Alexa, tell me a story!
Back in the days, watching television meant testing the limits of your patience. You want to switch to a different channel? Get up from your couch, close in on your telly, and switch the knob.
These days, you just grab a remote control, sit back, and enjoy a plethora of options at your disposal — from watching a football match to scrolling through Facebook to binge-watching Netflix, and so on.
Smart TVs, smartphones, and smartwatches are some of the mainstream highlights of the present time. But what if you could transform your entire or most of your house into a smart house?
Let me clue you in — you get back home from work, your garage door opens after having your number plate scanned, and you park your car. As you approach the main door, your garden lights up. The door unlocks after having your face recognized and you step inside. As you enter your room, you find it nice and chilly, thanks to your smart AC which had turned on automatically an hour before you arrived. You ask Alexa to turn on relaxing music as you decide to take a nap.
A Pipe Dream or a Reality?
Well, according to Statista, a German Database Company, the revenue from the Smart Home market expected to hit $99,537 million by the end of 2021, and it will also experience a 15% annual growth rate by 2025.
These figures pretty much indicate that smart homes are more than a mere fantasy. Not only is home automation looming in the distance, all set to the world by a storm, but it has already proven to be a lucrative market.
Xanadu 2.0, Bill Gates’ mansion, features state-of-the-art technology and is highly automated. Rumor has it, Bill Gates took 17 years to build his smart home.
We are not sure how much truth this holds, but we are sure about one thing: smart home technology has come a long way and it doesn’t take this many years to build a smart house anymore.
Let’s start with the basics.
Smart Home in a Nutshell
To put it simply, a smart home makes use of the Internet of Things (IoT) to become automated and technologically optimized. The method is flexible enough to support a range of setups, thereby allowing you to choose a configuration that is right up your street.
For starters, you could keep it to monitoring only.
Let’s say you are a working mother; you could set up security cameras and keep an eye on your kids through your smartphone. Similarly, you could have a similar setup to monitor your aging parents while you are away at work.
On the other hand, a smart house could allow you to exert more control both when you’re at home or away.
For example, you could unlock the door by simply tapping the smartphone screen or change the color of the lighting according to your mood.
Another way a smart home device could function is by triggering against certain conditions and following a course of action automatically.
Take for example the morning routine: when you wake up, you are greeted with a good morning on your smart speakers, get notified about the weather, and are informed about the latest news.
But those are just three of many possible configurations of the automated response.
How Does It All Work?
There is not one standard scheme of work when home automation is brought under the spotlight. It is still evolving, and manufacturers are always on the lookout for new ways to ease us into it.
Having said that, there are a few basics in the world of smart home technology that you should know.
A regular device that we use in our homes — LED lights, fans, or AC for instance — with the added features that allow it to connect with a wireless network, transmit and receive data, and take corresponding actions.
To understand this, let’s take the example of a typical smartwatch. It connects with your phone with Bluetooth, pulls the data from your phone towards itself, and allows you to interact with it.
An IoT device aka smart device could be anything: a smart refrigerator, lamp, vacuum cleaner, or smart air conditioner.
Basically, a control protocol is a medium through which IoT devices connect with each other and to the internet.
WiFi is the control protocol that allows our smartphones to engage with the router through radio signals and access the home network. In similar fashion, smart home devices could follow the same control protocol.
Now, here’s the hard part: Wifi devices are power intensive and could seriously hamper your network speed if there are too many of them.
That takes us to some other commonly used control protocols.
Z-wave Control Protocol lies on the popular side of the spectrum. Since it operates on low radio frequencies, means your smart home devices won’t be messing up with the wifi signals.
Zigbee is the high-frequency counterpart of the Z-wave.
Although both Z-wave and Zigbee create a mesh network for the devices that exchange signals, you shouldn’t expect a high range from Zigbee owing to its higher frequency. On the other hand, Zigbee boasts higher speed and allows you to connect thousands of devices.
Bluetooth needs no introduction. It is another protocol that you could use to employ to connect IoT devices. The downside of this, however, is that you need to be in close proximity to control or monitor your smart home.
All in all, Wifi and Bluetooth pretty much do the job if your desired setup is simple. For more sophisticated settings, Z-Wave and Zigbee are the best options.
Now this Is something that adds real beauty to the home automation system. As the name implies, a voice assistant lets you control smart home devices with your voice.
Say you want to cook something new but don’t want to look at your phone’s screen back and forth to follow the recipe, a voice assistant could come in handy here and dictate the recipe step by step.
In order to enjoy this incredible convenience, make sure you get IoTs and Hubs that support at least one of the three voice assistants: Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
With or Without Smart Automation Hub?
If you are not looking for something out of the ordinary, you could resort to simpler setups that entail smart devices with control protocol and a mobile phone app. This way you could control or monitor using your smartphone screen only.
Another interesting way to render automation is through If This Then That (IFTT) applets.
IFTT is a very interesting service that allows you to automate IoT devices by setting up programs and enables you to get rid of all the monotonous things you do in your routine.
Imagine that you wish to have meals while listening to some music!
To work this out, the lighting system at the dinner table, together with a motion sensor, could be integrated with the sound system by IFTT. This way, whenever you sit in the dining area and/or turn the lights on, the signals would be sent to the smart speakers and your playlist would start playing.
Sounds movie-like, right?
Here’s the catch — when you have so many IoTs running inside the house, things get twisted.
Either the IFTT doesn’t suffice your sophisticated requirements, it becomes annoying to handle so many separate apps for different IoTs, or you don’t get to integrate some IoTs due to their different control protocols.
Here’s when a hub comes into play.
A Smart Automation Hub is a one-stop solution that ties all your IoTs and allows you to manage them on a single app.
Many smart home solutions come with their own apps and a dedicated hub if it’s needed. for instance, Insteon devices come with Insteon.
Regardless, separate hubs ensure more centralized control and modern hubs even support multiple control protocols.
Again, it comes down to personal choice and needs whether or not you need a dedicated hub.
A Leap into the Future
Won’t be a stretch to say that smart homes are nothing short of a modern-day miracle. If you are a tech-savvy person and are into perfectionism, you just can’t miss out on setting your foot in this technology.
Considering that smart homes are already “smart enough” to give you the best in terms of safety, security, efficiency, and convince, it is a thought-provoking question to ponder.
The Japanese are already working on the toilets that will carry out urine analysis and tell you if you have diabetes or are at the risk of developing it, inform women if they are pregnant, and even analyze feces and indicate colon cancer if it will have been developing.
Maybe our cars will be able to detect our mood and health condition and enter the safe-driving mode in order to avoid an accident in case of negative indications? Not sure if it’s viable but it surely sounds fascinating.
The possibilities are endless, but we are certain about one thing: it only gets better from here.
So, if you are captivated by the potential smart homes boast, bring on your tech mode and get straight into this.