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What Is A Smart Home? How To Simplify Your Life With Technology

Man setting smart home controls

Smart home automation concept. Image via Pixabay

Do you want to know how to turn your house into a smart home?

Well, you're in luck.

Because smart home technology is the wave of the future.

Get this.

As machine learning gets smarter, so too will our homes.

Remember Star Trek?

Yeah, that's the direction we're heading in.

Soon you'll be able to say "Open the door" and let a guest in. No longer will there be big greetings and hugs and gift-giving in the doorway.

Via Giphy

As machine learning gets smarter, so too will our homes.

Remember Star Trek?

Yeah, that's the direction we're heading in.

Soon you'll be able to say "Open the door" and let a guest in. No longer will there be big greetings and hugs and gift-giving in the doorway.

Instead, the door will open, and a series of lights or arrows will direct you to the room where the host is waiting.

Via Giphy


Think about it.

Smart home technology, which is in its early pioneering days right now, will eventually be the norm across the world.

Our entire culture is set to change because of it.

Yikes!

But it's not all doom and gloom.

For starters, energy usage will decrease.

That's right!

Soon enough your house will recognize when a light was left on and will turn it off.

Easy!

Also, the risk of house fires will decrease as appliances become smarter.

Leave the oven on when you went for vacation?

No problemo. The oven will take care of itself!

You were probably wondering: "How do I get my home to do THAT?"

Good news!

You can start setting up a smart home right now.

Let's get to it.

A Smart Home Is the Future

Imagine this:

You come home from a long day at work.

You say "Hello, I'm home!"

The lights in the living room and the hallway turn on. The thermostat switches to your favorite climate.

Soft, relaxing music starts up while your aromatherapy oil diffuser begins filling the room with a lavender scent.

Via Giphy

Your phone dings. Uber Eats was ordered and your favorite chicken parmigiana is on the way.

You flop onto your sofa and enjoy the clean floor which your Roomba robot took care of while you were at work.

Isn't that nice?

What you just imagined is a smart home.

But you know what else?

It's a smart home using technology which you can buy today!

So what is a smart home?

According to a project between Coldwell Banker and CNET, a smart home is:

"A home that is equipped with network-connected products...for controlling, automating, and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety, or entertainment...." - Olick, Diana - Just What is a Smart Home, Anyway? - May 10 2016 via CNBC

So what do we know?

It's a home that has devices which are connected to each other over a network.

Think Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

And that allows you to control and automate what they do.

Such as adjusting the temperature or the lighting.

Cool!

The history of smart home tech

Do you want to know how it all began?

We'll get to that in a moment. First, I need to step away and put my pizza in the oven.

Doh!

Via Giphy

I forgot to preheat it! That's so annoying. And time-consuming.

If only there was a way to preheat the oven without needing to leave our conversation.

Get this:

Smart home control on a smartphone

Smart home. Image via Pixabay

There is a way!

In fact, as far as smart home tech goes, a remote-controlled oven was one of the first successful smart home tech experiments!

It all began with the X10 in 1970.

That was an experiment to connect household appliances to a central hub from which they could all be controlled.

Unfortunately, it was all wired together which made the house a little uncomfortable to walk around.

But stay with me.

Because 40 years later, in 2010, the guy who designed the iPod, Tony Fadell, started NEST, the first home automation company. 


The purpose of having a smart home

Wait a minute.

Why even have a smart home to begin with?

You're probably asking yourself this question. After all, we managed the past 10,000 years without smart technology.

Right?

Well, not really.

You see, since the first people built the first grass huts in the Anatolian plains, they've been looking for ways to make things easier to live.

First, they figured out chimneys so they could cook indoors and keep their huts warm.

Eventually we humans figured out everything from aqueducts to air conditioning.

Image via Pixabay

The refrigerator, the electric stove, and even the washing machine are all technologies we created to make life easier for us.

So why not continue on that path? There's no point stopping now.

And get this:

Do you know how busy executives such as CEOs and world leaders manage their insane schedules?

That's right:

They delegate everything out.

They have cleaners clean the home. Also, they have cooks prepare their food. Heck, they even have people do their laundry and pick up their kids from daycare!

