Smart homes: BRE cuts ribbon on new research hub

30 January 2018

Energy and technology giants EDF, Telefonica, and BT have teamed up with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to today launch a new UK centre dedicated to smart home research.

The Centre for Smart Homes and Buildings (CSHB) will test new home technologies like smart thermostats, intelligent appliances, and digital assistants in a simulated home environment.

BRE said the hub will help companies better understand how emerging technologies work within a domestic setting and help tackle risks such as data privacy.

"Within the rapidly-growing home technology sector, the CSHB will play a vital role in educating the housebuilding sector, ensuring that tech meets the needs of the end user, and providing clarity on the performance of devices and systems," Dr Martin Ganley, director of smart homes and buildings at BRE, said in a statement. "As the industry is such a dynamic one, the CSHB will also address and resolve emerging risks, helping the industry and its providers to operate as efficiently and sustainably as possible."

The smart homes market was valued at $27.5bn in 2017, and is expected to almost double by 2022 to $53.45bn. Some of the most popular smart home products include digital assistants such as Amazon's voice-activated Alexa, and energy-saving equipment such as sensor-activated lighting or smart thermostats.

The emerging technology is widely regarded as critical to efforts to cut greeenhouse gas emissions from buildings by curbing energy use and enabling smarter grids that better match variable clean power supplies and domestic demand. 

However, the smart home market faces a number of significant challenges, including limited industry and interoperability standards and concerns over data privacy and internet security, with reports of smart fridges and kettles being hacked to enable identity theft.

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