Was your first exposure to the smart home the short-lived animated television series about life in the year 2062. In addition to flying cars, the Jetsons had Rosie, a robotic housekeeper, video chatting, smart watches, drone-like contraptions, holograms and 3D printers. Pretty outrageous thinking for 1962! It turns out those writers were visionaries!
The actual smart home evolution began like much of the rest of the technology industry: the year was 1966 and there was a giant computer called Echo IV, an 800-pound computer in four huge cabinets. This intelligent behemoth could “compute shopping lists, control the home’s temperature and turn appliances on and off. The Kitchen Computer, developed a year later, could store recipes, but had the unfortunate tagline, ‘If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can computer’ and therefore sold no models.” (The History of Smart Homes)
Today there are options for the kitchen and every other room in the house, as well as the exterior.
The Entire Home Can Be Smart! There is an App for That!
Security and Safety
Security is the number one reason for the purchase of smart home technology. Locks and interior and exterior lights can be controlled remotely from a smartphone. Cameras can be controlled, and video viewed from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Locks are keyless for security and convenience. Even the doorbell is interactive, allowing the homeowner to see who is at the door and communicate with them, along with recording video – much to the chagrin of many a porch pirate!
Safety concerns are addressed with smart alarms and smoke detectors that send messages to your phone, usually through an app on your phone. Some devices can even detect the sound of breaking glass.
There is more to safety than fire, CO2, and break-ins. Both Google and Amazon have devices with features that allow you to call for help in the case of a fall, for example. There are also cameras that can be controlled and viewed in an app so caregivers can check on family.
Smart Home Features for All of the House
Energy Savings and Convenience
Smart thermostats, outlets, plugs and switches conserve energy by controlling energy use for optimum efficiency. Most functions use Wi-Fi to connect to an app on a smartphone, while some are programmable.
After security and safety devices, smart thermostats are the next most popular installation. Smart thermostats go beyond just programming the temperature changes for heating and cooling. They learn your preferences over time, adjusting independent of physical control. They operate using Wi-Fi and often can be paired with an app on a smart phone for remote control.
A few features combine day-to-day convenience with security. Programmable lights ensure you never come home to a dark house, and programmable blinds adjust to daylight for energy savings. Smart plugs, outlets and switches, paired with an app on a smart phone turn televisions on and off remotely, or by voice when paired with an Alexa or Google device. All of these also give the impression there is life in the house even when no one is home.
Smart Home Features in the Kitchen and Laundry
From simple and straightforward to sophisticated operations, there is a surprising number of smart kitchen appliances.
Motion-activated faucets combine convenience with water conservation. Operate with the handle when running water or temperature adjustment is needed, but wave hands in front of sensor for washing hands, for example.
Smart ranges and ovens are popular appliances. Programmable features have been available for quite a while but are now Wi-Fi enabled so they can be programmed and operated remotely with an app.
Would a smart home kitchen be complete without a smart dishwasher and a smart refrigerator? Both are operated with Wi-Fi, of course, so can be controlled by an app on a smartphone. Smart dishwashers sense the size and dirtiness of the load and can also notify you through the app of things like mechanical issues and low rinse agents. Smart refrigerators do about everything but shopping! Some even have an in-app feature to use an internal camera you can view remotely to see check the contents from the grocery store!
The laundry room is not to be ignored: smart washers and dryers sense load size to adjust water and detergent requirements or dry time, offer customizable cycle options, and, of course, can be controlled remotely with an app, to name just a few of their features.
Those are the big-ticket appliances, but even all the small countertop appliances come in a smart version: toasters, coffee makers, blenders, microwaves, pressure cookers, sous vide – the list goes on.
Smart Home Entertainment and Efficiency
There are many smart devices for your listening and viewing pleasure. Smart televisions and speakers top the list. Amazon and Google have devices that play music. Both also have a personal assistant feature. You can request a reminder, set a timer, ask a question and more.
Those are the Pros of a Smart Home
Here are the cons. Devices and appliances rely on the internet. Poor or interrupted service interferes with the functionality. Smart appliances are more expensive than traditional appliances. More features mean more things to go awry. There is a concern about your smart home “spying” on you. Accounts of ads for things that your smart phone or Alexa has “overheard” showing up in your email and Facebook feeds are common. Security devices that rely on Wi-Fi have been hacked allowing “digital peeping.” And of course, many of these devices collect various kinds of data about your habits.
Is a Smart Home for You?
There is no argument that there are many conveniences and savings to be had with smart devices. Certainly, the case can be made that some may even save your life or property. Everyone must decide for himself or herself what the tolerance for “the cons” is.
Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg of smart devices for the home and does not begin to address how they can work together to make life safer, more convenient, more efficient and more fun. Here are a few more articles that may help you decide.