The smart home was once just a concept – a revolutionary model for what the future of residential housing and home construction could look like. But here we stand in late 2018, and the smart home is officially a reality. As such, we’re forced to begin exploring what this means within the larger context of society.
“Smart home technology, also often referred to as home automation or domotics (from the Latin ‘domus’ meaning home), provides homeowners security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices, often by a smart home app on their smartphone or other networked device,” tech journalist Margaret Rouse explains. “A part of the internet of things (IoT), smart home systems and devices often operate together, sharing consumer usage data among themselves and automating actions based on the homeowners’ preferences.”
The origins of the smart home can be traced back more than 40 years to old-school communication devices that used radio frequency to send commands to different devices within the home. Today, technology like Z-Wave and Zigbee work with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled hubs to seamlessly connect a wide array of devices and software without the need for invasive wiring or remodeling.
The goal of the smart home is to make life easier on homeowners, but it also has a certain level of “sex appeal.” Advanced technology is sleek, attractive, and eye-popping. Incorporating it into your home makes a statement. In this sense, it adds tangible value to a house.
Smart home technologies and applications are constantly evolving, but a current look at the market reveals popular trends in these areas:
- Home security. Home security is arguably the most popular smart home technology niche in the market. The combination of connected hardware and software allows for real-time video monitoring, deadbolts that lock and unlock based on the homeowner’s proximity, and smart motion sensors that become activated during certain parts of the day/night.
- Lighting control. One of the more attractive and popular trends in smart home technology is lighting control. Not only can homeowners adjust the color, brightness, and on/off schedule of their home’s connected lights, but Z-Wave-enabled motorized shades allow for automated control of natural light (as well as privacy). Beyond aesthetics and functionality, this also goes hand in hand with security. When a homeowner is away on vacation, controlling lights can make it look like people are home.
- Kitchen appliances. The sleekest smart home innovations are often found in the kitchen. From ovens that can be started remotely to refrigerators that tell you which items are running low, the intelligence of modern kitchens is pretty astounding.
These are just three areas where smart home technology is leading the charge towards newer, better innovation. There’s also plenty to be excited about in terms of voice control, audio, entertainment, and even landscaping and irrigation.
Smart home technology is all around us. The question is, what sort of impact is it having on our personal lives?
It’s hard to look at the rise of smart home technology and turn a blind eye to the various security threats that exist. With each new device or app that a homeowner installs, there’s theoretically another entry point for a hacker.
“SmartApps have privileges to perform specific operations on a device, such as turning an oven on and off or locking and unlocking a door. This idea is similar to smartphone apps asking for different permissions, such as to use the camera or get the phone’s current location,” explains Earlence Fernandes, a Systems and Security Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan. “These privileges are grouped together; rather than getting separate permission for locking a door and unlocking it, an app would be allowed to do both – even if it didn’t need to.”
The problem with this setup is that it’s akin to a line of dominoes. Once one domino is tripped up, the rest will quickly fall. While connected devices are the strength of the smart home, they could also prove to be the greatest weakness. Greater security mechanisms are needed to create some segmentation (at least in terms of accessibility).
When simple activities are automated, it leaves homeowners with more time to do the things they want. In theory, this provides a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Instead of having to spend two hours cooking dinner for his children, a father can instead help them with homework or play in the backyard. As opposed to worrying about her home while on vacation, a homeowner can quickly pull up a real-time video feed that puts her mind at ease and allows her to enjoy her time away.
Convenience can lead to laziness, but small benefits like these give homeowners the chance to streamline tedious tasks and participate in the ones they genuinely enjoy.
Think back to the smartphone you had five years ago. Chances are, it’s totally dated. Not only does the phone have trouble functioning up to today’s standard, but it also looks a little archaic. That’s because technology evolves quicker than ever in today’s innovation bubble.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the home of tomorrow. Will technology become so obsolete that homes start to look dated? Will devices need to be replaced every couple of years just to stay current? We’ll know the answers to these questions fairly soon.
The smart home isn’t a trend. Technology has become synonymous with every area of our lives and home construction and design is no different. As the market matures, homeowners will simply have to ask themselves how much technology they want to integrate into their everyday lives. It’ll be up to each homeowner to weigh the risks and benefits according to their own needs and personalities.