Smart Homes: Are They Really Such A Smart Idea?
The phrase 'Smart Home' is becoming a buzzword of the modern age. If you are trying to understand what a smart home is, you have come to the right place. The concept can be confusing, and the available information is often contradictory.
In this article, we hope to make clear to you exactly what a smart home is, what it can do for you, and also advise you about some of the issues involved if you want one.
At the most basic level, the term 'Smart Home' simply refers to the way that people can control and monitor their home's systems from a remote location.
Often this control can happen through a computer or mobile phone. Examples of devices within a smart home environment are fridges that can track their temperatures and email you if they go out of range of a particular temperature range or run out of a certain food.
Some thermostats can adjust the temperature of your home based on how you warm you want them when you get back. Some doorbells can let you know someone is at the door even when you are not in at the time - and they can stream video of the person standing there and also allow you to talk to them.
Further examples of smart home devices include lighting systems that can turn lights off in empty rooms, humidity monitors that can adjust the levels of water vapor in your house according to your personal preferences and even robot vacuum cleaners.
Every day more and more ideas are gathering under the umbrella of the phrase smart home. Developers of such devices are only limited by their imaginations.
One of the driving technologies behind the concept of a smart home is that of the need for home security. Everybody wants to ensure their home is safe when they are not there. For years now, security systems have been able to notify you of what's going on in your home when you are out.
It is often the case that the need for home security is the overriding factor that makes someone finally invest in the smart home technology. It is all good fun to have a fridge that sends you emails, but it is a different matter if your house is being burgled.
Even these security technologies are becoming more advanced within the home. And it will probably not be long before facial recognition figures out who's in your house and what they are doing.
These examples of home technologies all sound new and revolutionary, but the idea behind them is quite old.
The original idea for a Smart Home dates back to 1975 when a company in Scotland created a technology called X10. X10 allowed compatible devices and appliances to communicate with each other through the electrical wires of a house.
However, until the Internet came along, these kinds of technologies did not take off in the way they have done today. It is the ability to control your home through a remote computer or mobile phone that seems to have caught the public's imagination.
Why Doesn't Everyone Have One?
A Smart Home sounds like a great idea in principle so why doesn't everybody have one?
The problem usually comes down to one of cost. It is necessary to have devices that communicate with each other to have a smart home experience. But fitting a home with smart meters, monitors and connected appliances can cost a lot of money.
Because most existing homes were built long before this modern technology existed, it is often necessary to retrofit a lot of smart home technology. Not only that, it can be confusing to homeowners as to what technologies they should use to get their appliances and devices talking to each other.
Then there are the obstacles within the smart home technology itself. Even though some of the ideas have been around a long time, there are still problems with using them. Consider, for example, a lighting controller within your home. You might want the device to turn off lights in a room that you are not in.
However, what happens if you are sitting still watching television? How can the device know you are still there? Should the device switch off the light or leave it? Even though this sounds like a relatively trivial minor issue, these sorts of things are still proving to be a headache for smart home technology manufacturers.
There are further technological obstacles caused by different communication technologies incorporated within smart home devices. If you buy a device with one kind of technology, it may not be able to communicate with another device using a different technology.
This causes more headaches for someone who is retrofitting their home with the idea of making everything connected. They now have to study and build up enough knowledge to ensure whether the devices they are buying will be able to talk to each other.
There is no doubt that problems of this kind will eventually be resolved as the technologies mature and become more commonplace. Also, no doubt, consumers will demand more rigorously enforced standards for devices that communicate within their homes.
Hackers: The Hidden Menace
But there is one danger of the smart home technology that may not ever go away. And that is the security aspect of having your home permanently connected to the Internet. There have already been reports of hackers being able to connect to devices within some homes and cause trouble.
Many people already know about Internet-connected baby monitors and video cameras on computers that have been misused by attackers. But as more and more devices within the house go online, the security worries about having your home connected to the Internet will only become greater and greater. It will probably only be a matter of time until a hacker manages to cause severe damage to a smart home.
Can Your Home Network Handle It?
Another issue to consider is that of the network quality within your house. Not only is your home network under threat from hackers, but also you may experience problems with your devices communicating with each other because your home network is not up to scratch.
This is especially true if you are using a Wi-Fi network. Home Wi-Fi can be notoriously unreliable at times. For this reason, if you are thinking of creating a smart home environment for yourself, it would probably be better to use a physically wired network.
If you really must use Wi-Fi, make sure you have a top-quality router with a high-quality antenna and long range. The last thing you want is for you to be sending orders to your house from a remote location to have individual devices do certain things for you, and then have them ignored or discarded because of bad connections within your home.
So there you have it. You now have a much clearer understanding of what a Smart Home is and some of the issues regarding them. We looked specifically at some of the dangers and obstacles that are around at the moment that are stop people embracing Smart Home technologies in greater numbers. Now it is up to you to decide where you stand and whether this sort of 'connected home' is something you want.