'Smart Homes'




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This Encyclopedia entry notes the origin of smart homes in ‘intelligent buildings’. It tracks a change in focus away from mechanisation, automation and energy usage; towards understandings of the interactions between buildings and their occupants - especially the case with communications technologies and associated devices. There is now a growing realisation of the merit that smart homes can have for older people. This entry points to the potential of smart homes to empower people and facilitate their inclusion within smart cities and communities. In sum the entry strongly argues the case against a narrow, technocratic views of smart homes in order that their physical design and incorporated technologies should facilitate life-long living.

The Encyclopedia entry starts with Definition. The term “smart home” has been defined in various ways. A smart home is a concept represented by a dwelling equipped with communication networks, sensors, appliances, and devices that can be remotely monitored, accessed, or controlled and which provides services that respond to specific user needs (Balta-Ozkan et al. 2014). The purpose of those services, through the use of sensors, controls, and actuators, has primarily been in the cause of monitoring and affecting security, controlling temperature, humidity, air quality, and energy usage. Gann et al. (1999), with an eye to a broader role that would support occupants, defined smart homes as “about using the latest information and communications technology to link all the mechanical and digital devices available and create a truly interactive house.” The authors pointed to such homes as not just those that were newly built and with an aim “not to automate for the sake of it but to build up a specification that responds to real needs which people may have.” They identified particular beneficiaries including people with disabilities and older people, also offering a model user specification. ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security), recognizing the new dimension that is arising on account of artificial intelligence, pointed (2014) to smart homes as “equipped with technology that provides the occupants with comprehensive information about the state of their home and allows them to control all connected devices, including remotely. . . a smart home may also be able to ‘learn’ the preferences of the inhabitants and adapt to them.” In any case, smart homes are increasingly incorporating devices that can support the monitoring or independent living for occupants including older people and persons with different abilities (Majumder et al. 2017). In this broader context, Fisk (2003, p. 179) affirmed that “at its broadest a smart home is one where smart technologies are installed and where those technologies facilitate automatic or user-initiated communication involving a range of appliances,sensors, actuators and switches.” He added that “such communication takes place in ways that can empower people and, in so doing, improve their quality of life.”



Connected Home, Intelligent Home, Responsive Home, Smart House


Zallio, M. and Fisk, M. (2019) Smart Homes. In: Gu, D. and Dupre, M.E. (Eds.) The Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Health, Heidelberg: Springer, Cham.


Research Institute

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)