruise control system in their vehicles. By implementing this autonomous technology, cars will be able adjust their speed to keep a safe distance from other vehicles ahead automatically.

In 2004, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of U.S Department of Defense, announced the DARPA Grand Challenge, which awards top autonomous vehicle developers with $1 million in grant. The competition was designed to encourage the development of autonomous vehicles. Participants were required to build a fully autonomous vehicle that would be able to complete a 150-mile route within a limited time. Unfortunately, none of the participants were able to complete the whole challenge that year. The team that achieved farthest distance was Red Team from CMU. The same competition was held again in 2005, with almost all the teams passing the finish line. The winner of the 2015 competition was Stanford Racing Team from Stanford University.[4]

Since 2010, the technology of autonomous vehicles grew rapidly as more firms joined the development competition. In 2012, Google conducted its first road testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads in the U.S. However, not all road tests went as smoothly as planned for Google. As of July 2015, Google vehicles have been involved in 14 traffic accidents, all of which Google attributed that faults to be either manually driving or other road users.[5] In addition, on November 12, 2015, a Google vehicle was pulled over by a California police officer for driving at 24 mph in a 35 mph zone.[6] This raised the question of who should be responsible in the event of driving violations. Despite the instability of autonomous vehicles, Google announced that they would make fully autonomous vehicles available to consumers by 2020.[7]

Tesla, an influential player in the car industry, also reacted to this emerging trend. In 2015, Tesla released a software patch which unlocked the “auto-pilot” functionality on their current models.[8] With this update, Tesla cars will operate automatically according to road conditions even if drivers let go of the steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal. However, there have been reported accidents of "auto-pilot" failure related to the Tesla's software patch.

How Driverless Vehicles Work

Several systems are used in conjunction with each other in order to provide a driverless vehicle with real time information in order to make the most appropriate decisions at any point in time. Although, each system runs into its own limitations during usage, when combined with the other systems, enough information is available to surpass these limitations and provide extremely accurate information.

Main components used within a driverless vehicle [9]

Main Components Used in Driverless Vehicles [10]
  • GPS Systems: Signals from satellites are used to locate the vehicle’s position on a known map. From there, readings are combined with further information from tachometers, altimeters, and gyroscopes in order to provide the central computing system with pin-point accuracy to the vehicle’s location.
  • LIDAR Sensors: Laser beams are used to scan the environment by bouncing off of surroundings near the vehicle and calculating the amount of time it takes for each laser to travel to the object and back. This will indicate the distance of the object in correlation with the vehicle and help analyze lane markings and edges of the road.
  • Video Cameras: Live feed available from video cameras are used to detect a number of objects including traffic lights, road signs, vehicles, pedestrians, and other obstacles on the road. The live feed is join with a database of shape and motion descriptors in order to help the vehicle identify each object. An example of this is a two-wheel object going speeds above 50 km/h is most likely a motorcycle and not a bicycle. This will help predict the movement of different objects and allow the computer to make more intelligent decisions.
  • Radar Sensors: These sensors are very much like the ones currently used in vehicles today for back up cameras. They are used to monitor the positions of other vehicles and objects.
  • Ultrasonic Sensors: Radar sensors are used to monitor object within a “medium” range, while ultrasonic sensors aid the vehicle in identifying objects within a very close vicinity. This includes roadside curbs when parking.
  • Central Computing System: Arguably the most important unit in the driverless vehicle, the central computing system centralizes all the information provided from the other systems in order to make the most appropriate driving decisions during real time. Additionally, this unit manipulates the car’s functional systems including steering, acceleration, and brakes. The database presented to the central computing system incorporates all formal and informal driving knowledge needed on the road.

TED Talk - How a driverless car sees the road [11]

Companies Currently Working on Driverless Technology

Google (Technology Company)

Google's prototype for a fully autonomous vehicle that does not include a steering wheel or pedals [1]

Google is one of the forerunners in the driverless vehicle industry. They first announced their adventurous exploration into autonomous vehicles in 2012 and have been testing in private facilities since 2009. Their devices are currently being tested on cars produced by various manufacturers including Toyota, Audi, and Lexus. Their vehicles have traveled an overwhelming 1,000,000 miles within 3 years of operation, equivalent to 75 years of driving for a single adult. [2] In January of 2015, they revealed a functional prototype self-driving vehicle fully produced by Google. This vehicle did not include any steering wheels or pedals. With such advancements and an unprecedented commitment, Google is recognized as one of the forerunners spearheading the development of driverless vehicles. [3]

Video showcasing Tesla's Autopilot technology [4]

Tesla (Car Manufacturer)

Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk, has continuously been one step ahead of the automotive industry when it comes to advancements in technology. So much so, that their current model of cars are already equipped with technology that is necessary for autonomous vehicles. This has enabled Tesla the possibility of implementing the Autopilot function on their vehicles through a simple software update and without any technological retrofitting needed. [1] Though the program is far away from being fully autonomous, it is able to self-drive drive within certain areas (such as highways) and in certain conditions (clear safe weather). However, many companies have criticized Tesla for their recent Autopilot update stating that they believe Tesla has "jumped the gun" with the release. They believe the technology is still in the infancy stage of development and very well may be unsafe for drivers to use. Any accidents from use of technology will increase regulation on the industry and may drastically impeded the progress of driverless technology. This is one of the large reasons why many other automobile companies have yet to implement such a feature. [2]

Uber (Service Provider)

To no surprise, Uber is one of the companies with keen interests in driverless vehicles. One of the largest expenses for Uber is the amount they pay their drivers per mile. If they were to eliminate the human factor, not only could they reduce their expenses, they could potentially charge less to consumers. In order to do so, Uber has started lobbying the United States government to deregulate self-driving vehicles and allow for autonomous cars to be fully driverless. Current laws state that every car must have a licensed driver at the wheel, whether autonomous or not. Arizona, on the other hand, has promised to be much more lenient with the development and testing of these vehicles. [3] With new research faculties opening in Arizona and a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, Uber has the potential to be one of the big "drivers" of autonomous technology.

