Smart Home Management: an Idea for an Accessible Control Panel

Over recent years we have become more aware of smart homes, and what could be perceived as the good, bad and the ugly when we think about security and accessibility. While I have heard positive things (to some degree) about the accessibility of specific apps, accessibility as well as making connected home devices as secure as possible is still something which is still in development. What follows is my attempt at what an accessible user interface would look like, and how it would function, and how security would be managed. I don’t own any smart home tech, so this is relatively new, I would be interested to hear your comments at the end if you would like to join me on my look at the future. Enjoy my accessible yet secure home of the future.

Device Layout and Design

My control hub is the device which provides all the functionality and security to your smart home. It would fit on to a wall such as a point where a security system would be, and would connect via your WiFi system to your home connected apps, which in turn could be accessed by your iOS or other such devices. It is the system which is used to set up user groups and access levels to your home, and is the device where users can administer access to home configuration options, and also control other apps if you have left your phone or iPad upstairs or in the office for example.

The device is (in my head anyway,) a piece of glass with a home button at the bottom, and not much bigger than an iPad mini. Sounds familiar right? Well there is more. Below the device is a full sized qwerty keyboard with a joystick similar to what we would find on the old Nokia devices from a few years ago. As you have no doubt guessed by now, this would have a 5-way selection mode, and be an alternative to people who don’t like to use touch screen devices. The control hub would act very much like our iOS devices do already, adopting the gestures we are all familiar with, and of course Voiceover would be activated by a triple click of the home button, (or the joystick when the home owner or tenant moves in, and activates the hub for the first time. The device would have in-built speakers with a volume control on the lower side near the keyboard, for quick and easy access.

Getting Set Up

Setting up the device would have to be done using a specific user ID. To ensure this is done as securely as possible, the user would need to create an ID which would be linked to their Apple ID to maintain the secure connection between all your devices, iCloud and so on. Wait, I hear you say, what about those who don’t have an Apple ID or who just want to use the hub with another platform like Android or even Windows phone for example?

An alternative to using your Apple ID would be to use your Gmail account or what ever email you wish to verify your security with. This has an obvious security risk immediately, what if your email is hacked?

Of course nothing is truly 100 percent secure, so this is my favourite option.

Here in the UK we have government gateway accounts, these are optional to use, but if you view your tax information online or send regular documents such as your annual income to the authorities, it can be managed using your account. To set this up your national insurance number together with your bank account details which you received your income to, as well as a unique user I.D is used to verify the user.

Once a user has been identified they can set up their hub, and would be given the default rights of full admin privileges, any additional family members or friends would need to be granted permission, and assigned a role such as ‘admin’ for some one who can independently enter and secure the property when they leave, which would also include the right to manage devices and edit users and ID’s. Another role may be trusted, where the user would be able to enter and leave the property, but can not edit users or the ID’s with regard to entering the property. These would be the basic options available for all users of the hub.

For quick and easy access your front door key would be replaced by a pin or fingerprint rather like many iOS devices we use today, and if you change address you back up your data to a secure government database, sign out of the hub which will erase your I.D, and you can start over again at your new address. So there are many issues here about how data is managed, I can see problems with giving your data to a government database already, and I would require all my data to be encrypted to the highest level possible, but I would welcome your comments, who knows when I am visiting my daughter’s house when she is all grown up it may be a reality.

Over to you.