Having a whole “Smart” House
Updated: Nov 19
A few years ago, if you wished to build a “Smart” home you had to have a “smart system” with a “hub” (which is a device that monitors the exchange and flow between the accessories connected to it) it was somewhat a complicated system that needed a substantial investment and mostly a professional installation. You were also limited with the number and type of devices available, and when choosing a specific brand you were limited to the devices that brand offered, as none allowed “universal” connectivity from one brand to the other.
Nowadays the “smart” devices use a cloud based platform, which literally are servers and software based on the internet, for example, one that is well known and used currently is the Apple Home Kit. Some smart devices even use their own cloud based platforms such as Amazon’s Echo speakers or Google’s Nest Hub and those are largely compatible with devices from different manufacturers. In fact these recent cloud platforms make it much easier than it used to be and you do not need to get all your smart accessories from a same manufacturer, it allows you to get “smart” devices from different brands making it relatively easy to add to your smart device collection without worrying about them working together as the cloud platform connects them all together.
Your home becomes a “smart” home when your collection of smart devices works all together, thanks to your cloud based platform such as HomeKit, Alexa and Google Assistant, which eases the process of getting all your devices in sync. Most of these platforms allow you to create simple automation (often called “routines”) in which different devices work together at the same time. For example, your front door motion sensor when triggered could also turn on a light at the front door, start your smart speaker and play music and turn on your hallway lights, all at the same time. You could set-up your security system to turn on and off the lights in all or certain rooms in your house at a set time; it could lock the front door, or even play a message or some music upon your request, many options are possible.
What does a smart home do?
One of the main reason people chose to transform their house in becoming a “smart” home would be to make things easier, like those little daily tasks; such as turning on and off the lights inside and outside, locking or unlocking the front door, adjusting the heating or cooling of the house, monitoring the doors and windows, opening or closing the garage door, the back door, motion sensors for intruders, security alarm, unlocking the door for the children coming back from school…. and much more. And, when integrating security devices you can increase your home security and it will make you feel safer when at home. It also allows you to control the energy usage and cost which can translate into savings and having a much better control over your budget.
Here are a few examples of Smart home devices usage
One morning you leave for work in a hurry, you think you have closed and locked the doors and garage door but are not sure? if your house has smart locks and a garage door controller you happened to have forgotten them unlocked or even opened, you would then receive an alert on your Smartphone and could simply tap the App and suddenly the garage door closes and the front door locks by itself. Wouldn’t it be so much easier than having to go back home or go to work with the worry that you may have forgotten to lock the doors and just find out at night when returning home? or even worst risking to give easy access to your home to intruders or thieves.
With your smart home security system, this will give you additional peace of mind, knowing that you can verify what is happening at home any time of the day, when you are away, whether it is when at work or when on vacation, you can view and monitor who goes to your place? and always be aware of what is going on inside and out of your home.
Your smart devices also ease the doing of little things when you are at home, such as changing the mood for a special occasion or celebration, with color adjustable light bulbs which with a preset control or a tap on the App can change the whole decor of your living room… you could change the color to suit your mood or the activity.
Your smart speakers can allow you to preset music playing easily but also it can do simple tasks such as creating your to do or shopping list, call a car service for you, remind you of a coming appointment or even read your children a bedtime story.
Your smart devices can become your assistant and this could become very useful around the house!
Is it risky to integrate smart devices at home?
Of course any new technology comes with a risk, as for your Smartphone, your computer, laptop or tablet any smart device in your home may be risky... The threat mostly would come from the outside in the form of “hacking” (someone getting access to your system or device (something like an "intruder") or it could also invade your privacy. Many "smart device" users will input private information into their devices, it is important to be informed and aware of the risks. The other 'threat" if we may say so, in some other times can caused by "misuse" of the devices.
Not to worry too much though, as Smart homes are rarely “hacked” for say, there are things that you can do to avoid having that issue. Most people will secure their own home network (VPN, firewall, 2 factor authentication, strong passwords ...), even if you do not have smart devices, it is always advised to secure your internet access, use a strong and unique password on your router and enable the strong encryption your router offers when installing it in your home. In certain cases, some users even set-up a separate WiFi network for their smart devices.
When setting up your smart devices, you may chose to protect yourself by setting up a two factor authentication, which will offer you additional protection against potential hacking. And finally, when installing your smart device, it usually allows you to create your own unique password, do not keep the manufacturer’s default one, chose a strong one which will be unique to your use.
Finally, to transform your house into a smart home doesn’t require you to be a tech savvy or a professional in that "field". Just be “smart” and aware of the benefits and flaws, sometimes it may fail, connections may be poor or temporarily out of service, sometimes your smart speaker may not seem as smart as you expected it to be… while the option of integrating smart devices into your home is expanding, and it is becoming more and more attractive and accessible, just keep in mind, the smartest thing in your home so far, is still you!
Source: Jon Chase/ nytimes.com/wirecutter & Energy Monitor