Frequently Asked Questions
What is a "Smart Home"?
A smart home is a home outfitted with devices that can be controlled over an internet connection on one’s desktop, tablet, or smartphone. These connected devices can be appliances, lights, security systems, cameras, audio and video systems, televisions, thermostats, and even sprinklers.
Generally speaking, if your home has devices that connect to each other and to a network, it’s a smart home. The complexity of smart systems may differ somewhat from home to home, but the basic foundations are the same.
Why is home automation still not mainstream?
Home automation technology hasn’t gone mainstream for several reasons, but the main issues boil down into six categories: accessibility, affordability, security, privacy, reliability, and upkeep.
Here’s a closer look at some of those concerns.
Consumers Experience Interoperability Issues:
The smart lightbulbs and thermostats work with the home automation hub, but the smart lock struggles to connect. As a result, the consumer uses one application to control the lights and thermostat, while needing to use another for the lock. That switching can get complex and time-consuming.
Home Automation Technology Remains Relatively Expensive:
One gadget might not set you back much, but two or three could increase the cost dramatically. And with three or four devices, you also need a smart hub to control the products, adding to the overall cost.
Security Remains a Concern:
Consumers rightly fear hacks, and news about breached refrigerators or nanny cams offers little comfort. Manufacturers have made strides forward with security risks, but they’ll need to continually address any new risks to create trust with consumers.
Consumers Worry about Privacy:
They want to know how smart home providers access and employ their data. Smart home manufacturers and vendors will need to become more transparent about their data practices and processes to convince consumers to buy.
People Express Concerns about Reliability:
Smart home products could fail because of a power outage, just like traditional refrigerators or lamps. But unlike those “traditional” products, smart home devices can also fail due to poor internet connections. Manufacturers will need to offer assurances about service continuity to engender trust with potential purchasers.
What are the benefits of home automation?
The benefits of home automation typically fall into a few categories, including savings, safety, convenience, and control. Additionally, some consumers purchase home automation for comfort and peace of mind.
Here’s a closer look at some of the biggest benefits that home automation provides.
Savings: Smart thermostats and smart lightbulbs save energy, cutting utility costs over time. Some home automation technologies monitor water usage, too, helping to prevent exorbitant water bills. Certain devices even offer rebates.
Safety: Many home automation technologies fall under the umbrella of home security. Consumers purchase these devices because they want to make their homes safer and more secure. Automated lighting thwarts would-be burglars, and motion sensors help people enter doors and walk hallways late at night.
Security cameras offer benefits through either remote monitoring of package deliveries or real-time video of home inhabitants or unwanted visitors.
Convenience: Because home automation technology performs rote tasks automatically, end users experience great convenience. Lots of smart gadgets are compatible with one another, and you can set different triggers between devices to automate regular home processes. For instance, you could set your smart locks to turn on your smart lighting when you unlock the front door.
Control: Consumers also choose smart home devices to better control functions within the home. With home automation technology, you can know what’s happening inside your home at all times.
Comfort: Some people use smart technology to record shows or to play music throughout the home. Connected devices can also help create a comfortable atmosphere—they provide intelligent and adaptive lighting, sound, and temperature, which can all help create an inviting environment.
Peace of Mind: Finally, many consumers invest in home automation technology for peace of mind. A new mom or dad can check on their little one thanks to smart cameras and other technologies. Or, if you can’t remember whether you closed the garage after you left, you can verify remotely with an app.
Which devices are most commonly controlled in a smart home?
The most common smart home connected devices fall into four categories: lighting, climate control, entertainment, and security.
Here’s how automation works in each of those categories.
1. Smart Lighting
Smart lightbulbs and related accessories tend to be fairly easy to install and use. They also offer advantages such as timers, schedulers, and motion-sensing capabilities.
Homeowners with smart home lighting can set the lights to turn on and off at certain times of day or in response to particular events.
For example, you might want your smart lighting to turn on when you arrive home from work. Rather than setting the lights to run on a timer—which might not always line up with your arrival—set the lights to trigger based on another smart device, like a smart garage door opener. The lighting system will receive an alert when the garage door opens and automatically turn on the hallway and kitchen lights.
2. Smart Thermostats
Thermostats are also commonly automated, as attested to by products like the Nest and ecobee3. Most people have heard of the smart thermostats, even if they don’t own one themselves. Like smart lightbulbs, smart thermostats are relatively easy to install and use on a regular basis. They also automatically adapt to your temperature preferences and schedule, resulting in a home environment with pitch-perfect climate.
3. Smart Entertainment Devices
Smart home connected devices in the entertainment category run the gamut. They include smart speakers, smart televisions, and even smart movie projectors. Some of these devices come with hefty price tags, while others are available at affordable price points.
4. Smart Security
Smart home connected devices for security also span the spectrum. You might purchase a smart security system in its entirety from a single provider, or you might cobble one together with smart security cameras, locks, and motion sensors from several different companies.
5. Don’t Forget the Smart Hub
Homeowners who purchase smart home connected devices in more than one category typically end up purchasing a home automation hub, too. Common hubs include Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Echo, and Google Home. These hubs simplify day-to-day use and management.
If you’re ready to take the plunge into the world of smart gadgets, check out our Beginners Guide to Home Automation.