Home automation has come a long way. Ever since the first automatic garage door opener was installed in 1926, there have been ongoing ‘smart home’ advancements in just about every area of living space you can think of. Today, there are ways to enable automation that can improve safety, protect property, reduce energy costs, and much more.
What is becoming increasingly obvious when it comes to smart homes is their reliance on the internet. In the early 1990’s, when home automation was just getting a foothold, it wasn’t really that important to be able to network multiple ‘smart’ devices together and make them accessible over the internet. Now, that’s exactly what manufacturers are aiming for, and the result is nothing short of a technological wonder.
Because of how sophisticated the smart home industry has become, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of options, alternatives, and product selections. To help, this article presents some of the basics related to what you need to know when integrating the internet into your smart home.
Technically speaking, a smart home is simply a home that has been outfitted with at least one electronic device that is connected to a central control computer. This central control computer is responsible for turning the device on or off according to a preset schedule or a list of conditions. You could say that an air conditioning thermostat is a kind of smart device, as it sends a signal to the A/C unit or furnace when the temperature drops or rises beyond a given threshold.
There are ‘smart’ devices that are specific to home lighting, blinds and window actuation, door locking and unlocking, and more. Thanks to companies like iRobot, there are even ‘smart’ vacuum cleaners that are told when and where to pick up dirt and debris within the home. All of these devices, when networked together, make up something called the Internet of Things, or IoT. This new way of classifying home automation equipment makes it so that the functionality of the home as a whole can really take off, all thanks to internet connectivity.
Adding External Connectivity
Let’s discuss an example of a smart home device that would require the internet in order to function. Imagine having a refrigerator that uses a radio frequency identification (RFID) system to track the items that are located inside of it. Using this system, the refrigerator could keep up with how old each item in the fridge is. Once expiration dates are reached, the refrigerator could then send either an email or a text message to the homeowner, or it could place an order directly with Amazon. Before a few days went by, the expired product could easily be replaced with a fresh shipment, and all the homeowner has to do is validate the purchase from their mobile device.
For smart home devices to effectively interoperate with the internet, there need to be five components that work in concert with each other:
- The thing. This is the ‘thing’ itself that is going to be tracked or managed. It could be a light bulb, a door lock, or anything else that has a status, quantity, or location.
- The identifier. The identifier is a readable or traceable marker that is affixed to or in some other way associated with the thing. Think UPC code, barcode, or RFID chip.
- The sensor. The sensor is needed to obtain readings from the identifier.
- The network. The network provides the sensor with a portal to other decision-making criteria or ways to take actions based on a set criterion.
- The data analyzer. The data analyzer is the ‘brain’ of the smart home network, and it’s responsible for maintaining logical structure and keeping everything flowing as it should be.
If you remove any part of this 5-part orchestra, there simply wouldn’t be a home automation network. And, if you remove the internet, the utility of a smart home disappears completely. Both manufacturers and cloud computing companies are working together to bring smart home automation to as many consumers as possible – not only to make life better but also because there are huge profits to be made.
In fact, the global smart home market size is projected to be more than $55 billion by the year 2022. In order to get there, broad adoption and understanding of all of these moving parts will be needed.
When you take a step back and critically evaluate the need for smart home systems, what you start to realize that it’s not a matter of if this technology is going to become pervasive, it’s a matter of when. Getting on board with smart homes and their connectivity to the internet will enable you to live an easier, more efficient home life, all thanks to 0’s and 1’s.
Kevin Conner is the founder and CEO of Vast Bridges, a customer acquisition and lead generation company in the home services arena. Since 2011, more than 10 million consumers and businesses have used Vast Bridges’ web properties like broadbandsearch.net to search for internet and television service.