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26 Feb 2018, 10:38

Electronic Components: The Critical Connections that Enable the Smart Home

In our increasingly connected world, quality, reliability and consistency matter a great deal, particularly in the context of the smart home ecosystem. The antennas, connectors, relays, sensors, switches, terminals and tubing inside these devices play critical roles in the product’s ultimate functionality. If you don’t focus on the right components or choose the wrong or incompatible ones, then device reliability and functionality becomes an issue.

With a faltering or failing device, the user loses trust in that product and may slow their adoption of more smart devices in general. The challenge is to know which components are crucial to your design and how to best minimize any failures. Whether it’s a washing machine, thermostat, home security system, coffee maker or other home appliances, users expect seamless operation from the connected and smart devices within their homes. Because the connected home is just now beginning to expand from the early adopter phase to a larger share of the market, inconsistent performance or a poor experience in one device category can have negative repercussions for the adoption of these devices overall. Continued growth of the connected home market hinges on consumer buy-in and trust. Gaining trust starts with providing reliable products with components that enable the device and the technology to perform as the user expects.

So, how can you maximize the performance and reliability of smart home and other connected devices? It’s simple, design in high-quality components and at an earlier point in your design cycle. When choosing components for a smart device, you must consider the consequences of each decision. High-quality components and integrated solutions can help fulfil the promise of the smart home— and help prevent a host of problems. Nearly all connected devices for applications in our homes now feature touch screens, voice activation capability, sensing technology and remote wireless communication functionality.

 

These features can enhance the user experience entice them toward greater smart device adoption if executed well:

Always-on connectivity:
Consumers expect devices to work as designed, including motors to run, heaters to operate, and power to drive the connectivity throughout the device. It is important to select the right component that is designed for the intended application. These components must be high quality, reliable and meet industry and regulatory requirements. Selecting components with colour or physical keying options, as well as ones that are ergonomically designed can aid in error proofing the assembly process.

Touchscreens:
Most consumers are used to interacting with touch screens because of today’s smartphones, and they expect every smart device to respond to their touch or swipe and act accordingly. However, if the component hardware behind the touch screen begins to fail, so does the value of the device. At this point, the device can cause frustration and may cease to be useful to the user. Starting with high-quality components could prevent a faulty touch screen from cropping up in the first place.

Voice recognition:
Voice activation capabilities are starting to gain traction with consumers, but several factors can affect accuracy. Because the program needs to “hear” the words spoken clearly, any extra noise will interfere. Low-quality sound cards, which provide the input for the microphone to send the signal to the computer, require adequate shielding from electrical signals produced by other components in the system. They can introduce hum or hiss into the signal, thus hindering the device’s performance. In addition, if the microphone or associated circuit malfunctions, it may not understand the command sent to the device. Selecting the best components can prevent many of these problems. Another option is to use spring fingers. Spring fingers—single contact, surface mountable internal connectors with multiple functions on a printed circuit board—can be used for grounding to prevent EMI noise and static caused by a speaker, microphone or other vibration.

Sensing technology:
Sensors are important to the connected home as a central input component in device and system operation. Using the wrong or inappropriate sensor in a heating and cooling system or application can adversely impact the overall efficiency of the system. That sensor could turn on the HVAC system and the compressor or motor when not needed, or cause the system to not operate when it should. A properly functioning sensor enables the system to run as intended. Likewise, with a security system, if the system fails because of communication issues or the sensors, this doesn’t bode well for the security system, the user, or the smart home in general.

Remote wireless communication and control:
Device-to-device communication and autonomous operation via sensor inputs are at the heart of the smart connected home. Connectivity issues between the device itself and its hub or control platform can and do occur. An engineer’s job is to minimize the chance of this occurring through solid design and componentry choice. For example, choosing the right antenna based on application needs can help deliver seamless, uninterrupted service. High-quality antennas provide high-clarity transmissions in wireless devices in a wide variety of frequencies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, and Zigbee, among others.

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26 Feb 2018, 10:38

Comments

December 20, 2018 08:46

Ah yes but Always-on connectivity deems the internet and remote server hosting the service to also be critical connections. Should Amazon hosting (AWS) have a bad hair day, or the internet link dies, then the consumer will find things they expect to work, don't.
Sadly in many parts of the world, internet services lack the reliability that is required of them.

0 Votes