A smart home is the ultimate form of control. Essentially it is home automation via the internet—a modern way of linking one’s home electronic systems, such as lighting, heating, home security equipment, entertainment devices, and other useful appliances in a singular intelligent network that gives users complete control over all of their devices. Synonyms for smart home include “connected home” and "The Internet of Things.” Smart home technology gives users increased autonomy over how their everyday devices function and interact.
Smart home products include everything from light switches and doorbells to entertainment devices (like smart speakers) to home security systems (like cameras and alarms) to warning devices (like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors) all the way through to major home appliances. There are numerous smart alternatives to many of our most familiar household devices, and the variety of products and product types is constantly increasing. Major smart home brands include (but are not limited to) Arlo, Belkin, D-Link, Nest, and Philips.
Smart lighting and switches allow you to control lights (and other electronic devices) in your home from anywhere in the world with your smart device and an app (provided you have access to a Wi-Fi network). There are even complete smart lighting kits that allow you to control individual light bulbs or full lighting sets. Many of these lights can produce millions of colours and may be changed by a simple touch, and some can even react to special occasions like holidays or sporting events. Such lighting is notoriously energy efficient as well, comprising low energy LED bulbs that are capable of lasting for many thousands of hours before ultimately burning out.
Top smart home security devices today include wireless surveillance cameras and keyless entry locks and deadbolts. Today’s cameras can live stream video directly to your compatible smart device, send you e-mail notifications when movement or activity is detected, record footage to either cloud-based storage or on-board data systems, and even allow for two-way communication between you and whoever your camera is tracking. Many of today’s smart security cameras also offer a very useful infrared night vision function. Top brands like Arlo and D-Link provide elegant indoor cameras as well as more robust outdoor versions.
Smart locks and deadbolts from manufacturers like August Locks are capable of detecting a mobile device or fob in your pocket as you walk up the path to your home. Many of these locks also allow you to create temporary (or permanent) electronic keys for friends, family, and other frequent visitors to your home.
Smart home monitoring via warning devices such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can literally save your life. These invaluable tools alert you to potential dangers whether you’re sleeping in your bed or far away from home on business or pleasure. Additionally, water sensors can detect and warn you of potentially costly leaks before those leaks cause serious damage. They’ll warn you of problems early enough to avoid flooding and damage, thus saving you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars.
Equally useful are smart thermostats. These devices offer not only the convenience of wireless control via your smart device, but many of today’s smart thermostats offer energy saving functions like learning your habits and automatically making temperature adjustments that improve your home’s energy efficiency. One example of this is automatically turning the heat down when you go to work for the day. The savings can quickly add up—particularly as many of us forget to turn the thermostat down before leaving for work in the morning or are unaware of the amount of energy that can be saved each day.
For smart home products to work together effectively, they have to be able to communicate with one another. Unfortunately, different brand manufacturers often employ different languages from their competitors. Thankfully, some smart home platforms do support multiple protocols. This enables a variety of different smart home products, even if they come from different brands, to communicate effectively and thus work together in a larger smart home context.
Two of today’s most popular and ubiquitous smart home ecosystems are Works with Nest and Works with HomeKit. These are among the first systems that one should consider when in the process of developing a smart home ecosystem. By selecting products that are designed to work together on the same platform, users are assured of a harmonious and efficient setup. The main benefit of cooperation among devices is the ability to create “scenes” whereby multiple products jump into action to achieve an overall desired effect in the home. One such example might be a "morning" command wherein the blinds of one’s bedroom open, the temperature rises, and a pot of coffee begins brewing in the kitchen. Similarly, a “movie" command might bring about a dimming of the lights, closing of the blinds, and whatever other desired effects one sees fit to program in. With a smart home ecosystem at work, all of this is quite simple to do, and much, much more!
Similarly, cloud-based software solutions such as IFTTT allow users to create "If This, Then That" scenarios (known as applets) for virtually any circumstance or occasion. For example, be alerted by text when it begins to rain, or have all your social networks update your status by simply updating one of them. The possibilities with IFTTT are truly endless!
Google Home is one of the latest developments in the smart home universe. It’s also a whole new way of interacting with various smart home devices. Simply put, Google Home is a smart speaker that allows you to communicate with your devices via Google Assistant. Through this intelligent personal assistant, you can issue voice commands that allow you to interact with your smart home devices and other services. Think of it as the ship’s voice from the infamous Starship Enterprise—a voice that answers questions and carries out commands given by the ship’s crew. The only difference here is that your home is the ship and you are the captain.