What is a smart home anyway?
Smart homes are nothing new. However, in the past 10 years we have seen an explosion in the technology that makes them possible. When we say smart home we generally are referring to a home that contains connected or networked devices that can (1) communicate with one another, (2) connect to the internet, and (3) respond to specific non-traditional user inputs. Imagine it like this: It’s a home that is made more convenient for the home owner by the addition of smart connected devices. These devices can run routines based one things like the location of the user, temperature outside or whether another device is on or off. In this way the smart home goes beyond simply manually scheduling timers for things like lights. In a true smart home you can surely do schedules, but we are really talking about devices that can change their state dynamically based on various other criteria.
Our smart home definition
Smart Home: A smart home is a home that contains networked devices that can be (1) controlled remotely from anywhere in the world and (2) be automated using various wireless protocols. These smart home devices can vary from appliances, lights, audio components, TVs, plugs, switches and thermostats to name a few.
A few smart home examples
Controlling your lights with your voice
The launch of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (Google Home) has brought on some amazing functionality for smart home users. One of them is the ability to fully control smart lights with only your voice. And believe me, when you first set this up if feels like you are living in the future. I personally fun a Google Home and Google Home Mini in my house which provides the voice component. I simply say “Hey Google, turn on the lights in the bedroom” and boom, lights are on. I use the excellent hubless LIFX A19 bulbs in some basic Ikea lamps in my bedroom. You can even do routines on Amazon Alexa or with an app like Stringify which can trigger several devices with one voice command.
Controlling your thermostat
Another really amazing device is the Nest Learning Thermostat. I have it set in my home to automatically go into econo or “away” mode when I am out of my house. It takes about an hour to kick in, but when the geo-fenced region around my home doesn’t detect my phone anymore it assumes I am gone and then tries to save me some money on heating costs. Over time the Nest thermostat system actually learns my habits so it knows that I come home around 5PM on weekdays and can automatically ramp up my home’s temperature just before 5PM so I get home to a nice warm house. It is truly awesome.
Securing your home
Smart security cameras are a must for smart home owners. You can trigger security cameras to turn on when you leave your home and they can send you push notifications if they see or hear anything out of the ordinary. The Nest Cam IQ is probably the most advanced of these cameras right now and can actually identify people by their faces. So if it sees my wife it doesn’t make a big deal about it. But if it sees someone that it doesn’t know it will immediately notify me on my phone. I also use my Nest Cam IQ as a presence sensor. This means that it talks with my thermostat so it can also tell it when there is nobody in the home and adjust the temperature. These are the type of multi-product scenarios that really bring another level of smart home automation to the table.
Why you should start a smart home
Smart home products can make your life more convenient
There is nothing quite like just asking your home to play your favorite music in a certain room and… it just does it. When I crawl in bed at night I leave all of my lights on. Once I’m snug in my bed I say “Hey Google, goodnight.” and through Google Home and IFTTT my system is able to turn off all of the lights in the house while I am literally tucked into bed. I will never go back to stubbing my toe as I try to navigate my dark bedroom.
My wife uses our Google Home Mini in our kitchen to do baking conversions when her hands are dirty. I have the PetNet smart feedersystem that allows me to feed my cat from anywhere in the world and get a short clip from my Nest Cam IQ that shows my cat eating. This means we can go on short vacations an be sure the cat is getting fed. It certainly is more convenient than making my friends come over everyday to feed the cat…
Smart home products can save you money
The above example of smart thermostats is a great example of a smart home saving you money automatically. Heating and cooling costs have skyrocketed so its nice to have an automated system that can adjust temperature to be more efficient and not heat or cool an empty house. Home security has also become much more affordable with do it yourself security systems which have little to no monthly costs.
Smart home products can secure your home
Home security systems have always been complicated and relatively expensive to run and maintain. But that all changed with the advent of do it yourself security systems utilizing various smart home sensors and cameras. Nest just launched their Nest Secure security system which talks with your existing Nest products. But there are many other DIY security systems out there that do the same job. You can check on your security cameras from anywhere in the world and know when doors or windows open with push notifications to your phone. Many argue that these systems actually protect your home better than professionally monitored systems anyway since you can immediately call the police in the event of a break-in instead of having a middle man that calls you first.
What are the new trends in smart home?
The biggest change we are seeing is the addition of voice assistants to the smart home environment. Google Home and Amazon Echo (Alexa) are leading the way with voice assistant systems that understand natural language and can do everything from control your home theater system to shut off the water.
Another trend we are seeing is the integration of more and more smart home products into smart home hubs. These hubs give you the ability to control devices that were never really designed to work together in harmony. Different wireless protocols like WIFI, Bluetooth, Z-Wave and Zigbee can all communicate directly with the hug and make a truly unified system. This means you can replace all of your light switches with cheap Z-Wave switches like the ones from GE and then control everything from a central hub. You can do some of this without a hub but true smart home owners will probably want to take the plunge into a smart hub to truly use everything the smart home can provide.
The last trend we are seeing is the addition of very affordable smart home products to the market. For example, Ikea just launched their smart home bulbs in 2017 and they are ridiculously inexpensive. If you have a smart home hub you can really get into smart home automation in an affordable way. With more and more manufacturers competing for your hard earned smart home dollar, you can expect to see even more affordable smart home solutions in the future.
What kind of smart home products can I automate/control?
At Smart Home Remedy we want to give you all of the information you will need to build a great smart home system. That is why we have created a database of the best smart home products in all of the relevant categories. So browse the categories below to find the smart home products that will take you dumb home and make it a smart home.
Smart homes are just on the cusp of going fully mainstream. Go out to your local Best Buy and you’ll see that they have a huge section dedicated specifically to smart home products. If you are renovating or buying a new home we highly recommend that you read up a little bit on the types of smart home products available and which ones you may want to include in your setup. The key thing is to make sure you look into smart home solutions that truly make your life easier. A lot of tinkerers love toiling away with complicated setups, but that is not really necessary anymore. There are simple hubs like SmartThings and Wink that make even the most intricate automations very straight forward. And 3rd party automation services like IFTTT (If This Then That) have made almost anything possible when it comes to making all of the different smart home gadgets work together.
Smart home automation is a major growing industry and right now is the perfect time to get on board and make your dumb home smarter.