The technology that runs smart homes

Electronic controls are increasingly used to operate home appliances

By Antoinette Price

We are all familiar with remote controls. We use them to change TV channels, select our favourite music and protect ourselves with sophisticated security systems. Still, more appliances and systems in our homes work by using automated electronic controls.

Today, many aspects of our homes are connected Today, many aspects of our homes are connected (Photo: www.technoeyevision.com)

From lighting to heating water

We can also programme these automated controls to adjust equipment according to changes in the surroundings. Motors open and shut blinds, windows and vents to control temperature. They also operate fans, dampers, valves and pumps, so that water or air can flow for heating and cooling systems. These can be pre-set to certain temperatures and triggered by timers or sensors. Some systems function remotely, such as lighting, which turns on and off through motion detection.

Today more household appliances are connected and an integral part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and can be controlled from anywhere using smart devices.

Making sure the controls work properly

If well designed, this technology not only helps occupants with disabilities to carry out daily activities, it can also save energy. However, if the controls don’t function correctly, smart homes may not be as safe, secure or efficient.

The IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components, tests and certifies electrical and electronic equipment.

Its CB Scheme provides the assurance that tested and certified electrical equipment – and its components – meets the strictest levels of safety and performance in compliance with the relevant IEC International Standards.

In this case, IEC Technical Committee (TC) 72 produces International Standards which ensure the safe and reliable operation of automatic electronic controls for household appliances. A number of Standards from its IEC 60730 series is used for testing and certification. These cover, among others, requirements for burner control systems, thermal protectors for certain parts of fluorescent lamps, timers and time switches, pressure sensing controls, electrically-operated water valves, temperature sensing control, motor starting relays, door locks and energy regulators.

This series also applies to automatic electronic controls for equipment that may be used by the public, such as equipment intended for use in shops, offices, hospitals, farms and commercial and industrial applications.

Tackling cybersecurity

Every day, we hear about cyberattacks, which are carried out through different connected devices. The IEC takes cybersecurity very seriously. In addition to a number of TCs which focus on publishing International Standards specifically on this topic, the IEC Conformity Assessment Board (CAB) Working Group (WG) 17 investigates the market need and timeframe for CA services (global certification schemes) for products, services, personnel and integrated systems in the area of cybersecurity.

IECEE WG 3: Cybersecurity Task Force, is working on an approach for CA in relation to the IEC 62443 series of Standards for Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) security, produced by IEC TC 65, which deals with industrial automation. This includes descriptions of testing tools and test protocols. It also requires coordinating with IEC TC 65, to ensure its International Standards contain elements for cybersecurity in relation to industrial automation, to evaluate the need for personnel certification for cybersecurity and the need for a system level certification for cybersecurity of an industrial application.

Additionally, IEC CAB WG 17 communicates to other industry sectors the generic cybersecurity approach taken by IECEE WG 3 and how this may apply to these other sectors.

Gallery
Automated controls operate everything from heating and lighting to security systems Automated controls operate everything from heating and lighting to security systems (Photo: www.control4.com)
Motorized shades can be adjusted manually or automatically to control light Motorized shades can be adjusted manually or automatically to control light (Photo: www.highendsmarthome.com)
Today, many aspects of our homes are connected Today, many aspects of our homes are connected (Photo: www.technoeyevision.com)