Smart Home System Tartu

Lighthouse City Tartu: Smart home systems implemented but adjustments needed

20 Jan 2020

SmartEnCity project in Lighthouse City Tartu is not only about converting old Soviet era apartment buildings into modern energy efficient dwellings – “from hrustsovka to smartovka!” – but also to make them smart in every sense of the word: each retrofitted apartment in the Tartu pilot area has been or will be equipped with a smart home system and various sensors which allow controlling the internal climate of the apartment as well as monitoring energy consumption.

As most of the retrofitting works in Tartu’s pilot area buildings are about to come to an end (3/4 of the buildings are finished), the installation of smart home systems in apartments started in autumn 2019. So far, more than half of the apartments are now equipped with smart home sensors and devices.

In order to ease the residents into the process, a first pilot area information event was held on 4 December, focusing on questions and issues around the smart home system. As this system is still under development, many fixes and adjustments are still pending.  More events are planned, that will describe the current state of technology implementation and the residents’ immediate reactions to the launch of the system.

One of the major challenges when it comes to living in a smart home is getting used to the increased energy efficiency of the building. This means that the new insulation of the buildings is working so well that residents have trouble reducing the temperature in their homes, even when turning off the heating entirely. This fact provides great benefits like savings on heating costs but on the other hand it can be a nuisance, having to open your windows in winter for cooling purposes. However, in contrast, a few residents have also experienced too cold temperatures: they prefer warmer rooms and try to adjust the temperature on the smart home system, but sometimes that does not work. According to smart home experts, a possible reason might be the building’s heating schedule rather than the smart home system itself.

The current version of the smart home system has a comprehensive interface which allows the user to see the temperature and ventilation state of each room, in addition to the time, date and outside temperature. The interface allows to temporarily turn up ventilation or turn it down and regulate the temperature separately in each room. In the future, the interface will also display energy consumption and solar panel production rates. Additionally, apartment owners will have the right to create new accounts, i.e. for tenants.

Even though the residents found the current interface logical and intuitive, it was suggested to include an FAQ or “help” section in the app as well – this idea was immediately taken on by the project team. Additionally, many residents would like to include further functionalities, e.g. connecting home security sensors to the smart home system as well, but this can only be accomplished once the basic functionalities of the application have been finalized.

As the system is still under development, some residents found it difficult to imagine what it will be like once it is finalized. There was criticism of the current system being simply a “more complicated way” to regulate temperature, not considering the future potential of the solution. However, the general tone of the event was that the residents were interested and eager to learn more about their new smart homes’.

As such, in order to further explain the current and upcoming functionalities of the smart home and to ensure that the technological barrier is being diminished for residents of all ages and backgrounds, the Tartu project team is planning smart home training sessions. The first three will take place already in January 2020. To ensure that the dates and times suit as many people as possible, each training session takes place twice a day – at 1 PM and 6 PM. During the sessions, every participant will receive a first version of the smart home system instruction manual that will be also available at the smart home app.

Picture@Lighthouse City Tartu