Smart homes, digital assistants, Internet of things – the possibilities for new digital applications are endless. In our glossary, you’ll find our definitions and explanations of key terms related to smart living and working.
Smart home systems are digital applications which make many household tasks and processes easier and can often be installed, connected and operated without specialist knowledge. They control appliances we previously operated by hand, such as door locks, blinds and heaters. You can also use an app on a smartphone or tablet while on the move to check that everything is OK at home. As well as this convenience, smart home solutions have many other benefits: automatic locking systems to help prevent break-ins, blinds that open and close based on the occupant’s routine and moisture sensors that let you know when it’s time to air out. We have already started to equip some apartments with a smart home system: the innovative MiA assistance system. It automatically maintains the optimum room temperature and can also be controlled while on the move. Additional functions such as light controls are to follow.
The benefits of smart home solutions can also be applied to entire buildings. Smart buildings are digitally organised properties. These can be apartment buildings, shopping centres or public buildings such as museums or town halls. A central heating system equipped with sensors in an apartment building can, for example, supply data on energy consumption and status information. This makes it possible to come up with the right measures to ensure more reliable and efficient operation. If there is a defect in the system, such as a power cut in a wing of the building, the system can inform technicians itself. Ideally, they will be able to supply direct remote assistance. The smart community is a concept which is not only digital but also innovative and light on resources. In this type of set-up, occupants of several buildings share a garage or gardening appliances – the use of which is organised via an online tool accessible to all occupants.
Smart cities are cities which are technologically advanced, efficient, sustainable and socially inclusive. Although a tall order, the first few cities are on the way. For instance, in Santander, a city in northern Spain, there are already garbage containers that indicate when they should be emptied and street lights that only light up when people pass by. Together, all measures should save 80 per cent of electricity costs.
Car drivers also benefit from the smart city thanks to sensors in the ground which detect whether a parking space is occupied and inform the driver immediately. This reduces fuel consumption and the stress of driving around needlessly. These examples show that smart use of smart solutions can drastically improve quality of life.
Proptech is an abbreviation of ‘property technology’ and refers to innovative digital developments in the property sector. Generally, it is proptechs (i.e. start-ups focused on property) who are driving the digital transformation of the property sector and bringing analogue processes into the digital world. One such proptech is the company KIWI, a digital door lock specialist in which Deutsche Wohnen holds shares. Landlords can equip home and basement doors with KIWI locking systems – so all you need to open the door as a tenant is a key ring with a chip or the right app on your smartphone. Optimum security precautions are taken for these systems: the door sensors are TÜV-certified and a patent application has even been filed for the encryption. We have already begun to equip our apartments with KIWI access systems.
The Internet of things describes the connection of appliances or machinery via the web and is the basis for the management of smart appliances as described in the above scenarios. Every object has its own Internet address or a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that is used to send signals to other appliances, display status information in an app and receive instructions from people, among other tasks. For instance, if you are on holiday, presence simulation provides enhanced security by automatically opening and closing the blinds and switching on the lights. In future, it will be possible to achieve more and more while cutting out the human middle man. For instance, your refrigerator will be able to record what needs to be topped up and then order the groceries to be automatically sent to your home.
[Translate to English:]
Digitale Assistenten funktionieren auf Basis sogenannter Künstlicher Intelligenz (KI). Das Ziel von KI ist es, die Wahrnehmung und das Handeln des Menschen so gut wie möglich zu imitieren (bzw. zu erweitern). Auch Sprachassistenten benötigen KI, um aus einer Spracheingabe des Nutzers die passende Aktion abzuleiten. Hierzu wird die KI durch große Datenmengen trainiert, um auch bei Akzenten oder Dialekten die gewünschte Antwort zu geben. Dasselbe gilt für Chatbots, also Anwendungen, die beispielsweise mit Nutzern in einem Chatfenster kommunizieren und Antworten auf häufig gestellte Fragen geben. Dadurch ersetzen sie bis zu einem gewissen Grad den menschlichen Ansprechpartner und schaffen so zum Beispiel Kapazitäten für eine intensivere Kundenbetreuung bei individuellen Anfragen.
Digital assistants can be voice assistants, for example. These are software assistants that make logical connections from spoken instructions. So, for example, when you say ‘Messages!’, they can understand this as an instruction to display the latest messages or read them aloud. Speakers that work with this software are called voice assistants in everyday use. Smart speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant are on the rise. According to representative surveys from the digital association Bitkom, at least one in eight Germans live in a household with voice assistants, while other studies suggest the figure may be as many as one in four. We are also testing the benefits of speaker assistants in the home in our smart flat-share in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. Six students are currently testing out smart home technology for us and reporting back on their blog.
Virtual reality (VR) is the depiction of a computer-generated environment in which the actual environment is hidden. With a special VR headset, you plunge into a purely virtual world in which you can interact with virtual objects, for instance. As well as in the gaming industry, this technology is also increasingly used in construction planning, as it offers major advantages. For example, planned spaces can be viewed in advance to check whether the windows are in the right place or whether the door frames have been designed wide enough. By contrast, augmented reality (AR) involves adding digital elements, such as images or videos, to the real world. This is used for purposes such as football broadcasts, where an offside line is inserted for TV viewers. There are now also apps you can use to place virtual furniture in your own home in order to test the effect of various design options.
Electromobility describes the full or partial operation of vehicles using electricity. They can make a major contribution to reducing exhaust fumes and noise pollution caused by traffic. In our subsidiary FACILITA, we have a sustainable fleet of 32 electric cars, 17 electric bikes and 75 bicycles, which building management employees use on the road for you. So far, we have built 38 charging stations to serve them. You can read more about our ‘electromobile’ project here.