Benefits Associated with Driverless Technology

The utilization of driverless technology is bound to bring a wave of beneficial attributes to the road globally. Whether it comes to saving lives, offering new opportunities, or introducing a new level of efficiency, the number of positive uses for driverless vehicles never end.

Factors Behind Automotive Accidents in the United States [4]

The Potential to Save Lives

According to the World Health Organization, the number of road traffic deaths in 2010 was 1.24 million deaths globally. [5] An estimated 90% of automotive deaths are caused by human error. [6] If you were to eliminate the human factor, many of these deaths may not need to occur. Driverless vehicles do not become distracted, are programmed to follow safe drive-able speeds, and cannot become incapacitated. This will eliminate a potential 90% of accidents and save approximately 400 billion dollars for accident related expenses in the United States alone according to Google's lead developer Sebastian Thrun. [7]

Google allowing a blind individual to ride in their fully autonomous prototype [8]

New Opportunities for Those with Disabilities

According to Statistics Canada, 3.8 million Canadians suffered from at least one disability in 2012.[1]Due to their disabilities, daily commute has become inconvenient for them. For example, although taking public transit seems like a friendly commute solution to people with disabilities, walking from their home to the bus stop can still be a challenge.

Under special circumstances, driving is a feasible option for people with disabilities. According to the GM Mobility Program, people with disabilities need to go through the following 5 steps to be able to drive: [2]

  • Step 1: Obtain an body evaluation
  • Step 2: Contact the Provincial Ministry of Transportation
  • Step 3: Select the proper vehicle
  • Step 4: Select a qualified equipment installer
  • Step 5: Obtain proper driving training

Therefore, the development of autonomous vehicles seems to create a better commuting solution for people with disabilities. The advantages associated with this solution are higher schedule flexibility, high level of accessibility and lower costs. Google proved how autonomous vehicles can benefit the lives of many. Steven Mahan, a California resident who was visually impaired, had a chance to take a ride in Google vehicle, travelling from his home to Taco Bell and then to the dry cleaners. After this special riding experience, Mahan said, “ this is some of the best driving I’ve ever done. ”[3] Clearly, this ride presents us a new and optimal option for people with disabilities to commute.

Decrease in Insurance Premiums

Number of automotive fatalities recorded int he United States from 1990-2013[4]

With the improved safety that driverless vehicles bring, it is no surprise that insurance premiums are expected to drop. The number of accidents have drastically decreased ever since the introduction of accident-prevention systems we see in cars today. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of fatalities in 2013 were 32,719, a 2.1% drop from the previous year. [5] Additionally, according to Transport Canada, car fatalities have dropped 40% in the past 25 years for Canadians. [6] With the introduction of self-driving vehicles, research firm Celent expects insurance premiums to drop an additional 60% from 2018 - 2022. [7] However, with such drastic decreases in premiums, insurance firms are expected to simply cover different aspects of the driving experience. One direction we are expecting firms to venture towards is the migration from insuring people and vehicles, to the insurance of software. Insurance Firms could potentially put an emphasis on insuring the software provided in driverless vehicles. Coverage that would protect them from outdated software or software malfunctions that could put a user at harm. </div>

Increased Fuel Efficiency [8]

Fuel reduction for cars traveling in large platoons [9]

One of the largest noticeably benefits that would come with the introduction of autonomous vehicles is the benefits towards fuel usage. Self-driving vehicles practice what some individuals have coined "Hypermiling", the use of intelligent driving to maximize fuel economy. A combination of driving at certain speeds, gear choice, accelerating and decelerating at certain speeds, coasting when possible, and anticipating traffic could potentially reduce your fuel consumed while driving. Autonomous vehicles can calculate what variables will work best for you car and always drive using the most optimal speeds. Individuals who currently practice hypermiling have already achieved improvements of 50% or more with their fuel consumption. [10]

Driving in Platoons

In addition to the use of intelligent driving, autonomous cars would potentially be able to drive in large platoons. This would mean a reduction in overall drag experienced by the vehicles within the platoon. With the reduced air drag, cars will have to work less in order to travel the same speeds, decreasing the amount of fuel consumed. Driving in platoons of 4 or more have the potential of decreasing fuel consumption by 30%.

Lighter Vehicles

A less thought of benefit for driverless vehicles is the fact that they could be much lighter. With less materials used to protect the user from the impact of collisions, because less accidents will occur, cars will be far lighter than they have ever been. Lighter cars mean less fuel consumed moving them. Additionally, this would help in the transition to electric vehicles. With the decrease in weight to move, batteries will now be able to last for father distances.

The Sharing Economy

In PricewaterhouseCoopers’ February Analyst Notes - a publication that provides insightful analysis on the global automobile industry, PWC predicts that the effect of autonomous vehicles movement will cause a 90% decrease in the number of vehicles, from 245 million to 2.4 million. [11]

One of the major reasons for this number drop will be due to the promotion of sharing economy. Once autonomous vehicles become a common commute option, the way people travel is expected to change. Instead of driving in their own car, people will be more likely to request an autonomous car-sharing service, travelling with other commuters. UBER, a huge advocate in the sharing economy, has already shown its interest in utilizing driverless technology to accept this new shift in their current business model. UBER’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, said at the Code Conference:

“When there's no other dude in the car, the cost of taking a Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. Even if you want to go on a road trip, it would just be cheaper. The magic there is that you bring the cost down below the cost of ownership, for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”[12]

Essentially, Kalanick suggested that eliminating the cost of ownership for UBER users would be their potential future business model. How will UBER achieve this goal? The autonomous vehicle is their answer.

