Is My Home Smart Enough?

Is My Home Smart Enough?

Imagine it’s mid-winter and you live in a snowy climate. You’ve just enjoyed a day on the slopes with the family and now you’re headed back to your home tired as can be. All you want to do is kick up your feet and spend the rest of the evening relaxing. With this in mind, you open up your SmartThings app on your iPhone, and with one touch of the ‘Home’ button, a scene activates a sequence of commands. In this case, your smart home will recognize when you’re close to home, and prepare the house for your return by disarming the security system, activating pre-selected lights such as lights along the icy pathway to the front door, and/or the hallway from the garage to the family room. Music from your Sonos Home Sound System begins playing your favorite Spotify playlist on low volume. In the family room, the lights are activated in dim mode, the blackout window shades are lowered, the TV is turned on and set to The Tonight Show. The climate control adjusts to warm up the home, and even the gas fireplace in the family room is activated, all from the touch of one button on your iPhone well before you’ve arrived home. While each of these tasks are fairly menial, they can certainly become tedious and time consuming, especially if it’s a large house. The ‘Home’ scene described is just one potential scenario. From your SmartThings app, you can customize scenes based on your own preferences, even tailored to each of your family members own personal habits and daily routines. The options for customization are limitless. For example, you can have scenes for various scenarios, including ‘Vacation’, ‘Movie Time’, ‘Party’,’Mom’s Home’ …you get the idea. Each of these custom scenes has its own set of actions based on preferences for those particular scene names. As you can imagine, this saves a lot of time over the course of day, adding significant convenience, security and safety measures to your most valuable material possession, your home.

We hope you’ve found our site with the goal of potentially turning your home into a modern day automated smart home. Our goal in this blog series is to assist you in gaining the knowledge necessary to take the right approach in making this ambitious goal a reality, and hopefully have some fun along the way. Please join our community of fellow smart home enthusiasts here at AutomateYourPad.com

In recent years the costs of automating your home has dropped significantly making the transition quite reasonable for the average home owner. Depending on how comprehensive the automation, it can still be expensive. However, automation technology today can actually be a significant cost benefit over the life of the home. For example, automated energy and water regulators can significantly reduce utility bill costs. Flood and carbon monoxide sensors can significantly decrease the risk of disaster through pre-emptive measures to avert disasters with automated technology. These are just a couple examples.  According the Technopedia, “A home automation system is a technological solution that enables automating the bulk of electronic, electrical and technology-based tasks within a home.It uses a combination of hardware and software technologies that enable control and management over appliances and devices within a home.” Home Automation is poised to see a ton of interesting new developments in the coming months/years. According a 2019 report referenced from PR Newswire (link), The smart home market was valued at USD 76.62 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach USD 151.38 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 12.02% during the forecast period. With such incredible growth projections, there will be a ton of excitement around home automation in the coming years. The goal of this blog is to keep our community in tune with the latest developments in the space.

The goal of true home automation is to keep your interaction with your home to a minimum. A few common examples may include:

  1. Your security system alerting you on your iPhone when something goes awry at your home while vacationing in Europe. Additionally, your Hue smart lights automatically turn on periodically in various areas throughout the house to give the appearance that you’re still at home.
  1. A custom scene creates an artificial sunrise slowly turning on your lights as the sun comes up as you wake up in the morning. Your Alexa Echo then automatically reports the Weather forecast for the day.
  1. A party scene creates an ambiance preparing the home for guests to arrive by dimming the lighting, turning on the fireplace, lighting the exterior pathway from the driveway to the front door, and turning on your preset party music playlist of course.

Seems like a fun ongoing project right? For the average home owner, the transition to an automated home environment can be overwhelming. “Where should I begin?” Automating your home should be a fun, satisfying experience that can progress little by little, or all at once depending on your appetite for change, urgency and of course your financial commitment.

My grandparents just installed a Nest camera/doorbell on their 65 year old home even though I’m pretty sure they still have dial-up and pay for an AOL email account. They were ecstatic about their 1st step towards the home of the future. Point is, home automation falls on a spectrum, and it’s easy to start by getting your toes wet, or cannon ball in all at once if you’re feeling ambitious about becoming The Jetsons of your cul-de-sac before the Jones’s beat you to it.

In this post, we’ll, go over at a high level, the key areas of home automation, the challenges of automating your home today, and the options for making it happen. We’ll cover each of these areas in detail in blog posts to come.

