Home automation has been a thing of science fiction for decades. Many middle-aged people remember growing up with Saturday morning cartoons or science fiction television programs showing families or space explorers living and working in homes that were completely automated. Some of the most renowned pieces of science fiction literature talk about the pros and imagined cons of home animation.
While the idea of an automated or a smart home has been around for many decades, the technology to make smart homes a reality have only been around for a short amount of time. Many people rightly ask, what is a smart home? What changes have smart homes gone through from their first inception to today? Also, what is the future of smart homes?
What Is a Smart Home?
At its basic form, a smart home is a home that has a centralized control system that handles a lot of the routine actions in the home. All of the appliances and devices in a smart home are connected to that central device. This includes things like lights, climate controls, locks, cameras, and monitors. These systems can be manipulated from inside the home, or they can be manipulated from the other side of the world if the system is connected to a smart device.
The number one benefit of a smart home is convenience. Something simple like preheating the oven before making a meal or having a neighbor watch your home becomes easy because you can start the oven or unlock the doors remotely. A smart home drastically minimizes the effort you have to put into maintaining your home.
What Is the History of Smart Homes?
The very first prototype of an automated house was unveiled in 1930 at the World Fair in Chicago and then again in New York City. These homes were equipped with just the basics of home automation. They were just designed for show and never made it to the market.
In 1966, the Echo IV and the kitchen computer were introduced to the public. This was a smart kitchen that could do things from creating shopping lists to storing recipes to turning on and off the stove and other appliances. Unfortunately, as a result of poor marketing, these devices never took root.
The 1970’s were a game changer in the world of home automation. This is because the microcontroller was invented, and this allowed the creation of fully wired smart home automation systems.
By the late 1990’s, home automation was seen as a way of providing senior citizens with more freedom. Then devices started to appear in the homes of seniors, as well as in senior living facilities.
Today, technology has advanced at such a high rate that smart homes are within reach of anyone who wants them. Now it is not uncommon for people to have automated lights, automated thermostats, remote video surveillance, and the ability to control the majority of their appliances from their cell phone or from a tablet.
In 2012, it was estimated that the home automation market had grown to approximately $3.6 billion, and it is estimated that by 2019, home automation will represent over $16 billion in revenue. In 2013 alone, more than 1.8 million home automated systems were installed in the United States alone.
How to Automate Your Home
All of the available possibilities in home automation can seem overwhelming. When learning how to start home automation, it is good to start with the central tools you will need and then work your way out from there.
The first thing you’re going to need is a controller. The controller is the center, or the heart, of your entire home automated system. Most smart homes can be controlled from your tablet or from your smart phone. But some still need the homeowner to purchase a centralized control panel and have it located somewhere in the home.
You will need network access to send and receive messages from your appliances. Most systems will work with either Bluetooth or over Wi-Fi. You will determine the network you will use based on the devices you want to interact with. For example, if you want to be able to access your appliances from a remote location, then you will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network. However, if you only want to access your devices while you are inside the home, a Bluetooth network will do just fine.
Of course, having a controller and a network without appliances that can receive your instructions would be pointless. Most modern entertainment systems come built with Wi-Fi connectivity when they leave the factory. However, you will need to purchase smart components for things like climate control, locks, etc.
What Are Things in Your Home That You Can Automate?
The list of things in your home that you can automate seems almost endless. However, the following are some of the more commonly automated home functions:
From the comfort of your smart tablet, you can turn your lights on or off as well as adjust their brightness whether you are at home or away.
Locks and Security Systems
Check, change, and adjust your security system remotely as well as monitor your home’s security cameras.
Adjust the oven temperature, adjust the refrigerator, or turn on and off the coffee maker remotely.
Record your favorite television program, or watch TV wherever you are. When you enter a room, have your television automatically turn on and pick up from where you left off. Play trivia and other games from the comfort of your couch, or listen to whatever music you want with an automated entertainment system.
Lower or raise your home’s temperature to keep you comfortable. Control your home’s temperature while you are away to lower your energy bill.
What Is the Future of Home Automation?
When talking about the future of home automation, the sky is literally the limit. There is a lot of talk about the Internet of Things. This is the idea of putting microchips in every day objects and having them all connect to your smartphone or to your mobile device.
Researchers believe that by 2020, home automation will be as commonplace as heating, plumbing, and electricity. Just think of how far home automation has come from the 1970’s with the first microchip to today. Things that were thought to be cutting edge science fiction in the late 90’s are now a reality.
Home automation has revolutionized the way that people live, it has increased their comfort, it has increased their energy efficiency, and it has given them greater control over how they use and spend their resources. It is only reasonable to believe that this trend will continue on into the near future.