What is a Smart Home?

A smart home is a building, house, or residence that utilizes an internet connection to manage systems and appliances within the home. It becomes possible to control the lighting, heating, and sound system of a house from a single control unit.

At the turn of the century, speedy advancement in internet technology has turned the world into a global village. This technological progress has found its way to industries, education, and finance. Home automation is also not an exception at the moment.

Many homeowners can have access to convenience, comfort, and efficiency. You can control your lamps, washing machine, heater, and dishwasher with your smartphone or any interconnected device.  

Smart home systems can also give you usage data and feedback concerning all your activities. However, this innovation does not come without its potential risks and concerns. Dive into this guide to find out more about smart home systems.

The Origin of Smart Home Automation Technology

The American Association of Home Builders initiated the word “smart house” in 1984. The technologies behind smart home automation have been in development for decades. In the 1960s, Jim Sutherland designed a device that could control devices and retrieve recipes and shopping lists.

In 1969, ARPAnet came into existence. ARPAnet is the predecessor of today’s internet. Researchers undertook the X10 automation project in the 1970s. This project gave room for more development as it was able to control lighting fixtures in a building.

In the 1980s, there was an explosive development in sensor development technology. Motion sensors and programmable components became integral in consumer electronics.

The turn of the 21st century was a game-changer for IoT devices and home automation technology. Several smart systems have come into place. Companies have also stepped up their production technology.

How Do Smart Homes Work?

Smart Homes operate on the principle of the Internet of Things (IoT). All the devices in a smart home are connected. These devices could include cameras, lights, refrigerators, home monitors, garden watering systems, thermostats, and locks.

You can access them via a central device. That device could be a tablet, laptop, smartphone, or game console. The control software for the device will be installed on any of these devices. You can create instructions and schedules to effect certain changes.

A typical command is to lower the air conditioner’s temperature from 25°C to 18°C. Or, you could make all your security lights go off by 6:00 am every day.

We also see machine learning capabilities applied to smart home systems. Machine learning is the process by which computer systems learn new patterns without being explicitly programmed. Smart home gadgets can learn the house owner’s schedules and make suitable changes when necessary.

They can report any suspicious activity detected to you while you are away from home.  Some high-end systems can even notify the fire services or police. In summary, a smart home is an interconnection of physical objects that share electronic information.


Interconnected devices in a smart home (Source: pixabay.com)

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Its Applications

The internet of things is the backbone of home automation. The reason behind the speedy growth of the Internet of Things is the exponential increase in the number of gadgets connected to the internet. There are over 30 billion devices connected to the internet.

This number keeps rising at an exponential rate. Also, the cheapness of computer chips and the flexibility of wireless networks have helped this growth. The Internet of things has its application in industrial, research, and commercial enterprises. The technologies behind the internet of things are:

  • Cloud computing
  • Wireless sensors development
  • Embedded systems
  • Data analytics
  • Feedback control systems
  • Machine learning

Some of the other sectors that use IoT are:

Agriculture

IoT in agriculture helps farmers to meet the increased food production quantity and quality. It helps to automate conventional tasks. also helps to minimize production losses. Drones, robots, and sensors, coupled with computer imaging map the fields and provide useful data to save capital and time.

Healthcare

IoT wearables connected smartphone apps can give health practitioners the ability to monitor patient’s health. There is still a lot of extensive research on the applications of IoT in the health industry.

Manufacturing industry

Many manufacturers add sensors to their products to give feedback on their performance. This helps them to make necessary adjustments. IOT operations are useful in energy optimization, plant operation, statistical evaluation, and demand evaluation

Advantages and Disadvantages of Smart Homes

Pros

It Makes Your Life More Comfortable

Home automation can “hack” your life. You will discover how easy and efficient your life will become. A smart home will make sure that your house is conducive before you arrive from work. You also won’t have to leave your comfortable bed to switch off the lamp. Comfort is the defining feature of a smart home.


Smart Lock (Source: pixabay.com)

A Smart Home Can Create Schedules to Manage Your Daily Tasks.

As humans, we are prone to forgetting things. Appliances in a smart home can get tasks done before you think about them.  A smart irrigation system can water your plant at the right time without wasting water. A smart alarm can wake you up to get ready for work.

If you are feeling lazy to do a tedious task, an automated device can get it covered for you. A vacuum cleaning robot can tidy up your room every morning. You can answer the person at your doorbell with your smartphone without going there physically.

It provides a Support System for Kids, Aged People, and Disabled People

The use of video monitoring and smart locks can help to keep your little kids in check. Disabled people can’t do a lot of things other humans can do. With a remote control or smartphone app, they can satisfy their needs without much movement. devices can satisfy the exact needs of dependent people.

For people with sight and mobility problems, voice control technology can be very instrumental. For people with hearing difficulties, it is possible to attach electronic implants to help them hear.

