The Internet of Things: Smart Home Tech

Smart home technology may just be in its growing years, but there’s still a lot of powerful, efficient equipment that you can still use to make your home a little more “smarter”.

Before I get into it, I’ll answer the question, “What are smart homes and how do they work?”. Essentially, a smart home is quite obviously a house that is linked together with household stuff that can talk to each other through the internet, and can give you the ability to switch off/on things at home, regulate the temperature, all at your fingertips. The “Internet of things” is a phrase used to describe products that can be identified over a digital network and are connected to one another. Think of it like a web, where every point is in someway connected to the other object, no matter how far it may be kept, as long as it is connected to the same network. So in essence, your air conditioner could talk to your digital door lock, so that as soon as someone enters, the AC switches on. Much of this has become possible simply by the evolution of the phone/tablet. It opens the gateway to a plethora of technologies, available to you at a swipe of the finger.

Some examples of smart home technology (from http://home.howstuffworks.com/smart-home2.htm):

  • Cameras will track your home’s exterior even if it’s pitch-black outside.
  • You can control a thermostat from your bed, the airport, anywhere your smartphone has a signal.
  • LED lights let you program color and brightness right from your smartphone.
  • Motion sensors will send an alert when there’s motion around your house, and they can even tell the difference between pets and burglars.
  • Smartphone integration lets you turn lights and appliances on or off from your mobile device.
  • Door locks and garage doors can open automatically as your smartphone approaches.
  • Auto alerts from your security system will immediately go to your smartphone, so you instantly know if there’s a problem at home.
  • Many devices also come with built-in web servers that allow you to access their information online.
  • Trash cans that monitor what you throw away and generate online orders for replacements.
  • Refrigerators that create dinner recipes based on the ingredients stored inside.
  • Washers and dryers that send text message alerts when their cycle has ended.

But it goes without saying that most of how you choose to automate your home is upto you. There are no dependencies or requirements. Everything is modular, which means that every aspect of what you choose to install can either be standalone or mixed with other things, but it is not necessary to have one thing installed in order to install something else. However, there is quite a fair bit of planning involved, because there may be some rewiring or renovation required for it to function.

Smart home tech is also very useful for elderly people that live alone. The home can alert the resident when it’s time to take their medicine, it can call the hospital if the resident falls, track their eating/sleeping cycles and a lot more things. If they are a little forgetful, it can also remind them to switch off water taps before they overflow, or to shut off the oven before the house burns down in flames.

A smart home can sound quite daunting, especially to those people who aren’t comfortable with computers. One common mind block people have towards the concept is the fact that it may be more complex than actually usable. This is why it’s advisable to start with a basic system rather than equipping your house with something out of Bill Gate’s Seattle mansion.

There are some drawbacks and threats though. Hackers can find a way into the networked appliances, and may find a way to cause a major problem, so assess the safety of the house and whether you actually need it, especially in a country like India, where cyber attacks are quite common and the infrastructure hasn’t been developed to reliably keep invaders out.

My opinion on smart homes: I’m quite reluctant to gimmicky technology, especially if it doesn’t really fill a need. For example, the Apple watch, where you can send your heartbeat to another person, which is a really creepy way of telling someone you love them. When I think smart home tech, I still envision not completely reliable or useful appliances though. You can switch on an AC from 20 miles away, but realistically, what good does that do? However, I’m not a complete skeptic. Lights that switch on only when a person is around are quite efficient and useful, but again, have we become so lazy so as to not switch a light off when exiting a room? While it sounds like a lot of fun, smart home tech is just going to make us lazier, and how much ever we hate to admit it, it might just do more harm than good.

If you’re inclined to buy or check out any of these things for your house, you can see this website which details all of the various kinds of tech: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/21/these-indian-products-using-smart-technology-will-make-your-home/

Also, read more at HowStuffWorks, one of the most comprehensive and elaborate sites on this topic: http://home.howstuffworks.com/smart-home.htm

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