The Latest and Greatest in Smart Home Technologies
By Tom Tate
Today’s smart home has blossomed to near Jetson-esque capabilities. The applications for home automation are racing ahead, fueled by the near ubiquitous availability of wireless technology and the growth of the Internet of Things. The actual smart home gadgets and technologies continue to evolve, but the mobile app seems to be taking the lead. Let’s catch up with the advances in some key areas.
Smart thermostats deserve top billing as they were truly the first smart device to become mainstream. Product choices abound with smart options for baseboard electric being developed, while the focus remains solidly on convenience, energy savings and peace of mind.
Geofencing is one of the best enhancements in this category. Link your smart thermostat to your smart phone, set a radius around your domicile, and whenever you cross that boundary your thermostat goes into away or return mode, depending on which way you are heading.
Smart security is surging. Smart door locks were the first entrants in this category. More recently, video doorbells have entered the fray where you can see who is at the door from anywhere in the world. Very slick.
Wireless cameras have dropped in price, allowing you to canvas your home and property to keep an eye on things anywhere. Get an alert? Open the app and find out what’s going on at home.
Smart smoke and CO sensors are key in the safety sector, with the capability of sending alerts to your phone, allowing remote status checks and silencing alarms from the app––all without sacrificing that awful, ear-splitting alert we have come to love.
Smart appliances are slowly grinding forward. Refrigerators with cameras allow you to check for needed items while at the grocery store, and dryers sense when electric use is highest and turn off––talk about demand response! Even HVAC systems, including window air conditioners, are sporting mobile apps these days.
There is not a huge amount of automation for stoves and cooktops. Controlling this appliance remotely seems too dangerous unless the feature is to turn it off. In that case, chalk up another one for peace of mind by resolving that nagging vacation worry, “Did I turn the stove off?”
Smart lighting seems to have become a convergence of mood, efficiency, convenience and security. This is where a smart hub and its software might make sense. Setting up a coordinated lighting schedule is easier from a single interface. Create “scenes” for individual rooms or for the whole house. For security, grab a scene that gives your castle a lived-in look.
Perhaps the coolest new entrants are the voice-controlled assistants. These are receiving a lot of attention and, depending on the capabilities they are given, have the potential to command everything via voice, freeing you from the tedium of opening an app to control something. For example, there is a skill for Alexa that, if set up with your co-op’s billing and metering systems, allows the homeowner to ask for current bill amounts and receive alerts when a specific use has been reached.
The smart home circa 2018 is a lot closer to the cartoon vision of the Jetsons. With the ease of installation, programming and use enabled by wireless technology and smart phone apps, anyone not already engaged with smart home tech should at least consider dipping a toe in the water.