How to Give Your Home the Smarts
TV actress and comedienne Lucille Ball once said a man who could predict and tell a woman her exact age might be smart but he wouldn't be very bright.
She was right. Smartness has its place in our collection of skills, but you have to be careful how and where you use it -- or risk causing trouble!
The same might be said of smart home technology -- the ability to control items around your house or apartment via a home network and the Internet.
Ten years ago, the idea may have seemed like science fiction to most of us, but, today, smart home devices, from intelligent refrigerators to automated lighting systems, are everywhere.
So What is a Smart Home?
Actually, we've been sort of using smart technology in our homes for years without realizing it. Smoke alarms, thermostats, automatic laundry appliances -- even old-fashioned alarm clocks -- all rely on built-on sensors to do their job.
But true smart home technology goes beyond this by enabling us to communicate and interact with devices and, in some cases, teach them how to do a better job for us.
They do this via your home network and the Internet, which has led to the technology being labeled "the Internet of Things" or IoT for short.
We may use settings on the devices themselves to interact with them, or our computers or phones -- smartphones of course -- or we may talk directly with them via voice technology such as Amazon's Echo (and it's voice assistant, Alexa) or Google Home (using Google Assistant).
These are not only "intelligent" devices that can answer your questions or play your music, but also act as a go-between that links you with other smart devices.
Smart Home Products
Smart products are appearing on the market all the time -- both completely new inventions and improvements on existing ones.
Many of these can be controlled via a centralized piece of equipment, sometimes referred to as a "hub".
Here's a quick rundown of devices and the jobs they do:
- Intelligent audio and voice control services like Amazon's Alexa and Google Home, or voice assistants like Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana.
- Security such as network-connected surveillance cameras (both indoors and out), alarm systems, smart door-locks you can control by voice or with your fingerprint, Wi-Fi connected motion sensors that send an alert if someone is moving inside your home, and doorbells with built-in camera technology.
- Safety devices like advanced smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that notify you of problems wherever you are
- Home maintenance devices such as robot vacuums, floor washers, and lawnmowers -- plus remote-controlled lawn sprinklers.
- ·Smart lighting -- bulbs that "know" when to switch on and can automatically brighten, dim or even change color on a simple command from the user.
Convenience devices and services such as:
- Pet feeders with timers or which you can control from your phone
- Voice assistants that order your shopping online for you
- Opening and closing drapes and blinds
- Smart thermostats that learn how and when to heat or cool your home
- Wi-Fi connected cookers and outdoor smokers
- Smart plugs and outlets, which enable you to switch virtually any plugged in items on or off from wherever you are
- Trash cans that keep track of what you throw away and reorder replacements.
- Refrigerators that do the same sort of thing, monitoring when you get low on certain supplies. Or they can even conjure up a recipe based on what you have inside!
What Are the Benefits of a Smart Home?
One of the questions many newcomers ask is: Are smart homes safer?
Set up and used properly, they certainly can be. For example, smart doorbells with camera technology enable you to answer a "ring" at the front door wherever you are, so the caller doesn’t know whether you're at home or not.
You can even unlock your door remotely to allow someone access to your home. No need to hide the key under the doormat!
And surveillance cameras that link to the Internet and store video have been used to catch thieves and prowlers.
In fact, a smart security system may even enable you to reduce home insurance premiums. If this is something you'd like to know more about, speak to your insurance agent.
But cameras can do much more than improve security. For example, they can enable you to monitor your kids doing their homework and watch and even speak to your pet while you're not at home.
Smart home technology offers many other benefits, notably:
- Saving time by doing jobs for you
- Improving your comfort through lighting and heating your environment
- Enabling you to control your home from wherever you are
- And, if you choose to use a voice assistant, keeping you company!
What's Not So Bright About Being Smart
Returning to that Lucille Ball comment, there are a couple of crucially important issues you need to think about if you're going down the smart home route:
- It can be costly, so focus on the things that will make your life easier and better, not just the nice to haves. Start small, such as using a voice assistant, and build up from there.
- There's some low quality out there. So, do your research. Check out reputations, reliability and warranty protection.
- It can be insecure. You're connected to the outside world, which means you're potentially vulnerable to network hackers. Make sure you have all the necessary security precautions in place on your home network. If you don’t know how to do this, bring in a tech professional.
The Future is Smart
We are still only on the threshold of smart technology in our homes. There's much more to come, with the aim of improving our lives.
For instance, in Microsoft founder Bill Gates' home, everyone wears an electronic chip, so an inbuilt tracking system always knows where you are and switches lights on and off as you move around!
But don’t forget that making your home smarter also means adding to its value. Making a home fully smart can cost between $20,000 and $250,000.
So please also be sure that you're properly protected with the right level of home insurance.
If you'd like to chat about this, why not get in touch with Aldrich Taylor Insurance by calling us at 818-841-2940 That'd be a smart move!