The next big frontier for the smart home? Presence.

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I really want to build a connected home recipe that blinks the lights in whatever room I’m in when my husband texts me. But so far, fine-grained presence is one of the missing triggers in my slew of smart home products. However, I may not have long to wait.

An article over at The Automated Home, breaks down the possibilities offered by Apple’s iBeacon and the Estimote sensors for home automation, detailing how the cost of such sensors is fairly reasonable and should continue to drop. The author already has found a DIY version of the Estimote as well. From the article:

But how about going a step further. How about using our smartphones to tell which room we’re in, not just which house. What we need is more than just geofencing, we need a high resolution ‘interior GPS’ for some indoor mapping.

iBeacon

The article notes that Android handsets had been relying on NFC to provide this short-range communication while Apple’s iBeacons use wider-ranging Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart). Ideally we could get to a standard protocol so I only need one true presence sensor in every room. Reely Active is also trying to build such functionality, although using active RFID.

However, the benefits of such fine-tuned presence in the smart home or office are enormous. Not only could you stop having to trigger the motion detectors in conference rooms and bathrooms by waving your hands in the air, but the building would have much more context with which to base its decisions about when to turn on lights, lower the temperature or even what channels might be viewed on the TV.

Picking an open protocol with which to build this capability is equally important. Then it would work even if we switched handsets or wanted to tie it to our existing home infrastructure. Plus, services like IFTTT could incorporate it into their triggers so novices you trigger web actions when they physically move through the world.

I already can trigger so many actions based on motion, temperature, humidity, cabinets opening and even more by general presence (my office light blinks when my husband enters our Wi-Fi network) so just imagine when we can add fine-grained presence to the list.

Of course, since many of the fine-grained presence tools are currently built into handsets, and the reason I need my lights to blink when my husband texts is be because I don’t carry my phone everywhere, this might not actually help me achieve my dream recipe. But it’s a start, and you have to start somewhere.

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