British Gas sets its sights on home automation

Second generation Active Home system will feature more smart tech features

British Gas has revealed plans to dramatically expand its connected home division Hive, including adding home automation features.

Hive launched last year and the smart thermometer is now installed in more than 100,000 homes across the UK, according to British Gas. That gives it a significant lead over its other smart home rivals, such as Nest and Honeywell.

The company has now unveiled the second generation of its Active Home system, which it claims will take it beyond just measuring the temperature into the house towards full home automation.

According to Kassir Hussain, director of connected homes at British Gas, the second generation of the gadget will come with smart sensors that are able to detect which room people are in and when they leave the house.

“Infrared presence sensors and little keyfobs you put on your bag that tell you when people in and out are on our radar,” Hussain told Engadget.

However, he conceded that while the technology is there to increase the intelligence of device – such as knowing you’re five minutes away and putting the heating on – privacy issues mean it is too soon to take things to that extreme.

“We’re also looking at geolocation but we’re being very careful with that due to privacy issues. Knowing that you’ve stepped through the front door is a good first step, but whether we’ll go beyond that remains to be seen.”

Other features the company is testing out include detecting when a certain member of the family enters or leaves the home. It is also looking at tying it into security systems to detect when someone who doesn’t live there enters the property.

Hussain said that the company isn’t planning on adding 101 features to the gadget though. British Gas is instead focusing on working with other companies who specialise in other complementary areas.

“We don’t believe in closed ecosystems. Customers are going to want to choose a variety of different products, which could be from other manufacturers or they could be from us. The key for us is to create an open ecosystem and platform that allows people to collect the products they choose, not the ones we curate.”

That openness extends to Apple and Google’s own platforms. “We’re excited about Apple HomeKit and Google’s recent home automation announcements, and are actively looking into Bluetooth LE, ZigBee and Z-Wave standards to ensure we remain open,” Hussain added.

The second generation of Active Home is currently scheduled to launch next summer.

Source: Engadget