Isn’t it great when things just know what to do? What about when your home can automate a range of tasks, so you don’t have to? Or how about when all your devices all work in harmony together, and you don’t have to have a remote or app for every single one? This isn’t the stuff of sci-fi films but the rise of the smart home. In fact, nearly 30% of UK homeowners* own at least one smart home product. So, what is a smart home and what do you need to create your own smart home?
What is a smart home?
A smart home uses one more internet-connected device to create a highly-advanced home automation system. It allows you to be in control and monitor your home and its functions with ease.
In a smart home, you may be able to control and adjust the lighting, temperature, access, security and a range of appliances and things – all at the touch of a button on an app or even a through a voice command (like magic!).
Smart homes might include multi-media security systems; the ability to operate your windows and doors as well as ensuring your home is safe with gas and smoke detectors.
As well as giving the user complete control over operations at the touch of a button, a smart home goes even further. Smart homes can monitor their own activity and provide intelligent feedback on the data. For example, if you are away, a smart home has the potential to feed the cat or water your plants. Other smart functions include monitoring the temperature and making sure to heat or cool the room as soon as the temperature is out of its set range. You could even turn up the heat in the taxi home from the airport or work!
The technology in a smart home is only going to improve with the goal of making the inhabitant’s life easier. This could be ordering items you are low of on your behalf or a smart fridge making meal recommendations based on the ingredients in your fridge. In fact, as the “Internet of Things” (IoT) grows, the potential is endless.
What is a smart home device?
In order for your home to become a “smart home”, you need a range of smart devices to enable you to control and automate systems. A smart home device will need to be internet-connected so that the different systems can speak to each other.
Some new homes are being built and fitted with smart technology in mind. However, you can retrospectively fit devices in your home in order for it to become a smart home. All you need is a smart home system and a range of smart home devices that will work together and share and automate actions according to your preferences.
The smart home devices that you choose will depend on what you want to monitor and operate remotely. If you’re concerned about security, comfort, convenience or energy efficiency, then all of these can be enhanced through the used of a smart home device and smart home system.
What technology is in a smart home?
Some of the popular smart home devices include;
- TVs – That you can control through gesture recognition and voice activation (or simply access your Netflix!).
- Lighting – That regulates itself of daylight availability, mood settings and when you enter rooms.
- Locks – To provide access or deny access to visitors or allow residents quick access to their home instead of fumbling with keys.
- Smart thermostats – Control and customise the temperature to ensure maximum comfort as well as energy efficiency.
- Automated pet and plant care – Yes, you read that right. Feeders and watering devices can be connected to a smart home system to work on timers so that it is fully automated for peace of mind.
- Kitchen appliances – From brewing a coffee when your alarm goes off to fridges that track expiration dates, washing machines that start remotely and slow cookers that prepare your meal for when you get home, your smart kitchen can make life easier. There’s more and more like this entering the market every day.
- Household monitoring – Some smart devices are designed for complete peace of mind, such as LeakBot which will detect water leaks and can organise a plumber to sort any detected issues (fancy!). Other smart monitoring devices can detect electrical surges and turn off appliances accordingly.
What is a “smart home system”?
A smart home system is the main hub that your smart home devices connect to and essentially, listen to. One of the most popular smart home systems is the Amazon Alexa which connects to speakers, lights, heating and much more. With Amazon Alexa, you speak to “Alexa” by asking questions or giving commands. For all ‘Alexa’ compatible devices, you’ll be able to control them with the power of your voice or even through an app.
Many smart home devices will already have Alexa built in, or some work with Alexa or some can be adapted (such as with a smart home adapter) to work with your Alexa.
Other popular smart homes include Apple HomeKit which uses “Siri” to sync with your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV and HomePod Speakers and much more.
Alternatively, there is the Google Assistant and Google Home. Like other smart home systems, it’s compatible with products in its own range and other third-parties that work by being commanded by Google Assistant.
While these three smart home systems are the major players in the market, more and more manufacturers
What is a smart home “bridge”?
As technology progresses, it is becoming easy to buy smart devices for the home. You may pick up smart lightbulbs, thermostats, and locks. However, you need to “bridge” all of these devices together. A smart home bridge, also known as a smart home hub, is the link or the bridge that connects all of your devices and the internet so that you can then monitor them all from a single mobile device.
A smart home bridge is ideal when you have collected a range of different devices that seem to speak completely different languages. The bridge works to translate all of the languages so that it is easier to speak to all of your devices.
As well as being called a bridge, it may also be called a smart home adapter. Samsung offer a device called a Smart Home Adapter and also a smart home bridge can be used interchangeably with a smart home hub.
What is a smart home “hub” and how does it work?
The smart home hub, bridge or system serves as the control center from your home and ties all your devices together all in one place. A smart home hub, unlike a smart home system such as Amazon Alexa, works above that device to control it and others without having to worry about integrations. Many smart home hubs can support multiple protocols which means you do not have to stay loyal to one particular system or brand (handy!).
Alternatively, if you don’t want to have a number of different smart home functionalities and just want to focus on one particular aspect such as security, then you can buy a smart home hub that is purely dedicated to security.
With so many options available you can grow your smart home at the rate you wish or simply focus on the particular aspect that you really care about.
Is a smart home right for me?
There are many benefits to a smart home, that can suit any home of any size. Here’s just a few of the reasons we love smart home technology:
With a smart home hub, you can operate a range of devices from just one place. You have only one interface or one app. This makes it much easier to get to grips with and also means that you can have more control over some of the devices that you may forget about. For example, if you’ve left the heating on, no need to go to the control panel, just control the temperature or turn it off via the app (even when you’re out and about).
It is so easy to waste energy by forgetting about appliances or leaving them running by accident. But with a smart home, you know what’s on and when. Then you can control them accordingly. For example, don’t leave the slow cooker on all day, start it an hour before you get home. Alternatively, switch any lights off that you may have forgotten to turn off when you left home.
A smart home hub can allow you to monitor activity both in and around your house. From motion detectors to automated door locks and surveillance cameras, all of these can enable you to monitor the security of your home in real time. This can provide a great deal of peace of mind when you are at work or away on holiday. It can even help you to check up on your pets too (if you are worried about leaving them for extended periods of time).
Whatever you want from your home, a smart home can make it easier, more liveable and user-friendly.
*Source: Smart Home Week