The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects to serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the upcoming wired home, all of your appliances and gadgets will talk to each other seamlessly.
What could living in a such a smart home look like? Imagine something like this:
The lights in your bedroom gently illuminate to softly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blast-you-out-of-bed alarm. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafts in and stirs your senses. As the lights come up, the heating system kicks in, warming your room so you’re not shivering once you crawl out from underneath your covers.
Stepping into the shower, it turns on automatically, remembering your preferred temperature and water pressure. It will shut off right when you’re finished, knowing how long you take to bathe.
Driving out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. It will only unlock automatically when it “sees” someone else from your family, recognizing them through programmed biometrics.
Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes (like Bill Gates'), we haven’t reached the point where every feature knows what you want and when you want it. But each year we’re getting closer and closer towards our ‘Jetson’ future.
Here are some current trends that we see for smart homes, many of which could also help you save money:
Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.
With the new models, your smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when it senses you are home. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so you’re saving both energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone and adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.
Smart Smoke Detectors
Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives, no doubt about it. But unfortunately, many of us still use those battery-run smoke detectors with that annoying, piercing beep when batteries are low on power. Instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s much easier to pull them out and disable the detector. I know I've done that.
New smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide - and air quality as well. With new sensor technology, it knows the difference between a real fire and burnt toast!
Smart Sprinkler Control
Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often during the summer months, we experience a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings more rain, like we had this past winter.
A smart sprinkler controller such as Rachio Iro save you lots of money on your water bill and conserve our precious resources.
Programmable by computer or smart phone, it automatically adjusts when you water your lawn and garden based on both the season and the weather forecasts. You can remotely adjust the settings through its mobile app.
Smart Solar Panels
Put the sun to work for you using solar technology to power your home. Both green and renewable, it can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC study determined that customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year they owned the system.
With smart solar panels, you program the technology to monitor its performance and can turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.
Smart Home Security Systems
In recent years home monitoring has become much more sophisticated. With the old-style security systems, you called in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.
With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense when windows and doors open and close. Some systems include both audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off unwanted intruders. You have real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted when the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely they will be caught in the act.
Canary is one very popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with night vision and sirens.
Standard key locks can easily be breached by burglars. The new smart lock systems have more control over who can gain access to your home.
Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can individually program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or your cleaning service in during a specified time.
Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you as it unlocks your door. Though I am not sure I want my door talking to me.
The new August smart lock integrates with Apple technology so you can ask Siri to open the door. Siri and I sometimes get into arguments. Perhaps this one is not for me.
Smart lighting systems and light bulbs
A well-lit home feels welcoming, and good lighting instantly increases the value of your home.
Annual lighting costs accounts for up to 12% of the typical electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can reduce this amount simply by using a smart lighting technology to increase efficiency.
Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add illumination to your home without installing any specialized equipment. Dimmers and sensors give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to switch them on and off via your smart phone.
New smart light bulbs can also give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs you program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you with increasing levels of light, or to change from daytime task lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.
Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint dinosaur versions of these amazing home conveniences. Smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it far easier for you to do pesky household chores.
New coffee makers such as the Smarter coffee machine let you ‘order’ your coffee precisely to your liking, adjusting everything from the bean grind to its temperature and strength to the time that it’s ready to drink.
Smart refrigeration technology can store your food at the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat at peak usage times. The LG THINQ fridge can alert you via smart phone if a door is accidentally left ajar.
Smart ovens can cook your food to the right level of done-ness, and tell you when your meal is ready. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what it is you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. Soon connected appliances from GE, Samsung, Oster and other makers will be able to re-order soaps and fabric softeners directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to run to the store at the last minute!
Have you tried any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss one of your favorite home technologies? Let us know!