On our latest IoT Podcast episode, we take a question that Gregg left on our IoT Voicemail Hotline. Gregg uses Apple HomeKit and is looking for occupancy sensors, which he correctly says are not the same as motion sensors. Unfortunately, we’re right on the cusp of having a range of accurate occupancy sensors in the smart home, so current options are fairly limited.
We recently reviewed the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium, which does actually have an occupancy sensor in it. Ecobee is using millimeter wave radar for this purpose, which is much more accurate than older passive infrared (PIR) motion detection solutions.
Gregg knows that this Ecobee will work for occupancy but only in the area near the thermostat. This Ecobee model does include a remote sensor, which provides motion and occupancy detection. However, the remote doesn’t use millimeter wave technology so it’s not as accurate as what’s in the thermostat. And most other similar sensors are the same, relying on PIR or some other older RF technology.
The challenge here is one of timing. Over the last year or two, we’ve seen some promising developments for true occupancy detection with millimeter wave, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other RF approaches. Unfortunately, it takes time to develop products after the radio chips are designed, tested and built. And that’s roughly where we are right now: Waiting for the next generation of occupancy sensor products to arrive on the mainstream smart home market.
Our estimate is that sometime next year we should see some of the advanced, accurate products that will detect occupancy and integrate with our smart homes. The current chip shortage and production backlogs aren’t helping, so these products could even slip into 2024. We should have a better idea of what to expect and when in January’s Consumer Electronics Show, however.
So a broad choice for true occupancy sensors in homes isn’t yet available. But these products are coming. That means we either wait or we invest now in the current options and then replace those sensors with improved models over the next year or two.
To hear Gregg’s question, as well as our discussion the topic in full, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: