A home that responds to—and even anticipates—the needs of its occupants is no longer a scenario confined to science fiction novels. As technologies utilizing the Internet of Things grow more advanced, they are unlocking new possibilities in the home automation sector, and today’s hardware and software tools have made it easier than ever to control air conditioning, heating, lighting, appliances, and home security.
Recent research by Intel suggests that consumers have recognized the benefits of home automation. In the poll, 71 percent of respondents said that they expected every household to own at least one smart-home device by 2025.
The previous year was rather eventful in the home automation space, as both leading brands and emerging newcomers unveiled innovative new features. The following are some trends that are making our homes safer, more efficient, and more convenient than ever before:
State-of-the-Art Home Security
The home automation industry has revolutionized home security. A large portion of the smart home devices currently on the market are designed to grant homeowners greater peace of mind by enabling them to monitor and control access to their home while they are away. Basic smart security systems replace traditional deadbolts with keypads and touchscreens. Users’ phones essentially become their keys, and they can use the system’s app to adjust access levels for friends and family members.
In 2017, a number of new products added video to the automated security mix. With the combination of mobile technology and automated video security products, homeowners can keep an eye on their homes while on the go and verify the identity of people who request access. This year’s most advanced video doorbells feature night vision and motion detection technology, and some offer free video storage services for added security.
More Efficient Utilities
Home automation tools are enabling homeowners to not only keep their homes more secure, but also help them operate more efficiently. Smart home systems offer a number of benefits that allow families to save money and live more sustainably. These products allow you to adjust basic utilities like air conditioning, lighting, and water remotely, as well as set automated operating schedules.
One of the first widely available automated home tools, smart thermostats continue to become more advanced. New systems offer more elegant touch-screen interfaces that integrate seamlessly with mobile devices via the cloud, and the most up-to-date products allow homeowners to automate heating and cooling for individual rooms within the home.
After automating their home’s indoor temperature, consumers can do the same for air quality. For example, many products that pair with Amazon’s Alexa are capable of providing audible reports on indoor air quality and adjusting air filter settings to bring it to an optimal level.
Recent innovations in the industry also include smart lighting systems that can not only adjust based on the time of day, but can be programmed to change hue to create a unique ambiance. Users can also take advantage of this feature to provide visual cues throughout their homes. For example, you might program your smart light to turn green each time you receive an email from an important sender.
Smart lighting systems can also integrate with today’s leading smart home security systems. The most advanced products on the market can be programmed to automatically activate when your home’s security alarm or doorbell rings, and some can recreate your family’s common lighting patterns so that it looks like someone’s home even when you’re away.
While home automation is granting people more control over their home’s indoor temperature and lighting, additional innovations are enabling consumers to monitor their home’s energy use. New products in this area include smart meters that, when installed outside the home or within an interior circuit breaker, allow homeowners to save money and energy by monitoring precisely when and where they are using electricity.
Some of the latest innovations in home automation are poised to change the way people plan and prepare their meals. Leading appliance companies have begun producing integrated systems that work in tandem to respond intuitively to people’s needs in the kitchen. For example, the “scan to cook” function allows users to scan the barcode on a package of frozen food to send its cooking instructions directly to a microwave. The latest smart refrigerators are capable of giving users updates when it’s time to head to the grocery store.
Home automation tools are becoming more widely available for smaller appliances as well. Capable of connecting to smartphones via Wi-Fi, smart electrical outlets let users remotely operate and automate the control of small home electronics such as coffeemakers and humidifiers. These smart outlets are even available for outdoor use
Tying it All Together
While the freedom to control your home from a mobile device is exciting, smart home assistants can further enhance these products by making automated appliances, entertainment systems, and home security networks completely hands-free. In addition to answering questions and activating linked applications, products such as Amazon Echo can facilitate voice activation for a vast array of home automation tools.
Other products designed to manage home automation allow you to link every smart tool in your home to a single centralized device. In this way, you can monitor and update your home’s entire automated network through a single app. Similar tools also allow you to link your lighting system and automated security system—for example, you can set a security light to activate whenever someone remotely unlocks the front door.
Advances in personal fitness devices have introduced further unique possibilities for integrated home automation. In addition to tracking your health metrics and fitness goals, some of these tools are now capable of integrating with smart home systems. This would make it possible for you to program your coffee maker to turn on when you wake up, or to lower the AC when the family leaves the house in the morning, for example.