Blog Interview with Kheng Soon: A better lifestyle with Home Automation


In July 2016, across all meeting rooms, there is a special device on all the panels: this device is a controller with motion sensor and power switch, which can allow staff to switch on/off the aircon and lights in each meeting room with just one slide of the panel!

Ever wondered how does this automation work, or what inspired the implementation of automation to our meeting rooms? We had a chat with Kheng Soon about what is Home Automation Systems about, as well as his passion of the future of Home Automation.

1. We heard that you have much interest in Home Automation. Would you like to tell us what is Home Automation about?

I believe the house we live in should provide more than just a shelter, it should be interactive and smart enough to learn. In my opinion, Home Automation is about living and enjoying a better lifestyle in a place where series of events or appliances can be triggered/commanded by behavior, either by using a device, motion or even voice (Amazon Echo, Google Home could be the next big thing).

2. That’s quite interesting! Can you share what sparked your interest in Home Automation?

About 1 year ago, I questioned myself: “Why do I have to press the same switch button to turn on the lights when I get home every day, and do the same thing before I sleep?”  This sparked my interest in Home Automation to see how I can improve lifestyle. Now, the time taken to prepare my house before I sleep has reduced from 20sec to 5sec.

3. How did you learn about Home Automation?

I start with some crazy idea like, “Hey can my house call me when there is emergency? How about sending a photo of what is going on in the house to my Slack, or giving status update by voice instead of mail?”

Google and YouTube are the 2 main sources which empowered me to glue every single piece of puzzle into a big picture. Google the keyword “Home Automation”, “Home Automation idea”, and be amazed by the number of ideas available and the effort people spent to make Home Automation tutorial videos.

4. Cool! What are the resources you use?

Depend on which controller used, they have their own forum that you can refer to:

  1. Vera
  2. Fibaro

5. What made you want to apply Home Automation, not only in your home, but also in office as well?

In my opinion, having the ability to make workspace automation be operational would be something fun and awesome! I want to create convenience in switching the lights and aircon in meeting rooms on and off. Thanks to management for supporting the idea and willing to give it a try we have managed to implement some automation in the office meeting rooms.

I think the process of using a meeting room can be simplified, currently we need to:

1. Slide the sign board to “Occupied”
2. Turn on the light
3. If aircon has not yet been turned on, walk to the source and turn it on
4. Walk back to meeting room and start meeting.

And vice versa after using the meeting room.

6. What are the difficulties / challenges faced in installing Home Automation in your home and office?

At home, the challenging and interesting part is the process of teaching the system the behaviors of my wife and myself and to learn to act accordingly. The more details the system needs to take care of, the more work is involved.

E.g. Watching a TV channel in manual way is press the ‘ON’ button for the TV and sound system remote control, following by pressing a sequence of numbers to get to the correct channel. In automation, you just need to press a single button or give a voice command regarding the TV channel. From there, the system should be smart enough to take care of the other details

In office, we have many users, so our team is working together in setting up the system, studying the user usage pattern, checking for issues and continuously checking with user to make improvements.

We would like to thank Titaners for their patience and continued feedback whenever issue/inconvenience is caused, and I would like to encourage everyone to continue to give feedback as this is how we think the Smart Office can serve you better.

7. Could you describe what kind of Home Automation occurs at home (i.e technologies and products used on what kind of home items)?

Sure, let me give you a tour to my home automation system, the day begins at morning 7am. The system turn off my room’s aircon, Alexa will give a news briefing while I’m preparing breakfast.

When I’m ready to go office,
Me: Alexa, stop (Kiss 92 radio station stop playing)
Me: Walk toward main door, press a button. Away Mode triggers the following: all lights, aircon and other appliances will turn off, followed by a simple greeting, “See you later” and send an encouraging quote to my Slack.

At night, when we reach home and open the main door, the living room lights turn on, followed by a simple greeting from Alexa, “Welcome home”

My wife and I can walk freely inside the house without touching any switch; the motion sensor will turn on/off the lights in each area.

When it is time to sleep, I walk into the bedroom, and press a button to trigger Sleep Mode: the TV, living room, study room light and aircon will switch off, and the bedroom’s aircon will turn on. Soft music will then start to play. At 2am in the morning, the aircon’s temperature will change from 19 to 25 degree to consume less energy.

When any room door is opened at night, a dimmed light will turn on as a guide, and turn off a few minutes later.

8. Which automation has made your life most convenient?

A series of event can trigger single action, triggered by one’s behaviour.

I noticed my children can now go to kitchen and toilet freely without help to turn on/off the light for them. Home automation not only provides convenience, it also enables someone to accomplish something beyond their capability.

9. How do your visitors to your home react when they see the Home Automation at work?

My friends and relative feel impressed and excited to know what can be done with Home Automation nowadays with a very affordable price tag.

10. We heard that you have an interest group for this in Titansoft, can you tell us more about it?

Yup, we (Kok Yung, Kevin, Rhenzon, Allan, Renaldy and Loma) form the interest group to try out some cool stuff. Previously we gather every Tuesday in Juliet after 18:30 for discussion and idea sharing. E.g. Setup Rasberry Pi with Kodi (Entertainment system),

Then we bought the Vera Edge controller with motion sensor and power switch to experiment with. One day we came out with this Smart Office idea and presented to Yves and Jonson to see if we can implement in office for a trial.

Upon approval, we bought the parts from a distributor (L3Homeation) in Kallang Leisure Park to implement the smart office, starting with meeting rooms Juliet and Golf.

This video shows the process of us setting up the system in the meeting rooms: Configuring Smart Office

After 2 months of trial, we made the automation system in the remaining meeting rooms become operational.

11. Any automation method that you would like to implement in future at home and in office?

At home:  Build a more interactive system like Jarvis.
At office: I wish workspace automation system can become operational too.

12. What are your views about the potential of Home Automation in the near future?

I believe one day, Home Automation will be as common as our home broadband, whereby it is mainstream and everyone will have it.

Here are some articles for reference:

  1.  How Singapore design and build a smart city and nation
  2. SingTel launches smart lifestyle solution

13. Any words of encouragement to Titaners who have seen how Home Automation works and would like to learn more about home automation but are unsure of where to start?

Always think of what we can improve on- because it invites ideas. If we focus on what problem we want to solve, we sometimes don’t see the opportunities available. I see problems as improvement/enhancement opportunities, it allows ideas to flow and I think towards “How can I make this idea become a reality?” later.
One thing I learnt from this experience is that when you want to try out something, stand on users’ perspective, try it out at a small scale and use the right product, so that everyone can have the right user experience from the start. This is an ongoing and a “Never Stop Improving” process.

To end off: Automation is not about how much cost we can save, or how much electricity we can save. Automation is about improving our lifestyle and enable someone to accomplish something beyond their capability.

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