Smart homes. It’s a term you’ve likely heard a lot about in the last few years, but how many of us truly know what a “smart home” means? Though it’s easy to infer that it involves the inclusion of modern technology and conveniences, a startling number of the population is woefully ignorant as to what types of products fall into the “smart” category, and most importantly how these products can not only improve their quality of life, but also help to reduce their monthly utility costs, and promote safety.
The numbers speak for themselves, of the American households surveyed that currently purchase broadband Internet services:
- 10% consider themselves to be very familiar with smart home services
- 11% indicated that they were familiar with the type of smart home products currently available
- 8% of respondents knew where to buy smart home services and,
- 9% of respondents knew where to buy smart home products
So, What Exactly is a Smart Home, and What Sort of Products Are There?
The simplest definition of a smart home is one that is equipped with things like environmental controls, lighting, electronics, security systems, and window blinds that can all be controlled remotely, from anywhere in the world, using a smartphone or computer. This definition, as broad as it might be, captures the essence of what a smart home looks like, but doesn’t adequately extol the virtues of its many components.
Though often sold as an enhancement of convenience, it should be noted that many of the products within a smart home emphasize the efficient use of energy and a reduction in a homeowner’s utility bills.
Automated window coverings are a great example of the benefit of cost savings. Assuming that reducing your heating and cooling costs are important, having the ability to remotely open and close your motorized solar shades to reduce or increase the amount of solar energy that enters your home is crucial. Doing this can effectively lower the number of times your HVAC system turns on throughout the day.
A common concern among homeowners regarding smart home technologies is that they won’t tie into the existing décor. The simple truth is that many smart home technologies are designed very simplistically so as not to detract from the overall aesthetic of your home. Some products, like automatic lighting, require only the installation of a few diminutively designed sensors.
In fact, because of the wireless nature of smart home technologies, these devices often detract far less from a room’s style or ambiance than a conventional item as there are no unsightly cords to deal with.
Celebrities on the Smart Home Bandwagon
Celebrities, thanks in part to their status as cultural icons, often play the role of “maven” when new products hit the market – and this is no less true where smart home technologies are concerned. Though it goes without saying that a typical celebrity abode is much more resplendent that a typical home, they do a good job illustrating the many automation options.
Oprah Winfrey, former talk show host turned media magnate, is considered to have one of the smartest homes in Hollywood (though it’s actually located in a remote area of Colorado). Oprah’s security system, which is equipped with multiple sensors, alerts her whenever a person or vehicle traverses the driveway. While this sounds like a luxury item, the technology behind this particular component is something that many home security firms offer as part of an enhanced security package, and can be easily integrated into any number of existing systems.
Moving to the bathroom, Oprah’s tub is integrated with built-in a temperature control system that maintains the desired temperature of the water. Her expansive home is also equipped with an automatic system that takes care of the fertilization and the watering of the home’s many indoor plants.
Though some of these technologies are admittedly beyond the means of the average consumer, they nonetheless demonstrate the near limitless opportunities when it comes to home automation.
Understandably, the general public may agree that there are better ways to automate their homes than installing temperature controls for their bath water. Things like:
- Automated door locks. Integrated with your smartphone, automated door locks automatically unlock as you approach, meaning you no longer need to waste time searching for your keys. Additionally, these systems can allow you to grant temporary permission to individuals looking after your house or pets while you’re away.
- Programmable zone-based thermostats. Increase or lower room temperature via your smartphone. Some zone-based temperature control systems also use sensors to determine when you enter the room, adjusting the temperature to your predetermined level.
While it’s hard to believe that in less than twenty-five years after the first webpage launched we would be talking about things like “smart homes”, it’s a trend that looks like it is here to stay. Be it a smartphone app to adjust your thermostat or having automated window coverings that know your sleeping habits, smart homes are the way of the future and they are only going to get more inventive as time goes by.