Home Automation 101: The Smart Home Reality

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A few years ago, the idea of a “smart” home still seemed out of our reach. However, as we’ve been discussing throughout the Home Automation 101 series, that’s clearly no longer the case. The smart home is now a reality.

The rapid realization of the smart home also introduces a few questions. When and where was home automation introduced? Why is it so popular? What are users automating first? And what is the future of the smart home?

After consulting with a few experts, we have the answers to all these questions. We hope it clears up any questions you had regarding the smart home revolution.

The Birth of Home Automation

The idea of the smart home began as early as the 1800s. And as experts vary on the exact date, they all agree on how it started: with science fiction books.

“The [smart home] has been the dream of many technology enthusiasts for several decades,” said Reid Cram, Director of Marketing and Technology at Vantage. “Many point to science fiction writers or the world’s fairs in the early 20th century. Others point to the [cartoon] Jetsons.”

Chris Terrill, CEO of HomeAdvisor.com agreed with Cram.

“The idea for a ‘smart home’ started where all technology does, with dreams of what could be, particularly manifested in science fiction books and movies,” stated Terrill. “From the Jetsons to HAL (from 2001: A Space Odyssey), the idea that your environment, particularly your home, would be responsive to your specific needs has always been one of the hallmarks of our technology-fueled future.”

Terrill also credited the low cost of wireless technology for the rise of the smart home.

Smart homes were originally been works of fiction, but they’re here now in the real world.

Consumer Desire for a Smart Home

The rate of early automation adopters is surprising. Why are consumers demanding home automation?

“[C]onvenience and energy efficiency,” said Jeff Wilson, HGTV host and author of The Greened House Effect. “But there’s also a Jetson’s appeal to all of this. Homeowners who are into technology want the latest and greatest, and home automation offers a lot of ‘wow’ factor. Being able to control your [home] from your smart phone means that if you forget to turn down the thermostat when you head off on vacation, you can do that from nearly anywhere in the world.”

Cram similarly suggested that our changing lifestyles are also a reason for increased home automation use, specifically our growing dependence on mobile devices and how they manage many elements of our lives.

A smarter home allows users to save time and money, while improving efficiency and quality of life. With the economy in its current state, more people are looking to find energy-efficient items that will save them money.

Home Automation Equipment: What to Get First

We know why consumers are eager to have a smart home, but for those who are just beginning, where should they start?

Everything we’ve mentioned before – lights, locks, and thermostats – are excellent for beginners.

“If someone is just starting out with all of this, it’s possible that they’ll want to pay attention to expansion of their system,” said Wilson. “Some integrated systems require a ‘brain,’ or main controller, then you add on from there. Homeowners might want to purchase the main controller, a compatible programmable thermostat, and a few outlet/switch controllers. Then they can add on as they see fit.”

It’s important to know that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to get into home automation; it can be simple as incorporating an automatic coffee maker into your kitchen.

The Future of Smart Home Technology

What’s next for the smart home? Can we expect full conversations with our home anytime soon?

Terrill noticed that all the home automation companies are focused on making “all-in-one solution”. However, he believes that as standards are adopted, partnerships formed, intuitive hubs are established, the space will become focused and more in-line with homeowner expectations.

“Home automation has made huge leaps forward in the past five or 10 years as people began to want systems that automate everything in their home,” Wilson said. “Now, instead of simply automating a few lights, fans, and their thermostat, they’re able to set up all of their home’s lighting, thermostat/HVAC, audio/home theater, security, energy monitoring, and even items like landscape irrigation and window shades.”

Products like Google Glass or Oculus Rift may also have a huge impact on the home automation industry. The Google Glass sees what you see, so imagine the possibilities when paired with smart home. We envision a moment where you look outside the window to see the weather and the thermostat will adjust accordingly.

Home Automation: More than a Trend

In recent years, we’ve seen an influx of new technology designed to make our lives easier. The smart homes we saw in the Jetsons or read about in science fiction books may not be here yet, but home automation is here to stay. It’s a booming industry and it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens in the upcoming years. Here’s hoping we have flying cars by 2015!

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