When I was a youth, the only time I heard the term “smart home” was when my grandmother would compliment the curb appeal of a neighbour's house.
Times, have certainly changed.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the writing was on the wall, though we didn't see it at the time.
While we weren't looking, washing machines and ovens and home heating systems began to acquire the adjective of “automatic,” a term borrowed, and then stolen outright from the automobile industry.
Driving forward ...
Seriously, a washing machine that could be left alone to wash and then rinse clothes without anyone telling it to perform each step in turn was nothing short of miraculous.
Then someone got the idea that the garage door should open itself when told to, and hey, could we tell it to without getting out of the car please?
Convenience is the mother of invention
At this point, people began to see the direction things were going
One of the leaders in remote automation was a company called X10 from Scotland, and their home automation, the beginnings of which were first developed in 1975, is still widely used and available today.
But automation isn't all there is to smart homes. If it were, you could simply put your lights on timers and your furnace on a programmable thermostat and claim smart home status right away.
What's happening today?
One could argue that your home isn't truly smart until it knows how to respond to changes in circumstance, not just changes in control.
For instance, Honeywell Lyric makes thermostats that turn the heat down at night and up in the day, but also down when you and your phone go to work, and back up when you walk in the door with that same phone in your pocket or purse. Additionally, you can use your phone to change HVAC settings using an app, whether you're on the other side of the living room, on the other side of town, or on the other side of the globe.
Don't put your phone away yet ...
Your phone can also access your lighting and security, if your home is a smart home automated by one of the many wifi and cloud accessing systems now available.
And that's not the whole picture. Some systems will allow you to answer the door intercom remotely. Want to check that your latchkey kids made it home alright and didn't invite half the neighbourhood in for cookies and milk? There are apps and hardware available for that as well. You can even remotely lock your doors if you forgot, or unlock them if service personnel need access.
Sounds too good, maybe?
Well, there are a few drawbacks to date. A wifi enabled home connected to the internet is potentially susceptible to being hacked, and that could lead to being the victim of robbery or vandalism or even blatant grand destruction of property.
And the whole industry, by its own admission, is still in its infancy with many advancements happening and yet to come.
Additionally ince not all systems work together, some are bound to be left by the wayside in the future, and that means the homes that subscribed to those systems will at the very least be unable to update, and at the worst will be victims of “abandonware” when needed cloud-based services shut down.
Standard issue ...
And since there are no technical standards, it is possible for systems to be given control of your home that maybe shouldn't have that much power.
Imagine a home automation system that has all kinds of loopholes that can be exploited. then imagine what would happen if it became the target of some unscrupulous person.
But by and large
Smart home technology is an industry whose time has come, taking "home automation" to previously unheard of heights, and beyond our imaginations.
In the early part of this decade, more than a million homes had been automated. In 2013 the home automation industry caused over $5 billion to change hands, and that's predicted to double by the end of this decade.
There are savings of time, energy, and money to be had, that's why. Savings on heating and cooling can be derived from automated systems. Your home can control those things, realizing savings when you're not there, without sacrificing your comfort when you are around.
You can access improved safety and security, having your home monitored for intrusive gases, fire, flood and invasion.
And anything you can do via your home's automation systems from your home, you can do from elsewhere as well.
So the real question is ...
Will your next home be a smart home? Or is your current home about to be upgraded to one? If so, welcome to the future. It's been expecting you.