Issues Associated with Driverless Technology

With every new technology, there will always be issues to overcome, it is no different with driverless vehicles. Apart from the psychological barriers these companies will have to address to convince consumers to fully trust their products, there are many other problems they will need to provide a solution to before autonomous vehicles fully take off.

Job Opportunities

Trucking and Taxi Industry

Employment Status in Trucking and Taxi Industry [13]

It is not hard to imagine that the trucking and taxi industry will face the direct impact from the rise of driverless technology. According to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2014. there were about 4 million drivers in the U.S. [14] Taxi drivers will be the first few occupations that will face the competition from robotic cars, which will provide higher level of convenience and lower fare rates. As the environment of the sharing economy advances, the taxi industry will be put into a worse competition position due to high vehicle ownership cost. On the other hand, the same negative impact is expected to occur to truck drivers. Driverless trucks will soon will replace human drivers in order to eliminate human limitations such as vision limitation, emotional needs, and bodily needs. Therefore, once fully-autonomous vehicles have been widely accepted, the profession for drivers will become unnecessary.

Automotive Manufacturing Industry

The other industry that would be facing the threats posed by this technology is automotive manufacturing industry. As of October 2015, there were 937.9 thousand people employed in this industry. [15]As the sharing economy grows with the application of autonomous cars, the car utilization rate will increase and consequently the demand for vehicle production will decrease. At that time, we are expecting to see a decrease in the scale of automotive manufacturing industry, which in turn will lead to the shrinkage in job positions.

WIRED - Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway—With Me in It [16]

Software Vulnerability

A large threat to the driverless vehicle industry is the vulnerability of the software used. Before consumers flock to the technology, they want to be sure their lives are safe from all harm. It is no surprise that individuals are already skeptical of the software and hardware being used in future autonmous vehicles when the cars that are currently available are already being hacked.


An example of software being manipulated is the Uconnect in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Hackers were able to wirelessly connect to the system and remotely adjust the air-conditioning, windshield wipers, radio, and even cut the engine. [1] Imagine what could be hacked when a system can control every aspect of the car.


Futhermore, an example of hardware manipulation is that hackers have been using a handheld laser to trick the LIDAR sensors on driverless vehicles into believing there are invisible objects on the road. The LIDAR sensors translate the beams from the handheld laser as information, the information they would usually receive from objects on road. This then forces the system to drive as though there is an object in a certain area that would otherwise be clear. [2] With all these threats out there, companies will have a difficult time addressing them as new ones become known.

Running into the Law


Currently, Canada has not established any regulations on autonomous vehicles. However, seeing some states in the United States and some areas in Europe open their roads to autonomous vehicle testing, Canada decided to step up. Ontario announced that they would make their public roads available for the testing of autonomous vehicles, starting January 1, 2016. [3]


The United States have always kept a permissive attitude towards the testing of autonomous cars. In June, 2011, the state of Nevada became the first place in the U.S that passed a law, allowing the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles, and the law went into effect on March 1, 2012. Two months after, Google obtained the first license for autonomous cars from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. In April 2012, Florida became the second state that enacted the legislation, regulating autonomous vehicles. The third state that allows autonomous cars be run on streets is California. And in December 2014, Michigan become the fourth that permitted the testing of autonomous vehicles under certain restrictions. At the same time, other states including Washington, Oregon, New York, Texas and New Jersey are under process of passing relevant Bills.[4]
Autonomous Vehicle Regulation Process Map [5]

The Ethical Dilemma - Should Driverless Vehicles be Able to Kill You?

Ethical dilemma for autonomous vehicles - should it kill the pedestrians or the individual?[6]

One of the largest controversies surrounding driverless technology is the ethical dilemma of whether or not a car should be able to sacrifice the owner in a split second decision with no other alternatives. When asked, participants of a surveyed generally chose the most utilitarian approach and decided on the option that would kill the least amount of people. Though we must consider that there may be a level of error involved as they were being asked by another individual; those who thought otherwise may have feared they would be judged. With all the information being computed by the computer already, asking it to make a ethical choice may be even more impossible than it already is. One solution to the ethical dilemma may be to allow the consumer to decide on the moral algorithm the computer processes in such a situation. This would reduce the amount of computations the computer would have to do and allow it to make an actual decision that would be in the buyer's best interest. [7]

The Future for Driverless Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicle Industry Forecast[8]

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the autonomous driving market is expecting a 40% growth from 2015 to 2020. Based on this prediction the market potential of autonomous vehicles globally will increase from €7.5 billion in 2015 to €35.7 billion by 2020.[9] Currently, a number of companies, such as Google, Daimler and Uber, are in the process of realizing this prediction.

With the increased interest in self-driving cars, many questions arise about the future. How will the employment industry change? What will all the taxi drivers do? Will we all simply stay at home and let our cars automatically run our errands for us? Pick up groceries for us? How will this affect our economy?

