The term “smart home” is one of the buzzwords of 2021. We hear about it in commercials, on the news, and in popular culture. But what exactly does it mean? Simply put, a smart home is a home where certain items are connected to the Internet. These devices can help the homeowner monitor and control actions throughout the home from their smartphone, whether they’re in the home or somewhere else entirely.
Getting a smart home is more popular than ever. In fact, 76% of people are familiar with smart home technology, while 53% of people already own a smart home device. And another 33% of people said they plan to buy a smart home device in the next three years. Market forecasters estimate the smart home market will reach $123 billion by 2022.
There’s so much you can do with a smart home. From voice commands through Alexa or Google Assistant to automating actions, more and more can be controlled in a smart home. Ideally, smart home products make life more convenient. So is 2021 the year of the smart home? Let’s dive in and learn more about what a smart home is, what it may include, and how you can get one for yourself.
What Is A Smart Home?
A smart home is any home that includes WiFi-connected devices. These devices are often referred to as the “Internet of Things” or “IoT” devices. When these devices are connected to the Internet, you can access and control them through a mobile application on your smartphone.
Many devices can also connect to voice assistants so you can control them through voice commands. Anyone can have a smart home, whether you live in a small apartment or a large single-family residence. It all depends on the devices you own and hook up.
As high-tech and futuristic as current smart home capabilities may seem, no home is completely automated just yet. However, the industry is getting closer and closer to that point. With a diverse array of devices ranging from smart lighting systems to smart smoke detectors, there are few home devices you can’t get an IoT version of.
Smart Home Connectivity
IoT devices can connect to the Internet in a few different ways, with WiFi being the most common. Cellular backup and landline backup are typically used with smart security cameras and systems for increased reliability. Other connectivity solutions include Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Bluetooth.
A wireless technology, Bluetooth works by using short-wavelength radio waves. Bluetooth is what you use to connect AirPods or your smart speaker to your car’s radio. It’s most commonly used with car stereo systems, hands-free headsets, computer mouses, keyboards, printers, and gaming consoles. It’s less common in smart home security.
In order to keep systems running if the power goes out, some security companies offer cellular data as a backup. This usually costs a monthly or yearly fee, but sometimes it’s built into the alarm panel or base station through a cellular communicator.
If you still have a landline in your home, another way to keep your system on in a power outage is through landline backup. The big advantage of a landline over cellular backup for a security system is that if you call the police, they’ll know your location instantly. That isn’t always the case for mobile devices with less than perfect GPS. Although they may seem unnecessary in this smartphone world, having a landline is a great way to make your home more secure.
WiFi is a wireless technology that allows IoT devices to connect to the web at high speeds. Using radiofrequency technology, most connected devices use some form of WiFi to connect to mobile apps. However, if it’s an important device like a security motion sensor, you may want to add cellular or landline backups in case the WiFi is faulty.
Zigbee is another communications protocol. It actually creates networks via digital radios. Cheaper than WiFi and Bluetooth, Zigbee’s only requirement is a data transfer with a short-range, meaning it uses less power. Zigbee is one of the more secure options out there, as all of its networks are symmetrically encrypted.
Z-Wave is a wireless communications protocol that lets devices connect with each other and the app using low-energy radio waves. It is a rapidly growing connectivity option.
How You Can Use Smart Home Devices
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular devices for smart home hook-up. With the goal of making life easier, many of these devices allow you the flexibility and ease of changing house settings from your phone, whether you’re home or not.
Voice commands are only possible when you have voice assistants integrated into your IoT products. The two most popular voice assistants are Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Assistant. No matter which voice assistant you use, you’ll be able to turn your connected devices on and off using your voice alone, as well as make other adjustments, whether that’s dimming lights, setting the temperature, etc. Here are the current voice assistants you can use for your smart home:
If you have an Echo speaker or Show display, Alexa is your voice assistant. With more than 100,000 skills, Alexa has the most capabilities of any of the digital voice assistants and is integrated with the greatest number of IoT devices.
Google Assistant comes with any Google Home Hub, Nest Hub, or Nest Mini speaker. This voice assistant is second in popularity to Alexa with over 4,200 actions as of 2019.
Siri comes on all iOS devices, part of Apple HomeKit. There aren’t many devices that work with Siri; it’s mainly used to map directions, play Youtube videos, or conduct internet searches directly on iPhones and iPads.
Microsoft Cortana is Microsoft’s voice assistant, although it recently shifted from being a voice assistant to a skill for Microsoft 365 subscribers. It’s rare to see any IoT devices integrated with Microsoft Cortana, as it’s mostly used to access the Microsoft Office suite.
Smart plugs are a great introduction to smart home accessibility. They can turn any appliance that uses 1,800 watts or less into a WiFi-connected device, which is ideal for small appliances like flat irons or space heaters. That means that you’ll be able to turn these appliances off and on using your voice, as well as create schedules.
