IoT Opens Doors to Home Connectivity

IBM's Watson IoT Platform is being leveraged by window and door company Inwido to provide smart-home data, while IBM is also offering its IoT Building Insights solution for commercial building intelligence.
Published: July 26, 2018

Swedish window and door company Inwido is providing intelligence with the products it sells, by employing Internet of Things (IoT) data from sensors, using IBM‘s cloud-based Watson IoT Platform. The solution was made available to Inwido’s customers in May of this year, and approximately 500 users are currently running gateway devices using the technology on IBM’s platform.

Inwido, the largest window supplier in Europe, is one of the top suppliers of doors. About 70 percent of its sales are made to consumers, either directly or through distribution channels. For several years, Inwido has been in the process of expanding its product portfolio into smart systems, which provide sensor-based, automated responses to specified conditions, including sounding alarms in the event of a break-in or other problem, or detecting changes in light or temperature levels. The system is intended to provide higher security, as well as a greener environmental footprint and lower energy costs for home owners.

Inwido’s Johan Ambuhm

As part of that effort, Inwido acquired an alarm company in 2012 to begin building what it calls a smart-home ecosystem. “This was a good way for us to start learning and piloting in a smaller system,” says Johan Ambuhm, Inwido’s business-development and digital solutions VP. The firm began developing IoT-based systems in 2016 and 2017, he says, before deciding to work with partners on a scalable solution for a large percentage of the company’s products.

“In a smart-home ecosystem,” Ambuhm says, “there are typically several partners working together, providing solutions related to energy, light, alarm and entertainment,” among other features. “Our window and door offering supports this ecosystem.” The company began working with IBM to adopt the Watson IoT Platform into its windows and doors, and has now begun making connected doors and windows as part of what it calls its smarter-home project. The firm intends to have half of all its products connected by 2020.

The Inwido solution consists of three main features, according to Jens Dahle, IBM Global Markets’ associate partner for digital transformation and enterprise. Those features consist of accessories or sensor devices (controlled through gateways), the IBM Watson IoT Platform, and related mobile applications that give home owners access to related data. In addition to the sensors, Inwido offers a variety of supported appliances, such as window or door handles; blinds; thermostats; light, temperature and humidity sensors; and magnetic strips that link to the system.

Inwido builds these appliances, from a variety of technology providers, into the windows and doors to enable residents to be alerted regarding whether doors and windows are open, closed, locked or unlocked, and to monitor the light levels for automated shading in windows. The system also works with sensors deployed throughout a home using the Inwido solution. This can include connected blinds, thermostats and controllers.

For those using the technology, homeowners must first download the Inwido app to control their solutions. There are also wall controllers and other interfaces and sensors on the doors and windows. They can then program the system to provide direct, actionable functions, such as turning a power outlet on or off based on conditions, or automating carbon dioxide controls.

Data culled from sensors is transmitted via Z-Wave‘s proprietary 800 to 900 MHz radio network, at a distance of up to 100 meters (328 feet), to gateways—typically one per home—that are, in turn, forwarded to the IBM Cloud through a local area network (LAN) connection. They can then program the system to respond to the data in specific ways.

IBM Global Markets’ Jens Dahle

For instance, with the locked and unlocked data for windows or doors, a homeowner can sign into the Inwido app and view the status of these doors and windows within a home before leaving, thereby preventing the need to physically check each one. What’s more, safety can be assured if, for example, higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide are detected. In this case, sensors detect CO2 in the home’s air and can trigger the window to open into “ventilation mode.”

If the weather is warm and sunny, the data could prompt the blinds in the window to close. Similarly, if it is cold but sunny outside, the blinds could open to ensure as much warming sunshine entered the home as possible. “We think that connected windows will be a standard in the future,” Ambuhm says, “and as the leading company in Europe within this category, we need to take the lead.”

The first step, Ambuhm explains, will be to enable the IoT system on 50 percent of its products by 2020, and the company then plans to expand from there. The system can also be provided as a retrofit for existing Inwido products, he says, since the firm has products in use by customers that date back 30 years.

“Our mission is improving life at home,” Ambuhm states. He predicts the controls will help provide residents with peace of mind based on window and door controls, as well as a healthier and more comfortable home. The company expects to develop more systems in the future that may connect to access-control and smart-home controls as well. Remote opening and closing of windows and doors via the Inwido app may be another solution available to its product users, he notes.

IBM has other IoT-based solutions in use that center around commercial and business installations. For instance, several companies throughout North America and Europe are piloting various elements of an IBM solution known as IoT Building Insights to help facilities managers better understand their energy use, according to Anthony Behan, IBM’s IoT industry offerings leader. Data is transmitted using the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) standard messaging protocol.

IoT Building Insights is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) sold through integration partners to manage building energy consumption by using sensor-based data to understand the conditions within a building. The technology is aimed at reducing energy costs, Behan says, noting that 39 percent of energy in the United States is expended in buildings, while lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) may not be properly managed. “The solution can learn the behavior of the building, predict when failures and anomalies are likely to occur and empower the client to take preventive action,” he says.

IBM’s Anthony Behan

The IoT Building Insights solution connects data from IoT sensors, main meters, sub-meters, environmental measurements (such as weather) and data culled from building-management software. It then uses augmented intelligence to learn the behavior of the individuals and things inside the building that could affect energy use.

IBM says the companies piloting the technology cannot be named. However, Behan describes them as large retailers and other enterprises that monitor and predict their energy consumption in order to optimize usage. He says building managers are utilizing the technology to understand occupancy, as well as, in some cases, how to improve the in-building experience for occupants or visitors.

The offering can link to any kind of building sensors; however, it most commonly connects to main meters and sub-meters that transmit data to gateways that then forward the information to IBM Cloud. There, the IBM IoT Building Insights software analyzes building energy use and cost. “In the future,” Behan says, “we’re looking at occupancy sensors, asset sensors and inputs from other devices like those supporting maintenance functions.”