These questions may not be possible to fully answer, however, as a team, we are optimistic in a future containing driverless vehicles. Just as humanity has in the past, employees who lose jobs with the introduction of new technology will find new jobs to do; they will adapt. People will be able to focus on other tasks during commutes, allowing them to finish tasks quicker, and more free time elsewhere. Our roads will be safer than ever and less crashes will occur. This reduction in inefficient spending for traffic accidents will spur spending elsewhere. This will grow the economy in better ways. With all these possibilities, we are looking forward to the future for autonomous vehicles.

Smart Homes

Smart Home Model [10]

Smart homes grant users the ability to remote control a device or function within their home for automation through a network. The major difference with “smart” versus just automation is the ability of that device to connect to the internet, and commonly controlled through a smartphone or computer.

Home automation first became commercialized in the early 1900s in the form of electrical home appliances as a means of replacing domestic help and minimizing household expenses [11]. Although home automation has been a common feature within science fiction writing and culture for many years, it had not become practical until this period of time with the introduction of electricity in homes [12].

Many smart home users utilize this technology for purposes of convenience, security, and to some extent, cost-savings. Major gadget and devices for smart homes include: water and energy management, lighting and switches, monitoring and sensors, and security and access. These categories offer smart automation to day-to-day functionalities within households, and also include many products readily available to consumers at a retail level, such as Bestbuy.

Device Categories

Energy and Water Management [13]

Smart energy and water management devices aim to make life more comfortable within the home through easier automation of tasks and minimize energy consumption and save on utility bills. This also allows the user more control over their house, in regards to having the ability to set and remotely turn on/off devices when away from home. Some devices can even collect data to allow for usage reports and to serve as a visual aid on energy consumption.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Video

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller [1]

This smart sprinkler controller is WiFi-enabled to track local the local weather network that can automate sprinklers for more efficient water usage. This means, the sprinklers will adjust to the weather and water only when needed to prevent over- or under-watering. Reports on water usage can be tracked on smartphones and computers, which can also set schedules for waterings as needed depending on the plant type. Because the controller is wifi-enabled, changes to the sprinklers can be remotely made via smartphone or PC. In the event of the controller going offline or losing WiFi connection, waterings will default to the last programmed schedule.

There is a bit of installation involved , in terms of downloading the app onto a smartphone to control and view water data, and also requires some handy work in wiring to connect the controller to the pump valves.

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller is available at more electronic and hardware stores and retails for around $199 CAD for a base model.

NEST Learning Thermostat Video

NEST Learning Thermostat [1]

The smart thermostat tracks and controls the temperature remotely through a smartphone or by manually adjusting the device. It can learn user patterns from the time of day the thermostat is adjusted, such as automatically turning down the heat at night if the user frequently reduces the heat at that time over a couple of days. The built in ‘Auto-Away’ feature monitors activity in the house and lowers the temperature if it detects no movement for more than 2 hours. Finally, the thermostat will send warning alerts to the phone in the event of any abnormalities in temperature as a home protection feature, such as a probability of bursting pipes if the room temperature drops too low.

Installation for the NEST Learning Thermostat requires a compatibility test and some rewiring to replace the existing thermostat. Otherwise, NEST products and services are widely available to assist with installation and technical support.

The 3rd generation NEST thermostat retails for around $249 CAD online and at electronic stores. In some areas, the thermostat is also eligible for energy saving rebates, such as Southern California Edison’s “Rush Hour Rewards”, which grants up to $60 to California residents for reducing energy use during peak times.[2]

Lighting & Switches

Devices to automate switches and dimmers give the ability to remotely control lights over WiFi from a smart device. Smart lighter kits or “smart light bulbs” can be controlled for more customization in generating different colours and sync with other devices to create dynamic lightings.

Philips Hue Smart LED Video

Philips Hue Smart LED Light Bulb [1]

The smart light bulb by Philips aims to simplify light by giving remote access controlling the lights via smart devices. The bulbs can be adjusted to a spectrum of 16 million colours to create ambiance in a room. The natural light feature can be scheduled and utilized as a wake-up light and promote an energizing setting. This provides some security features in making it seem like someone is home with the lights on when it is set to turn on at certain times. It can also be synced to TVs and audio systems to create dynamic lighting for special events, such as parties.

Installing Philips Hue Smart LED Light bulb is relatively simple, requiring no rewiring. The smart bulbs only need to be screwed in to existing light fixtures as a regular non-smart bulb. The “bridge” which acts as the main control system to connect the bulbs to the smart device will automatically power up when connected to a WiFi router. Finally, users need to download the Philips Hue app to connect to the bridge and control the lights. The bridge can connect up to 50 lights, which is not limited to the bulbs, and includes other Philips Hue accessories.

This home starter kit which includes the bridge and 3 smart bulbs retails at $199 CAD on the Philips website or at most electronic stores.

Switchmate Light Swtich Video

Switchmate Light Switch [1]

The Switchmate Light Switch is a clip-on device to automate lighting in the house via a smartphone. As with the other smart enabled products, the lights can be controlled remotely. The clip-on design of the device also allows users to manually switch on/off the lights as they would do so otherwise. However, the device is limited to the range of the Bluetooth signal and is not ideal for larger properties. This is approximately 200ft through Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE). The company is currently working on expanding the range so that it can be controlled at greater distances.

The device requires no installation or rewiring other than connecting the device to a smartphone over Bluetooth, and downloading the app to control the device. The Switchmate device is magnetically clipped on over existing light switches and is compatible with most toggle and rocker type switches, even in they are in multiple panels. It is powered by 2 AA batteries and has an average lifespan of 8-12 months before the batteries need to be replaced.

At about $49 USD per unit on the Switchmate website, this device offers a cost effective and easy option for people beginning to automate their homes. It is still in the pre-order phase and expected to start shipping as early as December 2015.

