Home Automation 101: Understanding Smart Home Technology
This is the day and age of the smart home. What once was thought of to be just a fad is now a standard in every US household, where each home owns at least one smart device. In fact, according to Parks Associates, a market research firm that specializes in emerging consumer tech products and services, broadband adoption reached 84 percent of American homes in 2016 and, by 2020, 50 percent of households in North America will already be classified as smart homes.
While that sounds like a realistic prediction, consumers at present are still apprehensive and bit confused with the technology. Because home automation is just starting to enter the mainstream, most people view it as an unnecessary luxury and something that is difficult to master. In fact, many households still do not understand what a smart home is and how things work.
So, let’s make things easy and the information digestible. Technology is all around us and, whether we like or not, it is something that we should adapt to or else we get left behind. Smart devices, after all, promise to help make our daily living easier — and that’s not something we can easily turn our backs on. Truth be told, transforming into a smart home is really easy.
Smart Home Defined
There is no one definition to encompass “smart technology” as a whole. Generally speaking, a smart home is one that is equipped with automated devices and technology that is able to control regular household systems, such as lighting, security cameras, temperature, cooking and more.
There are plenty of benefits to having a smart home. In addition to convenience, it can help you save on energy expenses and boost your sense of security. Smart devices can also be operated remotely using apps on your mobile device or laptop. Some even speak like humans and respond to voice commands, like Alexa and Siri. Other fancier tech can have smart home devices communicate with each other via a pre-set network, such as the one set up with ZigBee and Wave.
Getting Started On Automating Your Home
Let’s embrace home automation and appreciate it for all the convenience and security it offers us. However, the search for the right one for beginner users can be quite a challenging task. If you’re not tech-savvy, it’s best to start with the basic devices that are relatively user-friendly and highly intuitive, so you won’t need to keep adjusting and monitoring them. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the simple gadgets, you can then advanced to more technical ones.
We’ve come up with a five-step process to getting familiar with smart home devices and finding which ones best fit your household.
- Are you tech savvy?
Some smart home gadgets are more technically advanced than others. If you’re just getting familiar with the tech and are not really into tinkering with gadgets, stick to the beginner-level models.
- What’s your budget?
The price range for smart home devices go from affordable at less than $100 to very expensive. Before going on a device hunt, decide how much you want to spend.
- What are your needs?
Every household’s needs is unique, so that gadget that your aunt tells you is a dream might not work well for you. When choosing a gadget, take note of your lifestyle. For example, if you’re at home most of the time, you might benefit from having a smart doorbell that will allow you to see who’s at the door without having to open it. If you’re always out, a good security system that lets you view your house in real time through your smart phone will give you peace of mind.
One nifty device we’ve seen is the Nest Learning Thermostat, which sets your home temperature based on your preferred settings for a set period. When there’s nobody home, this gadget detects the empty space and turns itself down automatically, thus helping you save on electricity expenses. It also works with Google Home and Alexa.
- Do your research.
Don’t just buy because you saw on TV that’s it’s the “best” or your next door neighbor swears by it. Conduct your own research on the product thoroughly and be sure you understand how it works. A device won’t do you any good if you don’t fully comprehend its benefits.
The Internet is a gold mine for information on so many of these devices. You can check our manufacturers’ websites, product reviews from forums and reputable review sites, and ask not just one but at least three people you know who have tried it. Feedback is important for somebody who’s just starting to appreciate the benefits of a smart home.
- Maximize your device.
By fully understanding how your smart home device works, you get to maximize all the conveniences that it can offer; thus, getting value for your investment and more.
For example, you have a smart lock that allows you to lock and unlock your door from afar using just your phone; but did you know that it could also send e-keys to selected guests and see who accessed your door recently? You might also have a smart plug that turns your appliances into smart devices by timing their operation, like when lights are turned off and when your morning coffee starts brewing; but did you know that it can also make your home look like somebody’s inside even when you’re away?
There are so many kinds of smart home products in the market, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed and get carried away with buying so many things. Each one of them is so impressive that you’ll be tempted to get them all. If you’re a beginner to the concept of having a smart home, we recommend starting with the basics and starting slow. Begin with one or two gadgets that you can easily operate and then slowly move up as you and the family get comfortable having these things around. Before you know it, you’re living in the 2020 prediction of having a smart home at just 2018.