Imagine the alarm clock ringing on a typical Monday morning, except this time the curtains draw themselves back, the bathroom lights switch on automatically and you smell fresh coffee brewing. The concept goes as far back as the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago where the home of the future was unveiled, since then the automated home has morphed into the smart home; it can do more than turn on our heating and our lights, it can actually think for us.
At first glance, some of the most talked-about home automation devices appear expensive: $200 for a set of light bulbs that change color, or $250 for a thermostat that saves you the trouble of programming. However, the more connected devices in your home and the more of these sensors and smarts you integrate, the stronger and smarter your home becomes, easily controlled through a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Eventually, a truly smart home will know who you are, where you are and what you want, all without us having to tell it anything. That is when the self-programming thermostat is able to communicate with those lights and tell it you've left so they can turn off, or to flash red to indicate high carbon monoxide in the house.
Nowadays, enabling our homes to become smart bring tremendous benefits starting from savings. Connected devices such as learning thermostats, smart sprinklers, Wi-Fi enabled lights, electricity monitoring outlets and water heater modules cut down on energy and water use.
Moreover, many things inside the home can be controlled remotely via apps on smartphones and tablets, whether ovens, fridges or garage doors. In most cases, this control also works when you are out of the home; having your living room lights turn on as you arrive home, the stereo playing your favorite song and the door opening as you approach with a bagful of groceries is perhaps the ultimate luxury.
As for the essential benefit, security, there are many simple, connected security solutions that are inexpensive alternatives to 24/7 monitored security systems. Wi-Fi-enabled cameras, connected motion sensors and smart smoke alarms can all be monitored from inside or outside a home via live video feed, email and text alerts. This enables to have a safe home where smart sensors can detect water leaks, humidity levels, carbon monoxide, motion, heat and every environmental concern imaginable, which helps in preventing accidents from turning into disasters.
Although there's a big concern of security when it comes to installing connected devices; the idea of someone hacking into your internet-connected thermostat and controlling the temperature of your home for example, but so is the idea of someone breaking your front door and searching through your belongings.
It's worth mentioning that it requires a lot more skill and intelligence than most thieves possess to break into a smart home. Strong passwords changed regularly, plus encrypting your Wi-Fi network will keep all hackers out.
When it comes to having your own smart home, all you need is a good Wi-Fi connection, a wireless router, a smartphone or tablet, and a central controller (a hub). There's no need to worry about re-wiring your home; in almost every case, you can replace your existing product with a smart one. You can switch out your old light bulbs, replace your non-programmable thermostat and even put a smart lock on top of your existing deadbolt. Everything gets controlled from your lighting, climate, entry and exit of your home with just a smartphone or tablet.
On the other side, it's worth mentioning that technology firms have been touting the potential of a smart home for years, but in the past two years major players have begun investing heavily in its development. Samsung for instance, believes the day has come when a home is smart enough for household appliances to simply run themselves; all communicating with each other in the Internet of Things (IoT).
The company recently launched a line of new devices called Smart Things, including a small white box called a hub that coordinates the appliances. It also showcased a smartphone app that acts as a mission control for the appliances, while motion sensors and sockets are complementary gadgets to add to the system.
Daily routines, like which appliances should do what in the morning or in the evening, can be programmed in the app, with the hub then acting as the coordinator in the home. Alternatively, the home owner can control specific appliances through a tap on the app.
Competitions between companies is heating especially when it comes to Apple's HomeKit, which controls appliances compatible with its products, while Google had paid $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, specialized in intelligent fire alarms and thermostats.
According to Samsung, its platform will be open and compatible with other brands, they will be partnering with several companies, including speaker specialist Bose or light bulb manufacturer Osram, allowing these items to also work with its hub.
At the same time, it also launched other complementary gadgets which include a smarthome monitor, which keeps an eye on the house, alerting the owners to any problems; from a leak in the bathroom to intruders in the garden. Along with another device, the Sleepsense; a flat white disc that is placed under the mattress, it monitors one's breathing and heart rate at bedtime and sets the temperature for the heater or the air-conditioner, creating the best environment for falling and staying asleep.
Even Siemens has created its complete range of connected home appliances, controlled through an app. Among these appliances is a refrigerator that is able to take a 'selfie' of its contents, allowing the owner to see what needs replenishing.
Obviously, future homes are not becoming just a trend; it is deeply involved in the heart of today's industrial revolution, creating an easier and comfortable living in this wild hectic world.