Monitoring and Sensors

Monitors and sensors add extra security to the home in terms of detecting dangers such as carbon monoxide and smoke. The added ‘smart’ features can give homeowners instant alert notifications to their smartphones even when they are not home.

NEST Protect Video

NEST Protect [1]

NEST Protect works as a smart CO/smoke alarm and will send a message to the registered smartphone if they is anything detected and depending on the severity of the danger. It can also pinpoint the location of the danger and will announce the best course of action. The alarm can be controlled on a smartphone or by motion sensor to the device to silence an alarm if there is no danger, such as smoke from burnt toast. The device also lets users know it is functioning by emitting a green glow, which also works great as a night light. NEST Protect can connect with other NEST products for added safety features which will be discussed in the Future of Smart Homes section.

There are two types of NEST Protects available, a battery-powered type and a wired version. The battery-powered type requires no installation and uses 6 AA batteries which has a battery life of about 5 years. The wired version requires some electrical rewiring and uses 3 AA batteries as backup in case their is a power outage.

NEST Protect retails for $110 CAD at Bestbuy or the NEST website, compared to a non-smart CO/smoke at under $50 CAD.

Security & Access

Surveillance with smart capabilities can stream, record, and upload video footage onto cloud-based storage for remote home monitoring. Access includes smart locks to allow entry through a smartphone or fobs.

August Smart Lock Video

August Smart Lock [1]

The smart lock grants keyless entry with a smartphone through the August app that is set by a guestlist. The guestlist can be customized to set the duration length of access by a particular smartphone, which could be useful for properties used as Airbnbs and timeshares. The lock can also record an activity log of all entries and exits at each time as an added benefit. As an added plus for Apple users, the lock can be unlocked via Siri.

Installation requires no rewiring as the lock is powered by 4 AA batteries which lasts for about 1 year. The lock needs to be fitted over an existing deadbolt lock and requires some handy work to install. The lock is primarily connected through Bluetooth to conserve battery, which will limit the range of access. An additional product, the August Connect, can be installed to add remote control.

The August Smart Lock retails for $250 CAD at Bestbuy and the August website.

August Doorbell Cam Video

August Doorbell Cam [1]

The August Doorbell Cam works as a doorbell with camera features so that owners can see and speak with visitors at their door. An alert will be sent to the smartphone through the August app where the user can see who is at the door and communicate remotely with the visitor through one-way video, even when they are not home. The doorbell cam can also record video footage for additional security.

Installation requires some rewiring over an existing doorbell as the power source, and some handywork to mount the doorbell cam in place. It is connected through Bluetooth Low Energy and WiFi.

The August Doorbell Cam retails for $250 at Bestbuy and the August website.

Benefits of a Smart Home

Smart Home Benefits Model

Convenience & connectivity: Automation makes tasks and processes easier to do with a touch of a button--or a tap on a smartphone. For most people, the task of getting up to switch off the lights is not a big deal. However, for people who have physical disabilities or the elderly, it can be more of a challenge. In addition, some brands with multiple smart product offerings enable the products to be connected and work in conjunction with one another for added benefits, such as the August Doorbell Cam and August Smart Lock which can remotely see and communicate with visitors at the door, and then remotely unlock the door.

Eco-friendly: A major point in my smart home products is the feature of living a more ‘green’ lifestyle, especially with energy and water management products. Products such as the NEST Learning Thermostat minimize resource use by learning user patterns and turning off the heat when no one is home. In turn, this also reduces utility bills to help homeowners save money. In certain states, homeowners are also given tax credits and money for being more eco-friendly through these smart products.

Home safety: Surveillance products such as the August Doorbell Cam, gives security to outside the home by recording all visitors at the door, and providing a one-way video stream to the homeowner. On the inside, devices like the NEST Protect monitor the home for CO/smoke and will sound and send alerts to any dangers. The NEST Learning Thermostat can also connect with Protect to automatically turn off the heat if there is smoke detected for added safety and prevent future damage to the home.

Control & customization: Smart products can give users more control in terms of remote access to products that are WiFi and bluetooth enabled. This means, turning on/off the lights even when you are not home. Smart home products can be customized to the user’s preferences and settings, such as authorized guests that can unlock the August Smart Lock, or the 16 million different colour hues the Philips Hue Smart LED can adjust to for setting the mood.

Impress friends: To some, keeping up with the Joneses (or in 2015, keeping up with the Kardashians) is critical to being socially accepted. Having the latest in new toys and technology may be something that is necessary to networking and building connections with the community in some cases. Or it could be purely for the reason of personal happiness.

Smart Home Limitations

Smart Home Limitations Model

Installation: As outlined in the categories of smart products mentioned earlier, each product has vary degrees of difficulty and ease for installations. Some products such as the Switchmate only needs to be clipped on to existing light fixtures. On the other hand, more complex products like the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller requires rewiring and handy work to install. People who have no background in electrical wiring may want to hire a professional to be safe. Connecting the wrong wires could lead to serious implications, such as short circuiting the house. Hiring an electrician only adds to the already large price tag of smart home products.

Costs: Many of the products mentioned already cost an upwards of $200 CAD. In terms of the average median income of $30 540 in 2013 BC for individuals by Statistics Canada, ‘smartifying’ the home may be beyond an individual’s budget after all expenses [2]. This means, less than 55% of the population in BC earn over $50 000 annual salary [3]. The median salary will vary depending on the area, but at the rate smart home products are retailing for in comparison to report median salaries, cost may still be a major factor against the adoption until these products can be more affordable to the average person.