We're not rich. But technology can do this for us, freeing our time.

It's a win-win!

Watch the video below for more information:

How a Smart Home Works

Want to know more about how it all works?

At the core of all smart home technology is the network.

You see, without a network connection, the smart gadgets are just fancy paperweights.

They won't work.

That's bad news. 

So you'll need a high-speed internet connection in order to make build your smart home.

Here's why:

smart home devices

Internet connection smart home. Image via Pixabay

All of your smart home devices interact with one another across your home Wi-Fi network. Usually, they go through an app on your mobile phone or tablet, but smart speakers are becoming hubs for smart home tech.

In addition, entertainment consoles such as the Xbox One, PS4, and even the Apple TV can be used as a smart home hub.

What is a hub?

Basically, it acts as a bridge between all your various gadgets.

For instance, there is very little in common between a doorbell and a vacuum cleaner. The hub allows both of them to communicate through the same system.

smart home integration


Of course, not all smart tech gadgets require a hub.

When you're shopping for smart devices, you may see "No hub required."

That may seem like a good thing, but it can often mean you have a bunch of smart devices which aren't connected. That means you need to use a bunch of different apps and voice commands and different digital assistants to run your house. Suddenly, it doesn't seem that smart anymore.

We recommend tying all your smart gadgets into a single hub for ease of use.

Awesome Smart Home Devices You Can Start With Today

What if you could start building your smart home today?

Good news!

You can do it with some affordable, plug-and-play gadgets that you can buy almost anywhere electronics are sold. 


Now, I know what you're thinking.

You're wondering if you have something you can use as a hub to connect them all together.

If you don't own a gaming console or an Apple TV, there are other options for you.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is filled with amazing abilities and is compatible with every major smart tech gadget on the market.

Also, you can use it with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant as well.

Woman running smart home apps on her iPhone

Smart Apps in Smart Home. Image via Pexels

Talking about Amazon and Google, did you know that their smart speakers can act as hubs?

That's right! 


The Amazon Echo Plus not only provides excellent sound and a handy voice assistant but acts as a hub for your connected house. All your smart speakers, gadgets, phones, cameras, and even televisions can connect to the Echo Plus, giving you complete control and automation over your home.


Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo Plus (2018). Image via Amazon


Smart displays are pretty cool

In case you already have a smart speaker that you're sticking with, or you don't feel comfortable having one around, then instead try something like the Google Home Hub.

It's like a tablet and a smart assistant wrapped into one.

You can not only watch videos on it, but can get recipes, see the weather, and connect all the smart devices throughout your house.

Check it out!

Once you've found yourself a decent smart home hub, you're ready to head out and gather up some smart gadgets.

You'll probably want to start with something small and simple, just to get a feel for it.

For example:

Philips Hue

Alexa-compatible devices. Image via Philips Hue

You could screw in a few Philips Hue lightbulbs, or a smart electrical outlet, and see how that immediately changes your life.

Also, you should note some devices are more complicated to set up than others.

While Amazon Alexa-compatible devices dominate the market, they are often laborious to set up and connect to your Wi-Fi.

On the other hand, Apple HomeKit devices are far and few between, but they connect instantly with hardly any set up required.

It's your choice.

Light up your home

Want to know a secret?

The first smart home tech I bought was a light bulb. After that, I was hooked.

You should start here, too.

You see, having the ability to control the lights in your home is a game changer.

Think about it:

These light bulbs are capable of brightening or dimming, or even changing color. When your kids go to bed, you can have their lights off.

But we all know kids get scared at night. So using your smart speaker or app, simply turn their lights on to a dim, nightlight setting.

Boom!

Via Giphy

No more scared kids waking you up in the middle of the night!

Phillips Hue is the number-one selling brand of smart light bulb. But there's also Lifx, and even IKEA has a smart lightbulb called Tradfri. Don't ask.

Smart plugs for all of your electronics

Did you watch the above video?

Here's your "Too Long; Didn't Read" breakdown:  the host "@Aaron_The_Ho," highlights three things smart plugs can do for you.

