As technology has advanced and the Internet of things has transformed the way we interact with our homes, the truly smart home is now within reach of more people than ever before. The phrase ‘home automation’ can still conjure up imagery straight out of The Jetsons but the smart, connected home is no longer the wave of the future.
New state-of-the-art smart home solutions use existing technology like tablets (iPad 2, Galaxy Note 10.1, etc.), making it possible for more people than ever before to automate everything from energy use and pet care to security and entertainment. Once upon a time that kind of remotely monitored and controlled automation might have been expensive but with T-Mobile and other carriers offering free 4G LTE service, it’s within reach.
Here are just five of the ways you can make your home smarter without spending a lot or doing a lot.
- The Nest learning thermostat has been many people’s first foray into home automation. This programmable temperature sensor and controller eventually learns your preferences, schedule and habits to help lower utility bills while making your home more comfortable. Now Nest’s product lines include a smarter smoke detector and CO2 alarm, as well as a camera for home security – all of which can be controlled remotely from the Nest Aware app.
- TCP’s Connected lighting system is a budget-friendly starter kit that’s a great way to explore the world of home automation without a big commitment. In about five minutes you’ll be ready to start customizing your home’s lighting scheme with TCP’s fairly-intuitive controller app, scheduling and adjusting from another room or from across the country.
- August’s Smart Lock is another low-commitment foray into the smart home concept. It works with your existing deadbolts, which means there are no upgrades, codes or special keys necessary to get started. The locking mechanism simply recognizes anyone with permission to come in – e.g., houseguests, dog walkers, repairmen or your kids – and opens automatically. Invitees receive a virtual e-key that can be used with any smartphone or tablet, and unlike many smart lock makers, August lets you set unlimited invitees.
- Elegantly simple, the WeMo Switch plugs into any outlet allowing you to turn a single appliance on or off from anywhere.
Set schedules for appliances and electronics using WeMo’s app, and never again worry about whether you remembered to turn off the iron.
- The SmartThings Hub, on the other hand, is a one-stop, affordable DIY home automation powerhouse that puts you in control of lights, locks, pets, security, movies, music and even the coffee maker and slow cooker. Start with the SmartThings app and Hub, then add as many smart devices – motion sensors, temperature and moisture sensors, alarms, proximity sensors, etc. – as you want to. Once you’re up and running you’ll have lights that turn themselves off when no one’s in a room, alerts when Fido needs food, your morning newscast delivered automatically and the ability to know what’s happening in your home even when you’re not there.
Berg Insights has said the market for smart home accessories is only going to get bigger, growing to $12.8 billion by 2017. While Honeywell’s full-service, voice control enabled Tuxedo Touch automation and security system may never be within reach of the average homeowner, chances are good that as the smart home industry gets bigger the cost of home automation systems will get smaller.
Even now there are smart home gadgets for every budget and every size home. While the technology is far from perfect, more people than ever before consider home automation a must-have feature in houses and apartments. Expect to see not only more systems hitting the market, but also better smart home systems that learn more readily and have less need for human intervention. In other words, home automation that is actually automated may be just around the corner.