Reliability: Since smart products need to be connected to a power source and the internet, there is the issue of whether they will continue to function in the event of a downage. Some products have backup batteries in case it gets disconnected, but there are still security and safety issues that could arise if the power is out for an extended period of time.

Ownership: Much of the products and services in the web 2.0 run on a subscription basis and license to use rather than ownership. Products like PSN+ with the Playstation 4 offers users access to member-exclusive content based on a monthly/annual subscription. However, once the user decides to end the subscription, the access is removed. In the case of smart home products, if companies decide to stop support and cease firmware updates, newer smartphones may be incompatible with the products and become useless. A potential issue that can arise with smart home products is if companies begin to move towards a subscription-based model in order to keep the product functioning.

Security & hacking: Data security has become a major issue in this day of age. There have been reports of hackers gaining access into baby monitors that are WiFi enabled. One case claimed a hacker was able to stream live footage of the room and project their voice over the monitor to harass the baby [4]. The bigger picture of this issue is, what is to stop a hacker from gaining more access to the network and all other smart-enabled devices? This could lead to the compromise of personal information and, if the homeowner has a smart lock, a breach of home security.

The Future of Smart Homes

In recent years, many technology and hardware giants have been shifting towards ‘smart’. For example, Samsung has slowly been implementing smart technology in their appliances and devices. According to the Samsung co-CEO, the company aims to make all of their products connect to the internet in 5 years-- or by 2020 [5]. Google, or now Alphabet, recently acquired NEST for $3.2b in 2014 [6].

But it’s not only large corporations who are in the smart home market. More and more crowdfunding campaigns by individual developers are emerging. For example, Emberlight, a smart lighting solution, received more than $300 000 in pledges from over 2 600 supporters [7]. Similarly, Blink: Wire-Free HD Monitor received more than $1 000 000 in pledges from over 6 800 supporters on Kickstarter [8]. This demonstrates an interest by consumers and developers in smart home technologies.

Use of Smart Technology

How Prevelant is Smart Technology in US Homes? [9]
The Future of Smart Home Adoption [10]

According to Statista, smart products for entertainment purposes still top the list with 17% of American households owning one as of 2015. This is followed by smart thermostats at 11%, which could be based on the cost-saving aspects. The chart displays that smart technology, besides smartphones, are still not quite widely used. According to a Harris poll, 88% of Americans find smart products to be still too expensive, with 37% willing to consider purchasing if the technology was more affordable. [11] As of now, about 4.6m households own one or more smart home technology (excluding smartphones) in the US [12]. However, analysts at Statista predict the smart home technology market will grow to about 24.5m households owning a piece of the technology by 2020 [13]. Whether or not this is an accurate prediction, only time will tell. Many big players, such as Google and Samsung have recently entered the market, as well as high interest in smart home product crowdfunding campaigns.

Increased Connectivity

As more developers and companies join the smart product market, it brings up the issue of compatibility. Having to download multiple apps to smart devices from different brands will become more of a hindrance to automate and defeat the purpose of convenience. NEST is introducing NEST Weave, a smart home communication protocol, to allow smart home products to interact with one another (Nest). Previously, this only worked between NEST products, however, NEST aims to open this up to 3rd party smart home manufacturers [14]. The developer kit will be made available in 2016.

NEST Weave Video [15]

Smart Devices

A smart device is defined as a device that connects electronically to wireless to networks and can operate autonomously or interactively. Smart technology is very prevalent nowadays, from integration in small devices such as phones to larger structures like smart homes, it is evident that this is a growing trend. In 2008, it was predicted that mobile devices would take over fixed internet access by 2014. This has been proven true as 51% of internet usage is spent on mobile devices compared to 42% on the home desktop [1]. As this trend takes over, almost every electronic has adopted a smart characteristics. This section will delve into some of the upcoming smart technologies that could possibly replace common objects.

The recent obsession with introducing smart technology into all devices can be derived from two factors: information addiction and individualistic culture. As technology becomes more advanced, information is more readily available. We are exposed to more than 174 newspapers worth of information every day and this statistic is growing [2]. Smart technology allows users to have gather information about themselves and their surroundings within seconds. Smart technology also fuels in developing an individualistic culture. With technology replacing the need with real human contact, people are free to pursue interests alone.

Smart Clothing

Smart technology has evolved to integrate into different types of material such as cloth and thread. The concept for smart fabrics was first developed in the late 1800’s where clothing was decorated with electrical appliances as a fashion statement [3]. As the technology improved, fibre optics was developed to be implanted into the fabric. Most of these fabrics are now used to track the human body during exercise and rest. This tracking technology has been translated to be used for medical and rehabilitation purposes. Other functions allow the fabric to conduct energy and modify its size to fit the user. Smart fabrics are also able to connect to other smart devices increasing automation in the surrounding area. Technology analysts predict that the demand for smart fabrics will grow exponentially in the next few years. From 2010 to 2014 the smart fabrics market grew 194%. Analysts estimate that by 2018, the global revenue for smart fabrics will surpass smart watches to reach $19 billion in value [4].

Antelope Athletic Wear

Antelope Wear is the new generation of smart fabrics in high performance athletic wear. It works by sending electric muscle stimulation (EMS) into the muscles to achieve a more complete, deeper workout. Training with Antelope supposedly pushes muscles into overdrive to achieve incredible results. Within four weeks, the user is able to increase overall performance by 30%, jumping ability by 20% and muscle volume up to 10% [5]. This smart fabric can be also used when the body is at rest as a rehabilitation device. The electrical impulses direct blood into the worn out tissue promoting quicker recovery. This type of smart cloth can track performance statistics and can be wireless connected to a smartphone. Additionally, the user is able to select which muscles they would like to target, and Antelope is able to send impulses directly to that part of the body.