  1. Keep you safe
  2. Save you time
  3. Save you money

A smart plug allows you to remotely control whatever device you plug into it. So if you plug in a lamp, you can turn it on before you enter a room, thus saving you from stubbing your toe. Also, burglars hate it when lights just suddenly pop on.

It will save you time because now you can start your electric kettle before you wake up, or turn on all the lights before you enter the door.

Most importantly: 

It will save you money but cutting down on electrical use. Seriously, this is the most important part of the smart home.

Here's the thing:

They're easy to install! They just plug into your existing electrical outlets and then using whatever home control app you have, you connect them to Wi-Fi.

Wham! 

Via Giphy

Smart home!

Thermostats for heating and cooling your home

You yearn for the day when your home will just figure out what temperature you like and keep it there.

Guess what?

Via Giphy

Now it can!

Thanks to smart thermostats, you can set different temperatures by room, by the time of day, even by the person who is in the room!

Smart thermostats are proven to save up to 30 percent energy costs, so they're great for the environment and for your bank account.

Seriously, if you spend a couple hundred dollars on a smart thermostat, you'll save double that in only one year of use.

It's almost as if the thermostat paid you to use it.

Of course, there are plenty of thermostats to choose from.

There's Ecobee, one of the easiest-to-use and most popular smart thermostats you can buy.

Emerson Sensi Smart Thermostat

Image via Emerson Sensi

Then there's the Emerson Sensi, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home as well as Wink. It doesn't have advanced features, but it does the basics and is reasonably priced.

Of course, the coolest-looking one is the Google Nest, with its round LED-lit interface and the fact that it learns as you use it, so your home just gets better and better.

Doorbells that let you know who your visitors are while you stay seated

By now you'll have noticed that Google features prominently in smart home technology.

That's right!

That's because Google leads the way in machine learning.

And with the Nest Hello, they've just automated the outdoors as well!

You see, now, if somebody rings your doorbell, you'll be notified on your phone or over your Google Home speaker.

Then the Nest's camera will show who is standing there.

You can even talk to them through the doorbell unit!

nestcam

Nest cam best for Smart home doorbell. Image via nest

But wait, there's more!

Because it's Google, the camera can recognize people's faces and match them to their Google profiles. Now Google can even tell you who is at your door. Wow!

The Google Nest Hello beats out every other doorbell on the market for ease of set up and use.

Smart security to protect your family


Get this.

If you thought the Google Nest Hello doorbell and the Google Nest thermostat was cool, then wait until you see the Google Nest Secure home security system.

There are plenty of other smart security systems out there, but nothing beats the Nest Secure.

You see, no longer do you need electricians to wire your house, or a multi-year contract with a service provider.

Instead, you get everything you need right in the box, and it's super easy to install and to use.

There's more.

You can add in a Google Nest outdoor camera and suddenly you've got visual security of your property.

At work? Open the app and see what's going on in your front yard.

Add Nest indoor cameras and see what the dog is doing while you're away.

The camera is constantly recording and backing up to the cloud, giving police visual identification of any intruders.

Awesome!

Smart appliances that make cooking easy


Would you like to save time?

Whether you want your Keurig to brew you a cup of coffee while you're shaving, or you need your oven to preheat as you park your car, smart home appliances can do it.

There are hundreds of appliances to choose from.


smarthome-appliances

Graphic copyright whitesummary.com


Smart speakers for your enjoyment

Have you ever used a smart speaker?

I have.

In fact, I bought my Amazon Echo this past Christmas and fell in love with it. Then I moved on to a Google Home Max, because it's awesome.

Here's why:

With smart speakers, not only can you control all your smart home gadgets, but it's like you have an actual personal assistant waiting to help you out.


SMART-HOME-SPEAKER

Graphic copyright whitesummary.com

Regardless of which speaker you go with, almost all of them can do these things.

Also, season one of Stranger Things is the only season you need to watch.

How to Upgrade Your Home

So, how do you upgrade your home to a smart home?

Do you need a professional contractor, or can you do it yourself?

Here's what you need to know:

Well, so far I've been concentrating on easy, plug-and-play smart home technology.

That's because it's all you really need to get started. However, if you want to be like Bill Gates and build yourself an entirely automated smart home, then you'll need a contractor (or ten).

But for the most part, the consumer tech that you can buy is easy to set up yourself. 

