Dariusz Yarzabek

Bluetooth 5.1 allows devices to track each other up to a centimeter. But Bluetooth 5.1 isn’t just for finding your keys — it’s precise position tracking will let your smart home know who you are and where you are in your home.

Your smart home doesn’t know where you are

Smart homes are great for automating lighting, climate control, or scheduled coffee makers, but they don’t act on your overall behavior. This is because all smart homes are based on schedules and commands and for the most part do not detect presence. Your home does not know your exact location; he doesn’t know which room you’ve spent the most time in, and without that, he can’t do anything for you. At best, he can do something on your command (even if it is a scheduled command).

If you are outside your home, the problem only gets worse. When you leave or arrive, any knowledge of your presence is geofencing dependent. But geofencing can be inaccurate and trigger too late, too early, or worst of all, when you’re not anywhere near your home. It is because of this latter capability that many smart devices limit their capabilities to geofencing; for example, most smart locks will not open a geofencing based door.

RELATED: Bluetooth 5.1: what’s new and why it matters

Bluetooth 5.1 can make your smart home smarter

Currently, Bluetooth is not very good for searching and finding things (or people). It can help you find the room an object is in, but it won’t narrow down the location any more than that, which is why tracking devices like Tile and Trackr have built-in audible alarms. But the Bluetooth SIG has introduced version 5.1, which greatly improves location awareness. The Bluetooth 5.1 connection provides both directional and positional positioning down to the centimeter. This means you will know exactly where the object is in the room and in what direction. Or, if you have a Bluetooth 5.1 tag or phone, your smartphone can know exactly where you are and which direction you’re heading.

Bluetooth 5.1 isn’t just for finding your stuff; this could be the future of the smart home.

Your music can follow you through the house

If you start a song on a smart speaker in your living room and then want to go to the kitchen for a drink, you can’t take your music with you — at least not without headphones. The nearest option is multi-room, but playing music throughout the house is not always what you need. If you’re home alone, you don’t need your music playing in the far corners of the house. But if your smart home could follow your path from living room to kitchen and back again, your music could move with you with graceful speaker-to-speaker transmission. Or, if you like, your music can stop or stop because you left the room.

The light can only be turned on in the rooms you use

Cinema Night Home Theater Lounge

Similarly, when you enter a closet or bathroom, your home can detect you and turn on the lights for you. Late at night, this will eliminate the need to fiddle with a light switch or chain. When you leave the toilet or bathroom, the light may turn off. As you walk through the house, your lights may follow. If someone else is already present, the lights can stay on when you leave.

Your favorite scenes, colors and brightness levels can start automatically when you get home or enter a room. When you sit on the couch to watch TV, the smart home (with its ability to determine your location and direction by centimeter) can figure out where you are, that you’re in front of the TV, and automatically turn on your electronics while turning off your headlights.

Intelligent heating and cooling

Automatic presence control between rooms can do more than just turn on lights and music. With better presence detection, your home can turn off heat or AC power more accurately when you leave for work. When you enter your bedroom on a bright sunny day, it can turn off the light and automatically raise the shadows for you, letting in the natural sun. Knowing you’re in a study, your climate control can continue to heat up even though the thermostat would normally detect you’re away and go into eco mode.

This same method of room control applies to devices connected to smart jacks, such as portable heaters or dehumidifiers.

Your Wi-Fi and voice assistant can be smarter too

Amazon Echo and Google Home side by side

Mesh networks are becoming more common, especially in larger homes. They are working on the idea of ​​combining multiple Wi-Fi extenders and intelligently handing one device to another without the need for additional passwords. But with presence detection, your mesh network can prioritize the router closest to you. By giving higher priority, you should enjoy better speed and more reliable connection across all your devices.

Voice assistants will also benefit from a better idea of ​​who you are. Alexa and Google Home currently support multiple user profiles and try to distinguish them by voice, but this is not always reliable. And that leaves the annoyance of having to explicitly switch profiles before you can access your music and routine.

But with Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, your voice assistant will have an extra data point to physically match you; it can compare the direction it has of your voice with the direction of your Bluetooth connection. This information will help you better distinguish you from other users in your home.

Today’s presence detection is not so good

SmartHome Automation System Rendering Artist
Alexander Supertramp / Shutterstock

You can do it now, but the decisions often leave a lot to be desired. Motion detectors can’t tell the difference between a person and a pet, and they can’t tell the difference between you and other people in your home. Cameras may notice a difference, but this is due to facial recognition, which may cause some privacy issues. Geofences are restricted to arrivals and departures and may not be reliable.

What about guests and privacy?

The only downside to this suggestion is that you need to carry something to make it all work. It could be your Bluetooth 5.1 enabled phone (and possibly an app), or it could be a tag similar to what Tile or Trackr offer. If you forget your device at work or leave it in another room, the smart home won’t know where you are. And the only way to offer this to guests in your home is to give them a Bluetooth tag or set up a phone to connect to your smart home system.

Not everyone will want to have one of these tags or install an app, and that may even apply to the people who live in your home. Some privacy implications also need to be considered. While you may be able to talk less to your smart home, it won’t completely replace listening devices like Alexa and Google Home. And you might tell Amazon, Google, and other SmartHome device makers more about where you are at home and which rooms you visit most often.

Like most SmartHome technology, convenience and privacy are a balancing factor, so this won’t be for everyone. But better presence detection is a critical missing ingredient for smart homes, and Bluetooth 5.1 could be the vehicle to unlock the smart home.

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