Lumo Run

Lumo Run [6]

Lumo Run is a wearable system consisting of Lumo “smart garments” – shorts for men and capris for women. [1] The wearable device is added on the waist of the shorts. Lumo Run’s value proposition is “No wires. No goggles. No wristbands”. The state of art sensor attached provides real time audio cues through your headphones for immediate improvement. Lumo Run is different from traditional methods where athletes have to wait for the post-run summary to get feedback. Additionally, Lumo Run eliminates the need for a personal trainer by helping individuals evaluate their real time performance.

It is connected to a smartphones through the application which allows individuals to analyse their personal data anywhere, with a full post analysis so that individuals not only meet their goals but exceed them.[2] The State-of-the-art sensor is waterproof, machine washable, and lasts at least one month on a single charge. Lumo Run helps measure Cadence, Braking, Bounce, Pelvic Rotation, Ground Contact Time and Stride Length. The feedback are visuals that helps in better understanding decision making.

Ventilating Clothing [3]

Ventilating Clothing[1]

Natto cells were discovered 1,000 years ago in Japan, and used to fragment Traditional Natto Food. It has been major ingredient in major chemicals but its mechanical property have not been explored until MIT PhD student, Lining Yao was testing various microorganisms in the lab and realized that the natto bacteria grew and contracted based on how much moisture it was exposed to.

In MIT they grew natto cells in bioreactors and were molded to be used in a micron-resolution printer, then finally printed on a thin fabric. The printed natto cells on the thin fabric can be attached to any traditional fabric, which opens up flaps on the "skin" that will allow sweat to evaporate when a person's body temperature or sweat volume reaches a certain threshold. It could revolutionize sportswear industry. Additionally, the MIT team led by Lining Yao is working on functions such as color change, if this is successful it will transform the fashion industry.

Smart Robotics

In recent history, the emergence of robots have significantly changed the way industries operate. Robots are commonly found doing tasks that are too tedious, too dangerous, or not economically viable for humans to do effectively. The current market size for robots is valued at $3.77 billion, this is also forecasted to grow to $19.6 billion by 2018. Sales of robotics grew by 29% from 2013 to 2014 which is the highest growth in any given year [2]. Smart robotics have been mainly used in for military, healthcare, and organic production. Service robots account for 45% of all robot sales making them the most popular. The bulk of these robots are used in farming including milk and agriculture production. However, in the healthcare industry the demand of smart robots have fallen due to the decreasing number of people becoming ill.


The technology in RoboThespian allows it to replicate human creativity. The current model of this robot can be purchased for $78000 USD and can be used to host events. It has the ability to learn and give guided tours around museums. This robot can publicly speak, dance, sing and is able to write music from scratch. It can be controlled remotely and the controller can see what the robot sees through LCD screens in place of its eyes. Instead of motors, RoboThespian is uses air pressure to achieve the intricate movements needed [3].


Originally created by Alderban in 2009, Romeo is a robot that serves as a medical assistant. It is currently priced at $330,000 USD and specializes in the care of elderly people. Because of the increasing elderly population, it aims to alleviate stress on hospitals and care homes by granting allowing seniors to live independently for longer. It has been programed to be able to understand commands by speech and complete simple tasks such as assisting someone up the stairs or grabbing objects from another room. Romeo can also interpret and carry out conversations, this feature was designed to keep seniors from getting lonely. This robot is also able to learn the patterns and habits of its owner. If Romeo recognizes that the pattern has changed, for example, the owner did not wake up from his nap, the robot is able to contact a human operator to get medical help [4].

Alpha 2 introductory video [5]


Also created by Alderban is Pepper, a robot that doesn’t perform specific tasks, but is designed to live alongside humans autonomously. Pepper was built to understand human body language and facial expressions. Priced at $1600 USD, this robot is currently used in SoftBank, a Japanese mobile company to greet and interact with customers. Pepper is able to understand speech, recognize tones, and understand emotions. It uses sensors and cameras placed on its body to absorb information from the environment. It interacts with people through voice and touch and labels the person with an emotion of joy, surprise, anger, doubt or sadness [1]. With this information Pepper learns from the interaction, enabling it to adjust its responses accordingly.

Alpha 2

This new project recent launched on Indiegogo could be the next big popular humanoid robot in the near future. Alpha 2 the first robot for the family is affordably priced at $600 USD and is suitable for all ages. It can act as a tutor for new languages, send simple reminders for tasks and appointments. It has the ability to interpret the information, store, give a response. This mini robot is also able to connect with other smart appliances through Bluetooth and control those devices from one central location. The mobile joints of Alpha 2 allows it full autonomy to travel around on its own, and provides it with the ability to be a yogi instructor. The software for this robot is open source allowing other developers to create innovative features. Additional content can be downloaded on Alpha 2 via apps through the Alpha Store and is compatible with both iOS and Android devices [2].

Virtual Reality

According to the dictionary Virtual Reality is “The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.[3] ” Humans are attracted to visual things. The technological developments in Virtual Reality are advancing like never before. Virtual Reality enables humans to interact with the virtual world and will be a driving force towards future developments. According to Bill Gates, we are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world.[4]

6 Sense Device[5]

6 Sense Device [6]

In a Ted Talk, Pranav Mistry demonstrated how Six Sense Technology transforms our experience by connecting the physical world with the digital world. We use gestures to interact with each other. The Sixth Sense Device main value proposition is the ability to carry the digital world with you wherever you go. Instead of buying an iPad, we can use any plain surface to project on and interact with. Traditionally when we need to search, we type in Google. For instance, in order know if our flight is on time we do a Google search, Six Sense revolutionise this by providing direct access from the machines. In order to find the flight timing, you just need to view the boarding pass and it will automatically tell the timing, gate number and boarding time.