Smart Light Bulbs
Smart light bulbs are a very popular smart home upgrade. They can be set onto schedules or even synced with the GPS on your phone, or sunrise and sunset. And with dimmable, LED bulbs that you can adjust to different colors, smart bulbs last much longer than incandescent bulbs and are a lot more fun, as well.
Smart Security Systems & Cameras
Smart security systems allow you to easily and efficiently stay on top of your home’s security. With WiFi-connected sensors, you’ll be alerted via mobile notification if any of your alarms go off when your security system is armed.
With smart security cameras, you’ll be able to check-in and livestream footage anytime, anywhere, from your mobile application. You can also display your footage on Chromecast, Fire TV, or Apple TV, and review cloud storage as well.
Aside from being able to control your home’s temperature remotely and set schedules, many smart thermostats also have sensors for movement and occupancy. This way they can adjust based on your location in the home and whether you’re awake or asleep. You can also set up geofencing with some smart thermostats, meaning they’ll adjust based on your location by using the GPS in your mobile device. Many smart thermostats can save you money on heating and cooling costs compared to regular thermostats.
Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Sensors
With smart smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, you’ll get notified if there are unexpected increases in temperature, or if dangerous levels of smoke and/or CO are detected. If you already have existing smoke and CO detectors that aren’t connected to the Internet, there are also smoke and CO listeners that’ll alert you if any of your alarms go off. This is a cost-effective solution to get smart environmental monitoring without upgrading to a complete smart system.
Smart Flood Sensors
Floods can cause thousands of dollars worth of damages to your home, which is why it’s best to catch them early with a flood or water leak sensor. Placed near anywhere that water could leak, like near a dishwasher or washing machine, you’ll get a notification if the sensor detects water so you can fix the problem early.
Smart Freeze Sensors
If your pipes freeze it could cause them to burst. However, there are now WiFi-connected freeze sensors that will alert you if temperatures drop to a certain level. This is more popular in parts of the country that regularly experience freezing temperatures but is increasingly popular around the country.
If you’ve ever wanted to hit pause without getting out your phone, smart speakers are for you. You’ll be able to play music, audiobooks, and podcasts using your voice alone. Plus, smart speakers let you control other connected devices hands-free. Some can even double as a timer or clock.
Smart locks are super useful and very popular. Aside from being able to control them remotely, users can create passcodes for specific periods of time to let people in when they’re not home. This is particularly handy if you have a dog walker, house sitter, or babysitter that needs to be let in. And it’s much safer than hiding a key under the mat! You’ll be able to see your lock’s activity and some locks can even be opened with voice commands.
Video doorbells are essentially cameras designed specifically for your doors, allowing you to see your guests and speak to them through two-way audio. The best video doorbells have person detection, leading to helpful notifications and preventing false notifications from cars, animals, and other moving objects. Some video doorbells require an existing doorbell and chime setup, while others are totally wireless with no installation requirements.
Can Smart Home Devices Save You Money?
Smart home technology can make your life more convenient by automating actions and providing hands-free commands. And these devices can also save you money! The best money-saving IoT devices are smart bulbs, plugs, and thermostats. These are the devices that can really help you cut down on your monthly energy bills. You’ll never forget to turn off a light or appliance or leave your thermostat on high over a long vacation. Plus, having that much more control means using energy only when it’s needed.
However, even devices that aren’t directly connected to your home’s energy usage can bring in savings. Water leak sensors detect water as soon as it leaks, allowing homeowners to catch problems early before they become a full-blown flood, potentially saving you thousands.
Plus, smart smoke and CO detectors can alert you as soon as there are increases in temperature before a fire even starts. Smart home security devices can also save you the cost of a theft, which was $2,316 according to the most recent data from the FBI. So although you’ll spend upfront o get your first smart home devices, over time they could eventually pay for themselves.
Creating A Smart Home: Where Do I Start?
Starting a smart home can be overwhelming, which is why we recommend working with a professional who can help you determine your needs and set-up at a reasonable cost. You will probably want to start with a smart speaker system and build on from there. This is the central hub of your smart home that allows for voice commands. With incredibly affordable options like the Echo Flex or Google Nest Mini, creating a smart home doesn’t need to be expensive. There are thousands of devices to choose from to satisfy your needs and the needs of your family. A home automation professional can help you sift through to find the best devices for your home and budget.
Smart home technology can make your life easier, more convenient, and even more cost-effective. The good thing about smart home technology is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get it; there are low-cost devices you can start off with, gradually adding to your collection in the future.
Smart home innovations have taken a giant leap in just the past few years. 2021 is sure to bring even more upgrades and new devices. With technology advancing at such a rapid rate, homes are only getting smarter. Start setting up your smart home today. Get in touch with a TrustDALE certified professional and we’ll help you get connected! And when you use a TrustDALE certified professional, you're always protected by Dale's trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right Guarantee.