Home Automation? What on Earth is that?
An in depth explanation of Home Automation & Smart Home Technology
Everything these days is “smart”, from your smartphone through to smart TVs. You might be able to remember when all this technology began to be introduced – it wasn’t that long ago. Like every new technology, it took a while for the benefits of these devices to become apparent to the general public. After all, when smartphones started to take over, we’d only just got used to mobile phones, and it was only a few years before that when we were only using landlines!
The progression from standard mobile phone to smartphone opened up a whole new aspect of enjoyment and convenience. A mobile phone allowed you to make phone calls and send text messages, and later models gave basic access to text-based email functions. Smartphones introduced full colour screens with clear graphics and a range of apps to do almost anything you wanted. You could play games, use the internet as if you were sat at a computer, access your online banking, and much more. These were all things you could do before but in a different context – maybe you needed to use a computer for all those things, or perhaps you spent time physically going into the bank.
These days, if you were to take away access to a smartphone from the majority of people who use them, they wouldn’t be at all happy returning to a standard handset. We’ve grown accustomed to the flexibility and convenience provided, even though we may have been resistant at first. It’s going to be the same story with smart homes. There are some early adopters around (although the technology is quite mature) but most people can’t understand the benefits. “Amazing”, they might say, “The lights come on by themselves. Well that saves a microsecond of time when I flick the switch!”
But there’s a lot more to it than that.
The Truth About Smart Home
It’s true. The lights can come on without you having to flick a switch, but there are multiple reasons a light can come on. With a home automation system, you can set a light to come on via a timer – that’s straightforward. But you can also set it to come on as the sun sets, which is more useful. If you are out at work all day and come home as it is getting dark, you can walk into a home that is lit up, but hasn’t been lit up so long it has been a waste of electricity. More than that, the blinds could have been open all day but have been automatically drawn in anticipation of your arrival. Not only that, but by linking it with other features of a smart home, you can walk in from work and have the heating set at just the right level, your favourite tune playing in the background, and not even have to mess about getting a key in the lock to open the front door.
It’s almost like having a butler who follows your instructions to the letter. As well as that, lights can be activated by motion, meaning they will turn on as you enter a room or corridor. This saves you the effort of switching them on, but is also more efficient as they will be turned off as you leave the area. So no, you won’t save much time by not flicking a switch, but your convenience level is increased – ever walked into a darkened room carrying something and you have been unable to turn the light on?
One area where smart home technology excels is in entertainment automation.
Whole House Audio & Video
Have you ever been to a party where the music is playing in one room, and you lose the atmosphere if you move to a different room? You’ve already experienced the need for whole house audio. In everyday life, being able to take your tunes with you around the house leads to a more pleasurable experience, no matter what you are doing. If you pop out of your living room to make a drink, you can hear the same audio in the kitchen and not miss a thing. You can stream sounds from sources such as Spotify, iTunes, and internet radio stations, and have them all perfectly synchronised everywhere. You can also designate areas for the sound to play – perhaps something as simple as two zones, named upstairs and downstairs.
When combined with whole house video, you can be entertained anywhere you like. Services such as Netflix can be seen anywhere in your house, allowing you to start in the living room, move to the bathroom, and retire to the bedroom, without missing any part of your show.
Incorporating the features you might expect in a smart TV, a home cinema system is a fantastic way to spend some fun time with your friends and family. Integrating with speaker systems, the lights can be automatically dimmed to just the right level to facilitate the greatest enjoyment.
If you want a real cinema-style experience in your home, you need to ensure you’ve automated it.
From the outside to the inside, a home security system integrated into a smart home provides a number of advantages over traditional systems.
Of course, automatic lighting is a given, but sensors can be set up to alert you of intrusion all around the perimeter of your home. Human motion can be distinguished from that of animals, eliminating false alarms caused by the neighbour’s cat. IP CCTV cameras can record anything that is happening, and specific sections of video can be captured in response to sensors. Combined with access control via key fobs, gates and doors can unlocked (and locked) automatically. Different fobs can be given different permissions, so if certain people are only allowed in certain areas, they will be unable to gain access to the places deemed off-limits.
Video integration and internet connectivity mean that if someone rings your doorbell, you can see who is standing on the doorstep…even if you aren’t at home! You can even access other smart home features, for example opening a garage door, from a remote location. If a delivery arrives and you aren’t in, you can instantly provide a safe location to leave the parcel without having to leave a key with a neighbour or finding any other awkward solution. It’s an increase in convenience that will make your life a lot easier – and a lot more secure.
Controlling it all
Every part of your smart home can be controlled from a touchscreen control panel, or even via an app. Integration with smart assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and the Google Assistant are possible, making it possible to control major aspects of your home by voice alone. Just say that you want the curtains closing, the lights turning on, the heating turning up, and the radio tuning to your favourite station, all from the comfort of your arm chair. And when that salesman knocks on your door, you can see them standing there without having to step outside.
Controlling your smart home is simple and straightforward. Just as smartphones have provided convenience and made it easier to do things on-the-go, automating parts of your life with a smart home will make everything easier, safer, and more convenient for everyone who lives there.