Smart Homes 101: The Exciting World of Smart Home Technology is Here to Stay!

Smart Homes 101: The Exciting World of Smart Home Technology is Here to Stay!

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz about smart homes but aren’t sure how they differ from the abodes you know well. That’s understandable, especially if you’re already satisfied with your house and think you might not need or want to upgrade it. However, it’s best to be thoroughly informed so you can make a decision based on the new knowledge.

What Do Smart Homes Do?

Although smart homes have gone through a recent popularity boost, the concept of them is new. In 1975, a Scottish company developed a system called X10 that allowed people to connect compatible devices over a home’s electrical wires so those items could communicate with each other. People used transmitter devices like keypads and remote controls to send commands to the devices.

Today’s smart homes work on the same principle, but typically use radio waves — such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — for that communication aspect. These gadgets are taking off. Recent research shows more than one-quarter of Americans have at least three smart home devices.

Smart Devices Usually Have Complementing Apps

A primary aspect that sets a smart home apart from a nonsmart one is that the intelligent devices typically include apps that allow people to control the gadgets from afar.

It’s not surprising that many security brands developed items that work with smart homes, such as locks and doorbells. Then, people can see who arrived on the porch or lock different doors in their house without being on-site.

A recent report showing trends noticed by professional security installers found that nearly 40 percent of systems integrate with at least one smart home item. That means brands realize they need to cater to customers by making their systems suit the smart home trend.

Some smart home apps show statistics that allow people to adjust their usage to get benefits like energy savings. For example, smart thermostat apps display day-by-day or month-by-month data so users can choose temperature settings that lower their utility bills.

Many apps allow guest usage, too. If you have a housesitter during vacation, it’s possible to give that person temporary access to the app that controls a smart home device.

Many Smart Devices Have Voice-Recognition Features or Offer Two-Way Communication

Often, smart devices — such as Amazon and Google’s smart speakers — listen for voice commands and respond to them. Those speakers link with hundreds of other gadgets in smart homes. After setting them up, you could speak cues to the smart speaker and watch as the corresponding appliances or devices react to your request. That factor also sets smart homes apart from nonsmart homes.

The ability to operate smart home devices by voice is one reason many people think they could be so beneficial for older individuals who want to age in place. The most recent Census data indicated 15.9 percent of the population was at least 65. When people can utter commands as they sit on the couch, they don’t risk tripping on a rug when they go across the room to turn on a light, for example.

Plus, many voice-activated smart features can talk back to their users. In one recent hackathon participated in by freshmen students at Arizona State University, people engineered a skill for the Amazon Echo Dot speaker to calm anxious kids with disabilities like Down syndrome or autism who are temporarily separated from their caregivers. Known as the Honey Caregiver, the skill offers soothing feedback until human caregivers return.

There are also smart home gadgets that allow people to use their smartphones and apps to communicate back and forth with delivery drivers or service personnel visiting a home. Although many nonsmart homes have intercom systems, the apps and portable gadgets allow people to engage in those communications even when they aren’t home.

There are also many pet cameras that allow people to watch their furry companions from work, then speak to them if those animals get frightened by loud noises. Because most of these gadgets have apps that send push notifications, users can get instant alerts if something is amiss at home, then take action by speaking into their phones.

A Smart Home Could Give You Better Cleaning Assistance

The rise of smart home technologies has also made it easier than before for people to keep their homes tidy without exerting so much energy. For example, you can program some autonomous vacuum cleaners to start working when you leave the office, allowing you to come home to a debris-free carpet.

Similarly, there are robotic window cleaners you can control with apps. They recognize the size and shape of the windows and stay securely attached to them during the process. Indeed, some nonsmart homes have remote-controlled gadgets to assist with cleaning, but those require users to be within a reasonable distance of the products to operate them.

However, when a person connects a cleaning gadget and an app to the same Wi-Fi network, it’s possible to operate the device from anywhere in the house that receives a signal.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about the amount of time spent doing household activities found men give an average of an hour and 25 minutes per day to them, and women devote two hours and 15 minutes daily. Smart homes don’t eliminate all that time required, but some devices allow people to shorten their household chore time by setting up the gadgets to work while they do other tasks.

Smart Homes Showcase Connectivity

The top takeaway here is that smart homes offer connectivity that allows compatible gadgets to talk to each other and permit users to operate them with apps, voice commands or both.

If what you know now makes you curious about the possibilities, keep in mind that it’s easy to invest in only one or two smart gadgets at first, then scale up if desired.

 

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Kayla Matthews is a technology writer and the editor of Productivity Bytes. Her work has been featured on Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, VICE, VentureBeat, The Daily Dot and WIRED, among others. Follow her on Twitter to read her latest posts.

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