If you’re a new homeowner and tech is your thing, a central vacuum is no longer going to cut it. Personal technology has always been hip, but recently we’ve learned to expect more from our cars and even our homes. Why can’t we enjoy the same level of tech in these big-ticket items that we do every day on a cellphone?
The age of smart home technology is upon us. With it come amazing new functionalities, and all of the troubleshooting and hair-pulling you’ve come to expect with your technology. When done right, a smart house can have a real impact on your quality of life. Imagine never having to worry about checking locks before a trip, having the ability to tune your stereo with a voice command or receiving an alert on your phone when the dishwasher has finished its cycle.
All these things and more are doable thanks to the set of technologies we know as the Internet of Things (IoT). New network technologies like Z-Wave, X-10 and more are enabling low-fi communication between appliances that makes it easy to link just about any network-aware device to your home’s central hub. Here are just a few of the things you can do if you’re new to cool home automation ideas.
Go Hub-less and Start With a Kit
When home automation ideas first became a thing, the smart hub was introduced as the centerpiece of your home automation operation. The hub performs exactly the role you would think it does: It acts as a center point through which other devices communicate. When you add a new device to your home network, you sync it with the hub to allow cooperation with your existing devices.
Here’s the thing about smart hubs: They’re being phased out, and the solution that’s replacing them is simpler and cheaper. Apple and Google have already released hub apps that manage your network using your smartphone. These new apps allow for a decentralized approach, and allow you to manage devices at a distance if you have an Apple TV or similar device in place.
The popular Nest learning thermostat has become something of a poster child for the smart home. It’s still a great option, but in the short time since Nest hit the market, a number of competitors have launched attractive alternatives.
Take for example the Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat, which offers a large, touch-sensitive screen and the ability to add additional sensors and expand the range of your thermostat in larger homes. Either way, you’ll be pleased at the ability to control your air conditioning and heat without leaving your bed.
Another uber-convenient feature that many smart home owners enjoy is the ability to control lighting in their home at the touch of a button. Smart lighting can help save energy by placing lights on a timer, and in combination with smart locks, you can make leaving the house for vacation as simple as two quick taps on your smartphone. You can even define preset programs, and in the future it’s likely these will incorporate more than a single smart device.
If you’re really looking to impress, you can equip your smart home design with color-changing bulbs. Feeling blue? Adjust the hue of your entire domicile through an app on your phone. We can only imagine well-to-do ravers find this the best thing since sliced bread.
Kick Out the Jams!
You’ve already got all that music on your phone, why not sync it with the home-wide speaker system you’ve installed and enjoy music in any room at the tap of your smartphone? A number of Wi-Fi audio systems are already able to provide this functionality, an essential ingredient in any well-equipped smart home.
Taking things a step further, Amazon offers the Echo, a clever combination speaker and voice-control device. The Echo answers to “hey Alexa,” and once added to your network, it can play music and control other devices. The classic Echo includes a speaker integrated into its base, but you can expand your system or save some cash with the smaller Echo Dot, which still delivers voice control.
It might not be quite as fun as piping high-fidelity sound into your cutting-edge living room, but the security features that home automation makes possible should help give you peace of mind while you rock out in the glow of your color-changing lights. They could also make it possible for homeowners to see what’s going on at their house from afar when on vacation or traveling for business.
There are a number of smart devices designed to keep your home safe already available. The most obvious selections for new homeowners are smart locks and cameras. Some smart locks give the added convenience of unlocking your front door when you approach with your cellphone.
Innovators at Cocoon have even devised something entirely new with the smart home device that bears the company name. The system can incorporate cameras, but its secret weapon is the ability to listen for low-frequency sounds that wouldn’t normally occur in your home. If an intruder is detected, it can sound an alarm or alert you via smartphone.
The Start of a New Era
The amount of functionality these new technologies can add to a home is already impressive, but we’ve really only scratched the surface. The potential for technologies like Amazon’s Alexa to expand in scope and usability is enormous, and we’ll no-doubt be living in a world where voice-operated, network-aware homes are the norm sooner than we think.