If you’ve ventured into your local Best Buy or Costco lately, you’ve likely noticed that much of the cutting edge consumer electronics are centered around home automation products. The list of possibilities continues to grow at a rapid pace. Here’s a partial list of just some of the many popular products available to enhance your home in the current smart home landscape:

Amazon Echo (Alexa)

Apple HomeKit

Google Home Hub

Hue Smart Bulbs

Sonos Wireless Home Sound System

Wemo Dimmer

Insight Smart Plug

Chamberlain Smart Garage Door Opener

Nest Thermostat/Smoke Detectors

Ring Doorbell

Arlo Security Cams

Samsung SmartThings

Just to name a few…

This list is far from exhaustive. While these options make for a whole lot of fun for the smart home enthusiast, it can also be overwhelming for the everyman(woman) to know where to being the journey towards home automation. One of the challenges with true home automation today is the lack of a universal computing standard or user interface to control all of these disparate devices. Over the past few years, there’s been an exponential growth of IoT devices available on the market. Connected devices have disrupted every nook of the home. Research indicates this trend is projected skyrocket in the years ahead as the 5G network takes off and enables faster connections between IoT devices. Daniel Burrus, considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts said, “Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, perhaps the biggest one is the Internet of Things; it’s the one that’s going to give us the most disruption as well as the most opportunity over the next five years.”

While industry leaders are racing to solve customer needs in this area, there’s still lot of complexity today regarding how to scale your smart home as you naturally add more functionality over time.

Perhaps the most significant challenge is learning about, and deciding which communication protocols to utilize to ensure all your devices can talk with one another (interoperability), allowing you to have a truly connected home. There are variety of communication protocols available for use today utilizing both wired and wireless technology, and a couple hybrids which use both. The most common protocols widely used in home automation today are Z-Wave, ZigBee, WiFi, Bluetooth, This topic merits its own post which you can learn about here.

*Home automation can significantly increase the value of your home

One of the problems with smart device usability has been the challenge of linking all of the devices onto one user interface(UI).  Many devices need their own apps to operate properly. However, this is becoming less of an issue as home automation hubs on the market today are becoming more and more capable of linking all devices onto one UI. A hub acts as a central device which links together all of the different devices into one universal interface. The screenshot below shows the home page for the SmartThings app. One you’ve linked each device to the SmartThings hub (or comparable hub) via wireless, Z-Wave, or another compatible protocol, you’re able to control every device directly through the SmartThings app instead of having to open a separate app for each individual brand and/or type of device. It makes for a far more seamless experience.

There are a lot of practical reasons to invest in automating your home. Safety, Security, Convenience and Entertainment are all good reasons to name a few. We’ll dedicate a post to each of these areas in detail to explore options available for each. One compelling reason to consider investing in automating your home is to increase its value. Permanent automation upgrades are a sure way increase your home valuation. Additionally, the cool factor of home automation upgrades are a significant differentiator when comparing homes side-by-side if and when you decide to sell your home. Think about your typical car commercial as an example: they often focus on unique features that set that particular car apart, rather than focusing on the core features which nearly all modern cars would have in common. The same is true with home automation upgrades.

When considering where to start your journey towards home automation, there are 3 primary ways to get started each with their own pros and cons.

First of course would be the DIY option: doing it yourself certainly provides you with the ability to entirely customize based on your own preferences and timetable. It gives you the satisfaction of learning the craft firsthand, and is likely the most fun. And you don’t have to pay professional installation costs which can get quite pricey. The drawbacks to this approach are…you aren’t a professional installer so the learning curve can be steep, and working through the curve certainly takes a good deal of time.

The second option would be to look at home automation options through your existing telecom or security company. Many of these companies offer some version of a smart home service as an extension of their existing services. It’s a natural extension as they are already integrated into your home via your security system, cable or phone service Some of the most well known service providers in this arena are (summary of typical costs involved on a recurring basis, and what it get you).

The third option is typically the most comprehensive approach. Working with a professional smart home service provider who can install your entire system from end-to-end based on your preferences.

For most of us, our home is our most costly expenditure. It only makes sense to outfit your home with technologies enabling you to most effectively manage your most significant investment. Most of us have never thought much about the unflattering appearance of our thermostat and/or smoke detectors. That is until you’ve tried a NEST device for either. Once you have, you’ll never go back.

This post is meant as a high level overview to get you started down the road towards home automation. As mentioned previously, one of the challenges which creates complexity in automating your home is the lack of  interoperability between each of the devices. However, this landscape is getting better as stakeholders in the industry are recognizing the need for interoperability between the disparate systems. In the next post, we’ll simplify this topic by getting more into the specifics around the various wireless protocols associated with standard smart home devices on the market today.

Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said:

“2018 was all about getting products into consumers’ homes and both Amazon and Google excelled at this through low-cost smart speakers and multiple bundles across device categories. However, 2019 will be more about tying the various devices together to form a more cohesive experience and more importantly, layering in additional services.”

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