Due to the introductions of the new devices we are getting away from our physical world. Pranav Mistry believes the integration of information with everyday objects will not only help us to get rid of the digital divide, but will also help us, in some way, to stay human, to be more connected to our physical world.

Microsoft Hololens [1]

In today’s world we are surrounded by screens, may it be a computer screen, a phone screen or a television screen. Microsoft believed what if we could go beyond the screen, what if our digital world was blended with the real world. This led to the development of Microsoft Hololens which is the first fully untethered, holographic computer, enabling high-definition holograms to integrate with your world. It will provide new ways to see the world around us. It will transformation prototyping, medical education, construction and other industries.

During prototyping phase, companies built various model of the same thing with minor changes in order to make decisions regarding design. This methodology is very expensive, through Hololens prototyping design can be done virtually. For example, when a bike company designs a new model then can project images and make changes in the digital world. In medical education students work with the dead bodies to learn about various parts in human body. Through Hololens they will be able to project any part virtually, this will boost learning by enabling every student to work and interact with human parts individually. During construction, individuals changes design regularly, which leads to over budgeting. Trimble, a navigation company based in California has achieved many groundbreaking innovations that help architecture and construction industry professionals do their jobs better. Microsoft Hololens extends Trimble tools by opening new possibilities. It enables the managers to create full-scale 3D models holograms, through this they can better communicate and collaborate with remote teams across the globe. Microsoft has invested significant resources into the chips and the software to create the beginning of commercialized virtual reality. Hololens will transform many industries by enabling them to blend the digital world with the virtual world.

Global Internet

Google's Project Loon [2]

Over two thirds of the world population does not have access to the internet. This astounding number cumulates to over 5 billion people in the world with limited access to information, connectivity, and education. Also one third of all children do not have the resources or access to attend secondary school. With worldwide internet access, many problems in rural areas can be solved. Children will be able to attend school through online classes and sick people in rural areas will be able to consult doctors online. According to Mark Zuckerberg, for every 100 people who have access to the internet, 10 are able to find jobs or create businesses, and one person will rise above the poverty line. The benefits of global internet will carry back into wealthier countries. Many intelligent solutions to farming and manufacturing in poor countries are lost to the first world due to the lack of communications. However, with the internet, these solutions can be introduced to our society.

Google and Facebook are both competing to bring internet to the countries without infrastructure to transmit radio signals. Google’s solution is Project Loon which uses travelling hot air balloons to provide internet coverage. Facebook is using planes that circle above a specific area. Both these projects are similar as they aim to solve the problem of building expensive network towers in hard to reach areas. They both will fly in the Stratosphere around 18 – 24 km in the sky and cover an area of 5000 km2. Both aircrafts are solar powered and aim to stay in the sky for at least 100 days at a time. Project Loon adjusts its altitude with an internal balloon that fills up with air and uses wind currents to travel to different locations [1]. It is also outfitted with a custom pump for additional mobility. It partners with some existing mobile carriers and can transmit internet signals at 15 MB/s. Facebook planes on the other hand are made of carbon fibre and can theoretically fly forever. Up to 100 planes can be controlled at once by one operator on the ground, and it can transmit signals at 1.2 GB/s [2]. These planes can communicate with each other, and therefore are efficient when covering the largest area possible.

World of 2020[3]

The world is rapidly changing due to technological advancements. Predictions of how the world will look like in 25 years from now are hard to predict. According to Diomedes Kastanis head of technology for business unit support systems, leading Ericsson’s, we will have major changes in the next five years . The predictions made by Diomedes Kastanis are as follows:

Revised Notions Of Ownership

In today's world we own our phone, computer, car and so on. This system is highly inefficient. For instance: Steve is a Professor of Communication Studies at Simon Fraser University, who drives his Honda Civic to campus every day. After reaching campus his Civic is parked in the parking lot until he leaves. Since his car is not shared, the utilization rate of his car is low, through shared economy his car can be used by others, thus, resulting in a higher utilization. There has been a huge rise of the “sharing economy; not only can you stay in someone else’s house via Airbnb, but you can sail in someone else’s boat through Sailo, fly in someone else’s private plane via OpenAirplane and go snowboarding with someone’s else’s board via Spinlister”. The notion of ownership will change as sharing economy enables resources to be active at all times.


Due to the ease of travel, we live in a globalized world. In next five years companies will take their global presence and adapt it to each region. In the future the world will be “Glocal”, local version of the global trend.For example, In India consumers tend to care more about getting to their destination for a good price rather than “in style,” Uber launched a rickshaw-on-demand service in Delhi. And to get around government regulations, Delhi users can pay for their rides in cash.

Mind Power

When we write our essay we solely rely on keyboards. Speech recognition like Siri and Cortana are where we can control our gadgets without touching it. The next progression is mind controlled technology. According to Diomedes Kastanis “Scientists have already developed prosthetics that amputees can operate with their brains. A new wireless transmitter allows paralyzed patients to control their TVs, computers and wheelchairs with their thoughts”. He believes in the future rather than saying “Hey Siri” we will think “Hey Siri” and directly control devices with our mind.


  1.[Accessed: December 10, 2015]
  2.[Accessed: December 10, 2015]
  3.[Accessed: November 10, 2015]
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