The principle of home automation is not as new as many of us think. If you need proof, consider the manual lighting timers that have been around since the 1960s. These timers use mechanical switches to connect and disconnect electrical current in a plastic box that plugs into a standard wall outlet. Manual timers do not qualify as smart home automation devices, but they are automation devices nonetheless.
Home automation today seems like something new only because technology has made great strides in the last ten years. We now have smart devices that offer considerably more functionality than their legacy counterparts. Within this expanded functionality are the two defining concepts that make smart home automation what it is: remote access and learning capabilities.
For a home automation device to be truly smart, it must be able to be accessed remotely. It also has to have at least some capability to ‘learn’ and adapt to user lifestyle. Let us look at both concepts in a bit more detail.
Remote Access and Monitoring
The previously mentioned mechanical light timers were ingenious devices in their day. With very little technical knowledge, a homeowner could connect his/her lights to as many timers as he/she wanted, setting them to go on and off at various times of the day. It was all pretty remarkable back in the era of bell-bottoms and disco. But what if homeowners wanted to change their timers when they were away from home? They couldn’t. It was not possible.
A modern smart home automation system
gives homeowners the ability to monitor and adjust their lighting no matter where they are. A homeowner could be on the other side of the world and still adjust lighting, as long as he/she had a mobile device and an internet connection. This added capability transforms the lighting device from a mere timer to a complete control unit. The homeowner can use it to set scenes, turn specified lights on and off, and make sure no one ever returns home to a dark house.
It is the second defining concept – learning capability – that is truly exciting. Being able to learn a homeowner’s lifestyle choices and make adjustments accordingly is what makes some home automation devices truly smart. One of the first things that come to mind is the smart thermostat.
A programmable thermostat is a relatively useful device if you can learn how to program it correctly. But all it affords is the freedom to change the temperature in your home at various points in the day. It cannot help you with schedule changes. For example, let’s say you have your thermostat set to turn up the temperature by 5° just before you return home from work at 5 PM. What happens if you leave work sick at noon? Your house will still be cold when you get there – unless you have a smart thermostat.
A smart thermostat can be linked to your cell phone for the purposes of receiving GPS-based alerts. With the included software, you can set up a GPS perimeter of your choosing. As soon as you enter that perimeter, your smartphone communicates with your thermostat and tells it to increase the temperature. Your home will be warm upon your arrival whether you stay at work all day or leave early.
The era of smart home automation is now upon us. As technology gets better, we are finding new and innovative ways to make home automation work for safer, more efficient, and more comfortable houses. It is a great time to be part of this exciting industry.