What’s A Smart-Home?

Smart-Homes have existed in science fiction for decades. Today, the benefits of home automation are well within reach. In the simplest terms, a Smart-Home is a connected building. It has the ability to automate and control connected devices. These systems can be used to control your home’s lights, climate, entertainment system, coffee machines, and whatever else you can think up. Home automations are created using either timed events or triggered events.

Timed Events

A Smart-Home always knows what time is it and can interact with your devices according to the time of day or with timers. Some common examples include:

  • Turning lights on in the morning, so you don’t have to walk through a dark house or hallway.
  • Turn on the entry light 45 minutes before sunset.
  • Turn your lights brighter, or turn on more lights, as it gets later.
  • Wake up to a light that gets brighter as it gets closer to your wake-up time.
  • Turn on and off the porch light at specific times of day.

Triggered Events

Triggered events automate actions based on a trigger. The trigger can be anything that can be sensed in your house by a sensor. Some common triggers are:

  • Opening or closing a door/window.
  • Button presses.
  • Temperature.
  • Motion detection.

Just these two types of events can perform some very interesting automations. Here are some examples:

  • I can turn on the air conditioning, from my phone, on my way home. Now, I can come home to a cool house.
  • I can push a button or give Alexa (using an Echo Dot) a command that turns on my bedroom, turns off the living room, but waits 2 minutes before shutting off the living room lamp so I can get to bed.
  • I can turn on and off my devices with my phone, computer, or voice. These are all different types of triggers.
  • My fish tank’s heater turns on when the room gets too cold and  turns off when it warms back up.
  • I can interact with my TV and bluetooth speakers with my voice.

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Control your home from your phone.

Smart-Home technology can also protect you, your home and your money. Your Smart-Home can:

  • Make the water or gas lines shut off automatically if a leak is detected.
  • Send you a message or notification if your door or window is opened while you’re away.
  • Turn on all of your lights in the event your smoke or carbon monoxide alarm goes off, for easier evacuation.
  • Send you pictures if motion is detected at home while you’re gone.
  • Monitor your energy consumption and turn off devices when they are not in use.
  • Shut off all of your lights and devices when you leave the house to save power.

These are all very cool and fairly simple automations that can be created with the right connected devices.

Help Around The House

Smart-Home technology is also useful to those that may need help around the house. It can bring new independence to the elderly and people with disabilities. A button on a tablet screen could be easier for someone to use than switches around the house. Someone who is hearing impaired could rig a light to flash or change color when someone rings the doorbell. Voice Assistants, like Alexa or Google Assistant, can help the elderly remember to take medicine. They can help people with dementia by answering, “What day is it?” and “What time is it?” and similar questions, repeatedly. They can also provide entertainment by playing music. Voice Assistants, in a Smart-Home, give people with disabilities the ability to turn their lights on and off without needing to move and the ability to change the climate with their voice. Smart-Home technology can people more independence by improving their ability to control their environment.

Commercial Smart-Home Technology

Smart-Home set ups typically fall within 2 categories, cloud-managed, and locally-managed. The well known Smart-Home setups, like SmartThings and Wink are cloud-managed. This mean a connection to their server is required for the system to function. This leaves you at risk to hacks and server outages. If a server is down, some hubs won’t respond. They are also more proprietary than Home Assistant, meaning you typically need to purchase the sensors made by the same company that made the hub that runs your set up. This makes the prices much steeper, because you can’t shop around.

Smart Home Hobby

Home Assistant is locally-managed which leaves you with the control, not another company. A little DIY attitude can go a long way with Smart-Home tech. Instead of purchasing a pre-made Smart-Home, you can make your own using Home Assistant. Home Assistant is an open source software for home automation. Open source means it is freely available to use. It is built and maintained by it’s users, other people with a knack for Smart-Home technology. Build your own hub and you can connect 800 different devices and services! This gives you the ability to make it what you want. It opens the doors of Smart-Home ownership to anyone with a little time to put into it. It’s not hard, it just takes a little time to learn. It’s worth learning, though. It’s nice to have the house wake up with me. It’s fun to tell the TV to turn the show on. It feels like a super power to turn off the lights with my watch. Coming home to a cool house on a hot day, there’s just nothing like it. Now that you know what a Smart-Home is, it’s time to start your affordable entry into Smart-Home technology.