What is a Smart Home?
Having a smart home is something we have all dreamed about.
Over the years, many bold predictions were made about how our lighting bulbs would automatically turn on/off, our fridge would order foodstuffs, one central hub would regulate all our smart appliances, how our vacuum cleaners would clean our houses among other possibilities.
In the last few decades, technology has been developing at insane speeds.
The 20th century is the period that perhaps experienced rapid advancements in technology.
First, there was the arrival of convenient electric power that started to automate all kinds of domestic chores from washing dishes, vacuuming the floor to washing dishes.
In the next phase, the invention of transistors made electronic appliances more efficient and affordable. Electronics could now control themselves, though in a limited way, using built-in programmers and sensors.
But, it is during this 21st century, that the full vision of home automation is being realized. All those techno-optimism we only once saw in science fiction is now a reality!
With a wireless internet system, it is pretty easy to set up nearly every electric appliance in your home so you can monitor and control it from your smartphone or web browser from anywhere around the globe.
Many homes now have a considerable level of smartness because a significant number of home devices and appliances are already equipped with built-in controllers and sensors.
If you have a heating and cooling unit, the chances are high that you have a thermostat that you occasionally use to switch your HVAC unit on/off. Your washing machine perhaps features an automatic programmer that forces it to select the preferred detergent, wash, rinse and spin your laundry according to the various settings. And if you have a robotic vacuum cleaner at your disposal, you have seen it regularly maneuvering around your house to collect all the dust, pet dander and dirt.
All of these are rough examples of home automation. However, this concept takes things a notch higher by including a central hub where every single appliance is controlled.
In a typical automated home, there is a centralized computer that carries out all the tasks you usually do yourself. It regularly examines and monitors the state of your home appliances and devices automatically, switching them on/off as needed.
Also referred to as domotics, home automation is a technological solution that involves automation of the bulk of electrical, electronic as well as technology-based tasks in a home.
Home automation utilizes a combination of software and hardware technologies that make it possible for homeowners to remotely control and manage their appliances and devices.
A home that features an automation system is best described as a smart home. The devices and appliances within a smart home usually connect and communicate with each other over a wireless or local wired network via a central hub.
So how does home automation work?
To fully understand how home automation works, it is first important to know the components or elements of home automation.
At the lowest hierarchy, a home automation system consists of three components including, a central repository (hub), a smart device, and a connected application.
Though most home automated systems may function with only two of the above components; a single appliance that works directly with a hands-free hub that regulates the smart appliance, a significant number of smart home systems need the three elements to function effectively.
Below is a brief description of these primary elements.
- The central hub: Also referred to as the brain of your system, the hub is arguably the most important part of your home automation system. It is usually connected to your Wi-Fi router via an Ethernet cable. All your IoT-based sensors either receive or transmit commands or through the central repository. In response, the hub communicates the output to the cloud-based network via the internet. Through this kind of architecture, it is possible to interact with the central hub from distant and remote locations via your smartphone. This also implies that you’ll need a strong and reliable internet connection to allow the components within your home automation system to function holistically.
- Smart devices: To put it simply, these are the actual workhorses within the home automation system. They are those devices and appliances that execute the commands. In today’s highly digitized world, nearly every appliance is a smart device. They can include your smart refrigerator, dishwashers, a programmable thermostat, washing machines, lighting bulbs as well as entertainment pieces such as smart televisions.
- Controlling components: These allow you to remotely monitor your smart devices. On most occasions, the control unit is a mobile application or a universal hands-free device. You only need to download your smart device’s designated application, install it on your smartphone and pair it with your central hub, and you are good to go.
So what gets automated in a smart home?
Nearly every single electronic device out there is automatable.
So, if you are someone with enough resources in your home, you can simply push the whole concept of automation to the extreme.
For instance, Bill Gates has every part of his entire multi-million-dollar home automated and linked up. However, for the average homeowner, this can be too expensive and difficult to achieve.
The chances are you are only focused on incorporating a modest level of automation to the appliances and features of your current home.
In general, a sound home automation system should at least cater to your security, comfort, safety and convenience needs.
Let us briefly examine some of the areas within your home that you can automate:
- Security: Surveillance outdoor cameras, motion sensors, smart doorbells, smart locks, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, water detection appliances are just a few of the smart home devices that you can install to help enhance the overall security of your home. Some of these devices boast highly advanced safety functionalities that are solely tailored toward securing your home and family. For instance, outdoor security cameras will allow you to remotely monitor your home via video from anywhere in the world.
- Entertainment: Installing the latest audio-visual technologies will not only take your entertainment needs to the next level but will equally allow you to get rid of all those entangled remotes and cables lying over your floor. Smart TVs, wireless speakers, projectors, smart home theaters can all now connect to your local Wi-Fi, allowing you to remotely control them at your fingertips. It is estimated that nearly 39 million Americans have a smart speaker in their house. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise you at all considering what they are capable of. Smart speakers not only play great music, but can also search the internet, serve as a voice-controlled assistant, and can equally act as the gateway for your entire smart home system.
- Lighting control: From smart light bulbs to dimming lights, smart lighting options are arguably the easiest to install. These devices will give you total control over your home lighting. You’ll be able to seamlessly regulate both the color and intensity of your lighting system, allowing you to cut your electrical costs significantly.
- Heating and cooling control: Most American homes are now equipped with high-end thermostats that not only enhance the energy efficiency but allow you to automate other variables such as humidity and air quality systems to enhance your overall comfort. You only need to set your home temperature preference, sit back and allow the system to take the mantle by adjusting the temperature accordingly.
- Smart household appliances: As we previously mentioned, almost every single household appliance is smart. Slow cookers, refrigerators, ovens, coffee machines as well as washing machines can all be configured to become part of your smart ecosystem.
These are arguably the most commonly explored home automation options on the market. They are not only relatively affordable but easy to operate and install.
So, what are some of the benefits of automating your home?
- Enhanced security: Home automation technologies such as surveillance cameras, smart door locks, and smart doorbells are a great way to boost your overall home safety.
- Increased energy efficiency: You can reduce your monthly energy bills by remotely switching off appliances and electrical systems in your home when you aren’t using them. More advanced monitoring systems equip users with relevant knowledge and guidance on how to achieve even greater efficiency in terms of energy usage.
- Increased levels of comfort: Programmable thermostats will let you remotely adjust your home temperature through your smartphone, ensuring your home and family are always as comfortable as possible. What’s more, smart dimmable and color light bulbs allow you to boost the aesthetics of your rooms and set you the mood for intimate dinners.
- Unrivaled convenience: Smart door locks, smart refrigerators, smart vacuum cleaners and other appliances over a considerable amount of convenience. You can control and monitor them while you are very far away, and this can be a great source of satisfaction.
- Peace of mind: This is one of the most compelling reasons why you should automate your place of residence. Knowing that you can keep an eye on what’s happening in your yard and never having to worry about whether you kept your keys in the right place or not, and being able to turn your light bulbs off/on are just a few reasons that should convince you to automate your house.
We have provided you with lots of insightful information regarding home automation and smart technology in general.
If you are yet to make your home smart, the next step you should take is to explore your options and see whether automating it is a viable option. However, based on the potential smart technology benefits, we are pretty sure you would want to take the next step.
If this is the case, then make sure you find the best smart products that can add value to your life.