Although you may not think of your home as ‘smart’, most houses today are technology-driven.
Does your heating or air conditioning system kick in once a certain temperature is reached? Does your garage light come on automatically when you drive inside? Do you have one of those sensor-based air fresheners that spray fragrance whenever they detect motion?
Nearly everyone has some degree of artificial intelligence incorporated into their home, but recent innovations are taking our properties to genius level. They include:
- Face recognition and fingerprint access systems
- Remotely controlled heat
- Windows that close automatically when it rains
- Doors that self-lock at night
Although the idea of a smart home might strike you as a plaything for the tech-savvy or super-rich (Bill Gates spent over $100 million US outfitting his automated home system), they’re becoming common enough to turn into a consumer trend. Berg Insight, which produces market research reports, predicts that sales of home automation systems could reach $9.5 billion US by the end of 2015, while CNN anticipates a $44 billion figure by 2017.
The best automated systems should blend naturally into your home’s ebb and flow of activity, coming to life at logical and predictable times. Although concerns have been expressed about multiple control boxes taking up wall space, there are master control panels that unify all smart home technologies and enable disparate products to communicate effortlessly with each other.
Home automation has recognised energy-saving aspects: precisely calibrated lighting and temperature controls prevent unnecessary power consumption, and you never have to worry about accidentally leaving the coffee maker on.
The Latest in Smart Technology
Events like the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) showcase the extent of the smart services available to homeowners.
- Audio and video: Media and home audio systems can be accessed in any room: Sky box, CCTV, Blu-rays, DVDs, CDs, and even iTunes. Some AV packages include special effects like coloured light systems.
- Automated lighting systems: These multifaceted systems allow homeowners to remotely control their lighting needs. Certain upgraded systems use movement sensors to allocate light automatically, depending on which rooms are occupied.
- Occupation simulation: When the family is away, occupation simulation systems can activate a sequence of activity that gives outsiders the impression that people are still at home: curtain movements, automatic lighting, and TVs.
- Security solutions: CCTV cameras can be customised to record upon detecting motion, with the video stream being accessible from anywhere in the world.
- Climate control: Touted as energy-efficient solutions, these systems can intelligently allocate heat and air conditioning to occupied rooms in the house or act on programmed preferences.
Two of the most popular controlled ecosystems are made by Apple and Google. Both are advertised as easy to use and guaranteed to work.
HomeKit, Apple’s upcoming intelligent home package, was debuted at the 2015 CES. It is an iOS8 framework that allows anyone who owns an iPhone to communicate with and control any connected features in their home.
Users can discover HomeKit accessories in their home and configure them, or create actions / action groups to control those devices. For example, you can say “It’s bedtime” and Siri, Apple’s intelligent voice recognition system, will alert your lights to turn off, doors to lock, and alarm clock to set.
Google’s Nest delivers an ecosystem of smart products that control a thermostat and smoke detector. A feature called ‘Works with Nest’ allows Nest devices to securely interact with the things you already use every day: a closing garage door can trigger an ‘Away’ mode that lowers home temperatures and puts your fridge into energy-saving mode.