The concept of smart homes has existed for more than a century, but it was only within the past five decades that the technology has allowed us to create real home automation tools. What’s more, this outstanding automation tech has only become affordable and widely available within the past two or three years. As a result, despite the maturity of the idea, millions of people are just beginning to look into automation for their own homes.
The following questions might seem basic to those of us who have closely followed the home automation field for decades. However, for those readers whose interest in smart home technologies has only recently been piqued, this guide should be an excellent introduction into a fantastic new world of tech.
How Does Home Automation Work?
More likely than not, a number of devices in your home are already automated — to an extent. Your air conditioning is probably regulated by an automated thermostat that detects the indoor temperature and turns the heating or cooling on as necessary. Additionally, your DVR might automatically record your favorite shows, and you might have lights set to a timer so your house doesn’t get too dark. However, the home automation systems available now go beyond these simple tricks and provide a full suite of automation options at your fingertips.
The first true home automation system was invented in 1975. Called X10, it connected devices through electrical wires and used a numerical code to issue commands like “turn on” or “turn off.” Later, engineers started manipulating radio waves for short-distance communication, which is how Bluetooth devices function. Most modern home automation systems are called “mesh networks,” which use algorithms to determine the fastest and clearest way to send a message to a device.
What Devices Are Usually Automated?
Modern home automation works like a wireless internet connection. Through your router, all sorts of devices can connect and talk to one another: Your phone can send images to your TV; your computer can sync files with your tablet; and more. In fact, wireless connections have become so commonplace that some wireless providers are beginning to market systems similar to home automation — but there are drawbacks to wireless-only systems.
Primarily, wireless connections tend to be fraught with interference, so messages might not go through clearly and your devices might remain uncontrolled. Additionally, you must find and install internet-ready devices — and many of these devices use individual apps. As a result, you clog up your phone with dozens of apps, and you clog up your brain with knowledge of dozens of interfaces.
Instead, if you install true home automation products, you can achieve a fully automated home with less hassle. Plus, you gain access to all sorts of different automated services. For example, home automation systems can link up nearly any kind of device into one simple interface, usually accessed through your phone or computer. With home automation, you can control your home alarm, heating and cooling, sprinkler system, speakers, lights, and more — limited only by your imagination.
How Is Home Automation Related to the Internet of Things?
Any device that connects to other devices and can be controlled remotely is a member of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a massive network of non-computer devices, including lamps, wearable fitness trackers, washing machines, televisions, and even industrial devices like oil rig drills and jet engines. Recently, the IoT has received some negative press for making homes and businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, but increased security in emerging devices and systems should ensure your safety. Any concerns you have about your home automation system’s security should be addressed by your provider.
How Do I Choose a Home Automation Provider?
As home technology heats up, thousands of possible providers are launching websites and advertising services. Before you commit to any one, you should know what is most important to your home automation experience.
For example, if you feel less than confident in your tech-savviness, one of your goals might be to have installation and maintenance services available. You might also prefer a simple interface and access to help techs when you need them. Alternatively, if you are enthusiastic about the latest and greatest technology, you should find a provider that has a history of adopting new devices and systems first.
Currently home automation professionals are necessary to set up systems to ensure certain different devices will work together and connect properly to the home’s network. However, some tech providers are already releasing plug-and-play devices, which allow homeowners to integrate new automation options without requiring a professional’s help to integrate into one’s system. Eventually, home automation devices might all become smart, as well — meaning they can learn homeowners’ preferences and predict needs and wants beforehand.
Thanks to these developments, every home in American is likely to have some degree of automation by 2021, at which point the home automation industry will be worth more than $21 billion. Home automation isn’t merely a fad — it’s the future.