Published on 24 Jan, 2017

As the smart home revolution takes off, there are really cool ideas that you can use to make your home smarter. Recent advances in technology can save you a lot of time and money, while making your life easier and more stress-free than ever. As prices of smart technologies have recently fallen to a reasonable level, now is the time to finally invest in the future of your home.

What is a smart home?

Smart homes use modern technologies that allow them to communicate with and be remotely controlled by their owners easily and reliably. This has been made possible with advances in microchip technology that have brought the prices of smart sensors and communicating devices to a level which allows them to be integrated in a variety of appliances and devices around our homes. Owners of smart homes can access their data from virtually anywhere with their smart devices. On top of that, all the information that a smart home gathers, can also be shared with third parties, such as utility companies, home improvement consultants or even friends on social networks. This presents owners with virtually limitless opportunities for making their lives easier and more fun.

Smart Home

Are smart home devices available?

Smart home appliances and devices are more readily available than you might have previously thought. They save your hard earned money and make your life easier at a fraction of the price you would have to pay for them just a couple of years earlier. Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of some of the cooler home gadgets around:

  • Electronic door locks – If you ever locked yourself out of your own house or forgot to lock the door on your way out, you know how frustrating this can feel. These days are now over, if you invest in an electronic door lock. These locks can be operated using your smartphone or any device having access to the internet. The only thing a smart lock needs is a wireless internet connection in your home and a battery. You can give your friends access to your home remotely and you can even allow the plumber in while you are away (make sure you trust her, though). You can also integrate your smart lock with your existing smart home infrastructure. Imagine how convenient it is to have the lights automatically turned on and off, shades opened or shut, and the A/C primed or suspended the moment you lock or unlock your door. Your home will feel a good bit cozier and you will save some money on you energy bills.
  • Smart Lights – You’ve definitely encountered the sensor controlled lighting used in some public areas. It is very convenient where light is needed when there is movement only. You can consider these as the granddaddys of smart home lighting systems. Smart lights today know which room you are in, so they can turn the lights on or off as needed. You save money on your energy bills and feel like living in the future. As with all smart devices, you can control them with your smartphone remotely. Just don’t use them to scare the plumber you let in with your smart lock, while you were away.
  • Smart toilets – Whether you’re remodeling your bathroom or you’re just considering a new toilet, smart toilets are worth a look. There are toilets in Japan that will perform a urinalysis after people do their business, and then inform them whether or not they have diabetes – or are at risk for it.
  • Smart doorbells – A smart doorbell is a device that your guests can push just like a normal doorbell. With smart doorbells, however, you have the benefit of receiving alerts when someone is at the door, seeing who it is, and communicating with your visitors – all from your smartphone, wherever you are at the moment. This way you definitely know it is the plumber and not some con artist before you let them in with your smart lock.
  • Smart thermostats – There is no point in heating or cooling your empty home. Yet, many people forget to turn off the A/C or just don’t want to deal with the hassle. This is where smart thermostats come into play. With them you can adjust the desire temperature remotely from your smartphone. Instead of basic on/off and temperature control a smart thermostat allows you to manage every minute of your home’s heating or cooling schedule.
  • Smart Faucet – using a smart faucet will eliminate all water waste. It saves up to 15 000 gallons of water per unit per year. This way you not only save water, but you also help save the environment.
  • Smart Refrigerators – Smart refrigerators can alert you when certain products have expired or are close to their expiry date. They can order certain products for you on a schedule or when you are close to running out of them. You can even get dietary advice on your smartphone. After all, a smart refrigerator knows best what you’ve been munching on and whether it’s good for your health or not.
  • Home Assistants – Smart home assistants are one more interface between you and your smart home. They allow you to give voice commands about virtually anything – from turning on and off any connected device in your home to playing a song or playlist, setting your alarm, or locking your door. Smart assistants get smarter by the day as companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple bet significant resources and efforts on their success. Experts expect them to become the central hub of smart home automation, as they get to support controlling more and more smart home devices.

Amazon Echo in Your Smart Home

Using these gadgets will make your home work smarter, not harder. They might seem a bit expensive initially, but in the long run they can be a huge money saver. One of the main advantages of owning a smart home is that the smart systems can save significant amounts of energy and are environmentally friendly.

What are the challenges lying ahead?

As with any new and innovative industry, the greatest current challenge is fragmentation. Technology giants are fighting each other to become the de facto standard in the industry and everyone is trying to push their platform forward. Amazon pushes their Alexa platform, Apple is trying to bring Siri into your home, while Google’s home assistant tries to effectively bridge the gap between your smartphone and smart home. This brings quite a lot of confusion to both consumers and producers of smart home devices. As a consumer, you should think twice about whether all your smart home devices support the home assistant platform of your choice and vice versa. Producers, on the other hand, must invest resources into bringing support for the different smart home platforms on the market. All this, however, will be a thing of the past once these ecosystems grow and smart home appliances become ubiquitous with a big enough market to support a few prominent players. Therefore, you should not fret too much about whether you’ve made the right choice with your smart home platform. Just pick one of the market leaders and purchase compatible devices only.

What are the next steps?

For us as homeowners, the next step will be to make a bit of research and see how these smart devices can improve our lives while not breaking the bank. It is never too early to start planning, especially if you have a home improvement project already planned for the near future.

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