Our generation lives in a very interesting time when all of our childhood tech fantasies have become a reality. Okay, teleportation is still in the realm of sci-fi, but all things considered, it’s safe to say that with this tempo, we will outpace Star Trek by a couple of centuries. It’s only natural then that this rampant development found a way into our homes and profoundly changed the way we live. So, what does it mean to “live in a smart home”, and are there some things we should beware? Let’s try to find out.
What is a smart home?
In a nutshell, the term “smart home” covers any house or apartment where devices and appliances can be controlled remotely from any internet access point in the world. All these devices are connected to a central unit that serves as their hub. Following the rise of the Internet of Things, this idea quickly became a reality and then a full-blown customer trend, with modern day setups being able to share data between devices and customise the user experience.
The advantages of smart homes
Obviously, this futuristic concept opens up a slew of possibilities that go way beyond simple gimmick.
Security has always been one of the major concerns, and smart automation offers us more than one way to address this fear. For instance, smart locks have passed a long evolutionary road from their digital ancestors and are now one of the safest lock systems in existence. Putting aside the convenience, you also have the option to monitor who is entering your house, and create time-limited codes for contractors and other occasional visitors. Any attempt at break sends a notification directly to your smartphone.
And that’s only the beginning. Other smart devices like cameras, motion sensors, and fire alarms can provide you the level of control and the sense of safety you could not dream of just a decade ago.
Smart technology allows appliances to work with the least possible amount of energy. These days, even induction stoves have enough intelligence to heat only when you place a metal pan on top of them. Other, more advanced upgrades give you precise control over heating, cooling, and lighting and even suggest the most efficient settings throughout the day. Of course, you always have an option to remotely shut off the appliances you accidentally left working.
As a result of energy efficiency, your monthly bills will be drastically lower. Other ways automation can help you save money are less obvious, but present nevertheless. For instance, some of the largest American insurance companies are offering premium discounts (up to 20%) if your home is equipped with a monitored alarm system. This discount alone can cover a huge portion of the installation costs.
High level of customisation
Of course, if you want to, you can choose as many or as few of these upgrades as you want to. Smart home systems are highly customisable and can be made to suit specific purposes of each house. For instance, a lot of elderly care homes throughout the world are using the combination of voice assistants, automation and wearable medical sensors to improve the lives of their residents.
Finally, it should be mentioned that smart upgrades are simply making our lives convenient. Some can argue that smart skillets are pushing too far, but the same thing could once be said about fingerprint scanners that have now become the standard of the smartphone industry, even in the midrange segment. Point being, every tool that can make your life if just a bit faster, more streamlined and less bothersome is inherently useful.
The challenges of smart homes
Of course, tight integration of all these different systems into your home is not without its challenges. Here are some of the biggest concerns you should keep in mind.
Lack of industry-wide standards regarding security – Some of the low-tier manufacturers don't have a strong background in security. To make things worse, there is no way to score them by some industry-wide accepted standards.
The steep price – The price of advanced smart systems or even some gadgets is still pretty steep. It could be argued that long-term savings make up for this fact, but the issue of high upfront price remains.
Learning curve – Integrating all these different gadgets into one coherent group can be challenging for novices.
Reliance on the internet – You have control over the smart system only as long as there is a data flow to bridge the gap between the two of you.
As we can see, smart systems are hugely useful and convenient. Sure, it will take some time before some of the more high-end products climb down the price ladder and become widely available. But even now, the level of customization you can achieve is pretty amazing. Give it a try, you really have nothing to lose in the long run.
About the author: Mike Johnston is a home improvement blogger, DIY enthusiast and sustainability buff from Sydney. He is a regular writer at Smooth Decorator and contributor on several interior design, real estate and eco blogs, always on the lookout for new ideas and the latest trends in these fields.