Take smart plugs or smart light bulbs, for example.

There is no reason at all to pay someone to do it.

If you're really lazy and you happen to have kids, get them to do it for you. After all, they're free.

That being said, the DIY route comes to an end the moment you're dealing with electrical lines or gas lines.

Let's look at that in detail:

You see, many smart thermostats connect directly to your home's furnace via electrical lines.

You really don't want to play around with those.

In that case, you'll probably need an electrician to install the thermostat.

thermostat

Thermostat attached to a wall. Image via Amazon

It gets worse.

If you want a smart water heater, then you'll need a professional to install the device through the gas lines.

Under no circumstances should you do that yourself!

If you can't afford a contractor to do it for you, then you can't afford a smart water heater.

It's that simple.

So, how do you do it?

It's easier than you think.

Get a smart speaker

Seriously, get a smart speaker.

It's the first thing to do when you're setting up your smart home.

I know, not everyone trusts having a smart speaker in their home.

After all, aren't they listening to everything? 

Well, not really.

You see, a smart speaker has two microchips.

One is the main chip which powers all the smart things it can do.

Go GIF by imoji
Via Giphy

The other is a simple chip which sits there, waiting for the "Go" word, such as "Alexa!" or "Ok Google!"

That's all the chip is waiting to hear. It doesn't recognize anything else.

Once it hears the Go word, it starts the main chip, which then listens to whatever you tell it.

The smart speaker is the best way to control your smart home, and like I said, you'll find it's extremely handy to have around.

Uninstall your dumb home

You read that right.

Your home is dumb.

It's literally as dumb as a pile of bricks.

So uninstall all your dumb stuff such as light bulbs, thermostats, and doorbells.

Remember not to mess around with electrical or gas lines yourself.

Everything else, though, get rid of it.

Because next, we'll turn your house into a smart pile of bricks.

Install smart gadgets

It's easy, isn't it?

Simply install all those smart gadgets you've bought.

Your light bulbs, your smart plugs, even your smart security system.

Once you've got it all hooked up, you're ready to connect it all to your home network.

For that, you'll need one of those hubs I was talking about.

Connect it all

News flash:

The Google Home Hub is one of the best smart hubs you can buy, but the Amazon Echo Show is a heck of a lot cheaper!

But you don't need either of those.

You can use an Xbox or a dedicated Samsung hub.

But it gets better:

Using your phone, you can download the free IFTT app and create virtual connections through all your devices. It's a little more cumbersome to set up, but it works, and it's free.

No matter what you use, follow the directions on each device to connect it to your hub.

Don't forget your robot

What's the point of a smart home if it can't clean itself?

Good news!

Thankfully it's the 21st Century.

That means we have robots to clean up after us.

Get yourself a Roomba or a Shark and enjoy clean floors.

These robots operate using a variety of sensors that detect objects in the way. Most of them scan your rooms the first time you use them and remember where everything is.

Then they sit in a charging cradle, out of the way, just waiting.

You can program them to vacuum at a certain time of the day, or use an app or smart assistant, or just manually press a button.

roomba i7

iRobot Roomba i7+. Image via iRobot

Either way, they'll head off, cleaning up in a back-and-forth pattern like a Zamboni at a hockey game.

Also, your pets will freak out.

Check one out below:

Sit Back and Be Smart!

It's a no-brainer.

In the 21st Century, smart homes are the way to go.

Not only will you save time and stress, but also money.

Because smart homes are more energy efficient, they're better for the environment. It's an entirely new industry that will change the way we live.

Get this.

Smart home technology

Choosing the technology for SmartHome. Image via Pixabay

You can expect to see smart homes become the norm as we progress.

Soon enough it won't be a new and cool technology.

Instead, it will be as standard as a light switch is today.

This makes all the difference.

We, as a species, have been finding ways to make our homes easier to live in for thousands of years.

I honestly believe that if smart vacuums and light bulbs were available to the mysterious ancient people who built Stonehenge, they would be all over it.

So why not embrace the technology?

For less than the cost of a tank of gas in your car, you can get a smart light bulb and a smart plug.

Now you're the one being smart!



About Nate Drescher

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