Your Home Will Have Insurance Benefits

Smartphones have greater safety and anti-hazard features. For this reason, most insurance companies usually give smart house owners a discount on their homes. A smart home is less likely to have a fire outbreak or theft compared to a conventional home.

Its value is also less likely to degrade in the long run. The automation system can inform you about a burnt electrical switch, a leaking bathtub, or any excess moisture formation in the house structure.

Some sensors that can help to achieve this include moisture sensors, humidity sensors, thermostats, carbon monoxide, and smoke detectors. With this in place, there is a guarantee that your house will have a higher resale value in the market.

It Can Cut Your Energy Bills

Energy conservation and money management are top priorities in the mind of every house owner. Smart home devices work efficiently to cut down costs. Smart thermostats and lighting can help you save money by switching off when not in use.

This way, you will prevent running a heater in an empty house or turning on the garage lights throughout the night. You will cut down your energy bills this way.

Cons

A Smart Home Costs a Lot to Install and Maintain

This is the biggest disadvantage of smart homes. There are several good companies out there that can set up your smart home. All of them are expensive. Only a few people within the population can afford the initial installation cost.

If you have a fault in your smart home system, you can’t call any random technician to fix it for you. You will need professionals to do the repair for you.

Those professionals will most likely have to come from the company that did the initial installation. Even though a smart home has high initial costs, it can save you a lot of other expenses in the future.

It Requires a Strong Internet Connection

A fast internet connection is the backbone of a smart home system. Many countries in the third world cannot boast of a fast and strong internet connection. If you have a weak internet connection, the system will malfunction.

If the internet gets completely cut off, your smart home is as good as dead. You can’t control your system via any other means.

Your Smart Home is Subject to Getting Hacked

The chances of your smart home getting hacked are low. However, that doesn’t mean there is no possibility that it could happen. Passwords and biometrics are two main security protection techniques for smart homes. If this information gets to an outsider, your home is hijacked.

However, IOT software developers and engineers are working round the clock to improve the security of smart home appliances.

How to Make Your Smart House Secure

As earlier stated, smart house systems are not invincible. It is important to take the right steps to keep your house secure.

Don’t Use Weak Passwords

Use strong passwords to protect your smart home products. Most smart system routers come with a weak password like “admin” or “1234”. You will need to change that generic password. Don’t use your date of birth or any other information that outsiders know.

Set Up Two Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication will strengthen the requirement to access your smart house network. It requires your password and another six-digit code sent via email or text message. Even if the hacker has your password, he won’t be able to enter your home network without the second code.

Keep Important Information on A Separate Network

Split up your network. Place sensitive information on a separate network from other devices. For example, you can place your laptop and refrigerator on different networks. Potential hackers will not gain anything by hacking your refrigerator. They will likely want to steal key information.


Smart speaker (Source: unsplash.com)

Top Four Companies in the Global Smart Home Automation Technology Market

Google

Google LLC has been at the forefront of internet-based services. The company contributes to cloud computing, computer hardware, and search engine software. They created a smart speaker called Google Home with its custom app.

Amazon

Amazon focuses on Artificial intelligence, consumer electronic gadgets, and cloud computing. The company also created Alexa, a virtual assistant technology in 2014. It works with their smart speakers.

Samsung

The South Korean company has been in the game for a long time. Their product, Samsung SmartThings hub is good at integrating smart home devices. It is a premium device.

Apple

Apple is one of the best companies in the tech world. Their iPhone device is one of the best in the market. Homepod, their smart speaker, is a high-tech speaker.

ABB

ABB is paving the way for the future of smart home solutions. One of their new products is an alarm stick that integrates carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. They have also built their open API system to integrate third-party applications with their automation system.

What Does the Future Hold for Smart Home Automation Technology?

Thanks to advancements in sensor technology, we have access to devices that can address our needs. As more and more devices get connected to the internet, the prospects of smart homes increase. One thing to note is that smart homes have not attained their full potential yet.

At its best today, a smart home feels like adding a collection of intelligent accessories to an already existing building. This makes the design of smart houses kind of “disjointed”. Many consumers have not accepted smart home automation technology. They have not yet seen its benefits.

The concept of technology still looks blurry to many people all over the globe. It will help if smart house production enthusiasts educate the general public about how this innovation works. If people see its long-term money and time-saving capabilities, they will be willing to invest in smart homes.

In the near future, a smart home will be built from scratch. IoT devices will also adapt and pay extra attention to people’s needs. For example, sensors in your toilet can scan people’s feces or urine and notify them about any potential health condition.

We could even see robotic systems that will cook our favorite dishes for us.  We should also expect an increase in the number of hackers. Keeping smart systems secure will become a priority for future manufacturers. Let’s sit back and relax. The future is bright for smart home automation technology.

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